stress

just enough

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I had a chat over coffee with the pastor of our local church. He asked me what sorts of things I’d been up to. After I’d recounted to him everything I could think of, he looked surprised. “Wow, you’re doing a lot.”

“Yeah,” I admitted, “I guess I am.”

I don’t bring this up as a matter of pride. Internally, I’m usually driving myself so hard that most of the time I feel like I’m not doing nearly enough. But most of the time, when I tell people all the activities I’m involved in and projects I’m working on, I get the same reaction.

My pastor had a few follow-up questions: was I doing too much and was I spending enough time with my wife?

Both great questions.

For the second one, yes, I believe so. We try to be intentional about spending at least a couple evenings a week just hanging out. And we do have intermittent date nights. I tell ya, it really helps having family nearby to assist  with childcare.

As for the first question, I really don’t know if I’m doing too much. But I do think it’s an important question to consider on a regular basis.

On our anniversary, my wife and I visited a local museum. One thing I enjoy about where we live is how much history it has, especially for a place on the western side of the US. At the museum, we saw many depictions of the frontier life.

The common family lived rather simply back then: mostly they just did their regular work from sunup to sundown and only saw their neighbors for church on Sunday or for big community events.

Life is very different today. We’re connected with so many people and we do a lot more than just working the farm or taking care of household chores.

That’s not a bad thing, but just being more busy isn’t good either.

So how do you (or I) know whether or not we’re too busy?

Here’s a couple determining questions:


First: Are you getting enough rest? 

If you don’t take time to take a break—to reflect and relax—you’re bound to burn yourself out. 

I’m not super strict on observing the Sabbath, but most Sundays are rest days for our family. It’s a healthy practice to plan at least one day a week where you don’t work, or at least keep it to a minimum.

Also, lack of sleep is a proven detriment to personal health. It’s something I struggled with for a while, but have been focusing on this las year. As a result, I feel much better overall.


Second: Are you stressed out?

How do you feel most days? Do you take on more than you can reasonably handle?

I know this one can be hard to gauge (it is for me anyhow), but if you notice a distinct lack of contentment and gratitude, if you don’t have any margin in your life, or if you aren’t spending regular quality time with the people closest to you, then you’re probably doing too much.

It’s one of the reasons I recently changed the posting schedule on this site to one every two weeks. When I first started this blog, I was actually posting twice a week. I managed it for a while, but it got exhausting and wasn’t worth the stress.

It’s really easy to take on a new commitment and a whole lot harder to quit one. I’ve heard that Bob Goff gives something up every week. I can appreciate that, though I don’t think I’m there.

So, how are you doing? Is it time to let go or back out of a few things in your life?

As for me, I’m doing alright, positioned on the thin edge of just enough.

Still, you should probably ask me again in a week or two. Until then, the cows need a’milkin’ and the butter a’ churnin’.

priority word

I’ve heard that the word priority originally didn’t have a plural version. In other words, it just meant the one thing you put above everything else. 

A

Single 

Priority

But today we can’t accept that. There are too many important things in our lives and so we end up with many competing priorities. 

I believe this is, in part, one reason why so many people are so stressed out. Multi-tasking is a cultural mandate, one which is killing us. Trying to keep all those plates spinning at once without letting a single one drop soon becomes a near impossible task and even if we do pull it off for a time, we’re awkward and clumsy about it. No matter how good we are, eventually, one of those plates is going to come crashing down on our heads. Then we get all depressed about it because we couldn’t pull off the impossible. And no plate-ituds are gonna make us feel any better about it.

So yeah, I’ve broken a few plates in my day. 

There is a beauty to single-mindedness: stubbornly placing something above everything else on our to-do list, every time. I’m reminded of Paul’s words in Philippians 3:13, 14

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Like him or not, you've got to hand it to him, the guy knew what he was about. He had a single, clear goal that everything else fell beneath and was seen in light of. 

I must admit, I’m terribly bad at having a “one thing I do.” It’s an area where I really want and need to improve. Perhaps you do to. But how should we do it? Here’s a simple suggestion: pick a watchword.

After reading my post on FOCUS, my coworker, Colleen, told me her word for the year actually was “focus.” It struck me, this is a great and relatively easy way to center your mind and actions on a singular thing. 

Pick one word, write it down somewhere you’ll see it all the time and continue to reflect upon it. Are the things you’re doing line up with that goal?

Like my coworker, you could have one word for the year, or even for the month, maybe just the week. Whatever the case, pick one which means something to you and helps you prioritize your priorities.

 

If you're wondering, my word is: Onomatopoeia.

Kidding, kidding. I don't even know how I'd live that out, just making strange noises all the time. But I already do that, quite well might I add. No, my actual word, for realsies, is:

Persistent

From dictionary.com

  1. persisting, especially in spite of opposition, obstacles,discouragement, etc.; persevering

  2. lasting or enduring tenaciously

  3. constantly repeated; continued

     

So there you have it, persistent.  

Say, what's your word?

 

Creatively yours,

A.P. Lambert