“Time to make the donuts, time to make the donuts …” Is your life on autopilot like the man from the Dunkin’ Donuts commercial? Do you wake up to a blaring alarm and then robotically head into your routine? Make the coffee, shower, toast something to eat as you are rushing out the door to drop the kids off or get to your 8 a.m. staff meeting. Work, work, work, pick the kids up, make something to eat, watch TV, sleep. Rinse and repeat.
The momentum of your own life can be like a current that just carries you from one day to the next. Over and over.
Have you stopped to think about the routine of your life? Are you happy with it? Could it be better? When is the last time that, at the end of your day, you felt really good about all you had accomplished that day?
Sometimes an event spurs an appraisal of one’s life—it can be traumatic such as the death of a loved one, a cancer diagnosis, a heart attack—life can hand out some brutal cards. Often, people look at their lives critically during those times. Their priorities shift. I’ve seen people go through unbelievable changes in the blink of an eye. It’s amazing. People have enormous capabilities and emotional resources.
Often though, life calls for you more quietly. This is the voice that is more difficult to discern and this is the voice that we, all too often, ignore, rationalize away, or don’t slow down enough to even hear it.
I am a nature girl. I love hiking, kayaking, biking, skiing—pretty much any outdoor self-propelled silent sport is on my list of loves. I lived in Chicago for almost nine years. While Chicago has a beautiful lake and lakefront park, it is not an outdoor lovers’ paradise. Apparently I didn’t get that memo.
As a natural overachiever, it’s no surprise that my career became a big deal in my life. Ambitious and driven—I started my own company and promptly became the boss I never would have tolerated. I knew better, but it just ran away with me. The responsibilities to my clients came first. I became a slave to my cell phone. And to be honest with you, it wasn’t so much the hours that I was “working,” it was that my mind was completely immersed in my business. I never took a mental break from it all. I slept it and ate it. Not good.
After what seemed like an endless period of this exhausting grind, I left the city for two weeks and headed up to my parents’ cabin. It is impossible to have a bad night’s sleep at that place and it is also impossible to be overambitious. As one of my close girlfriends would say, “Ambition at the cabin is getting up from your nap.”
So when my business followed me to that sacred location and demanded attention like a spoiled child, it really got on my nerves. On that “vacation” I worked all but two days. I hauled my laptop about twenty miles to the nearest place that had wireless. I had one bar on my cell phone reception, but I had conversations with angry bankers and architects. I was over it.
I can remember, clear as a bell, sitting on the deck looking at the lake and listening to the birds and thinking, How did I let this happen?
My priorities had gotten way, way, way out of whack. I realized at that point, that I wasn’t doing any of the activities that I loved. Now, I don’t know about you, but that seems to be a clear formula for an impending breakdown.
Luckily it didn’t take the death of a loved one or a scary diagnosis—seeing that I was starving my soul, my creative and wonderful Inner Self, with my own life actions was enough for me. Abort mission—stat.
The next year in my business was more reasonable. I took some baby steps to regain control like not answering my cell phone after business hours, doing yoga, I even started trying my hand at meditating (I could possibly quiet my brain down? Are you kidding me? I’m in!). These baby steps were just what I needed to get my life back on track—the life that I wanted.
Baby steps are critical not only because they set you down the path you are choosing, but also because they represent your commitment to You. Every time I turned my phone to silent at 5 p.m. sharp, I was celebrating that the rest of the day was all mine. I was encouraging my Inner Self to come out and play.
If you encourage yourself consistently, it doesn’t take long to start seeing and feeling the rewards in your life.
Take a look at your life from your Inner Self’s perspective. Do you feel good about the balance you have found or do you feel like you are looking at a stranger’s schedule? Find some baby steps to improve areas and take those baby steps every day.
It doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks about your baby steps. If it feels good and it’s good for you—do it. Make it a habit to ask yourself what you could do to have some fun. Is it wandering through a craft store alone during your lunch hour? Could you wake up an hour earlier and devote that time to writing? Could you take a walk and bring your camera to do some of the photography that you love? Turn the TV off and do something that you love. End your evening that way instead of keeping up on the local homicide rate.
Celebrate the wonderful, creative You. This is your unique life—design it and live it on purpose. There are endless opportunities surrounding you if you only stop making the donuts long enough to notice them.