Can I be really really real with you for just a minute?

I’ve been thinking a lot of thoughts lately and feeling a lot of feels.

On life.  On the future.  On goals.  On happiness.  On what I want to do when I grow up.

Basically what follows here is a swirling brain dump of stream of consciousness gibberish.  I wouldn’t blame you for skipping.  But if your mind is also caught in the vortex lately, by all means, stick around!

Sometimes a book hits you at an interesting time.  I don’t know if I can say the right time although I guess that is what I mean.

After noting several references to Gary Keller’s and Jay Papasan’s The One Thing, I decided to check it out.  As you’ll see, clarity of ONE THING in my life would be desirable.

To summarize, the book takes the Pareto Principle to the extreme and, instead of just thinking about 20% of your efforts producing 80% of your results, think what is the ONE THING you could be doing to achieve the most.  To do this, ask the focusing question:  what is the one thing I could be doing that would make everything else easier or even unnecessary?

I like the message of the book, and I think it has some interesting advice to put into practice, but I wouldn’t necessarily tell you to jump off your chair and buy it now.  Although it is perfectly readable, it seems to have a touch of what I call “aspirational, business speak.”  I found that my mind would be drifting, and I’d have to read sentences over and over.  Also, there are examples from literature and some examples from the author’s life, but I found myself wanting more concrete examples on how people put this stuff into practice.

I also couldn’t help thinking that the book is hard for someone who is doing a lot with kids.  For example, the book likens to do lists to day-to-day survival lists.  You might get things done, but you aren’t going in any direction.  Instead you should follow success lists to take you on a path TO somewhere.

I think it’s a good idea that can be implemented, at least, in part, no matter what you’re doing.  But kids seem to necessitate capture-it-all, just-get-it-done type survival lists.  For example, even if I’m cutting any supposed extras like baking cupcakes for the school bake sale, there are just SO MANY little things.  Like the kids need feeding.  (All the time.)  Or they are growing out of shoes and need new ones ordered.  Or they have teeth and need to go to the dentist.  Again.

I’m sure there are ways to automate, batch, or do whatever to make these tasks more streamlined.  But they do take up mental space and they definitely don’t lend themselves to a success list.  I think the book is a good reminder to ALSO have a success list of what you should be doing, instead of just what you could be doing, but there will always be nagging to dos to be taken care of somehow.

Also (and now it just seems like I’m ragging on the book, you can see why I said it hit at an interesting time; the ideas made me think, but the sky did not open up with all the answers to my problems) the book talks about applying ONE THING thinking to all areas of your life.  Such as what is the one thing that can help in your spiritual life, physical health, personal life, relationships, career, etc.  That sounds like an awful lot of ONE THINGS to me.

In sum, good ideas in the book that I think are helpful.  Still, I’m having trouble finding my one thing.

I’d say that my day to day happiness is pretty high.  Thinking on my health theme for the year, I’ve been running or exercising most days and I’m eating the best I can.  I have good time with the kids.  I have adventures with my family.  I have good friends and enjoy the close-knit community here.

But I worry about the future.  What are we going to do next?  Has my break wiped out any chance of a career?  Do I even want the career I used to?  I’m pleased now, but will I be content in a few years?

Unrelated to my January Diet Bet, I’m doing a weight loss challenge with friends.  (I’m not actively trying to lose weight, but I think of these guys as my success accountability buddies.)  When discussing the situations of working out with small children underfoot, I mentioned to a friend that I, not having to go to an office, have the edge on food.  I can grocery shop during the day.  I can rummage through the fridge at lunchtime to make a salad.  I can throw dinner in the oven at 5:00 instead of rushing to make it after we all get home.  I won’t say that all of this is easy or that the kids make it pleasant, but I recognize that it is much easier than when I worked in an office.

I mention this because it made me think how much I enjoy it.  I like being my own boss.  I like having control over my hours.  I like rummaging through my fridge when I want to.

The thing is, great jobs with lots of flexibility don’t just fall in your lap.  You have to work for them.  Hard.  Like work your tailfeathers off hard.

Also, many of the paths to success here are uncertain.  Such is the nature of entrepreneurship.  You could work your tail off and nothing might come of it.  Knowing this, how can you even motivate to start?

Should I be trying to focus my effort on starting my own location-independent job?  Even if there is no guarantee it will work out?

Making time for this is tough as well.  I could try to make more time by buying childcare, but I’m still conflicted on this.  Some of it is not knowing what I want, some of it is not knowing what is best for the kids, and some of it is spending money if my efforts aren’t bringing in money.  There are a lot of separate issues in there that I need to unpack.

Some of it is also feeling like I shouldn’t buy more childcare unless I’m fully utilizing all my current time.  I’m trying, but I’m not even close.  Race training has sort of taken over my morning time slot.  I’m trying to eat better so that I can feel better to be more energized in the mid-afternoon slump and the end of the day, but it doesn’t always work out.  Sometimes I just want a break.

It also doesn’t help that it feels like the children are conspiring against us on carving out time.  They are getting up earlier and earlier and refusing to stay in their rooms.  (We are reintroducing the wake clocks and doubling down to try to combat this.)

Henry is is the process of dropping his nap.  I knew this day would come.  He is actually decent about letting me have my own “rest time” while he plays by himself, but it feels completely different.  He is usually zooming around, asking me questions every few minutes, and just generally being there.  This makes it an OK time to tackle some internet stuff, but a hard time to get into a serious writing session.

On top of all this, bedtime keeps getting pushed back.  It used to be around 8:00.  Now it seems like we don’t walk away from the kids until 8:30 or 8:45.  I can’t even really tell you why.  Maybe the extra daylight is keeping us outside a little longer.  Maybe dinner is on the table a little later these days.  But lately it seems like I have about an hour in the evenings before I need to sleep, and I’m rarely in a get-work-done state of mind.

Even if I did focus more on entrepreneurial leanings, I’m still struggling with not only how to make that my one thing but even WHETHER to make that my one thing.  There are a lot of other things.  Trying to take advantage of our time here can mean that travel planning feels like a job.  I love interacting with the community here and planning fun stuff.  I keep thinking I want to be better about planning fun stuff for the boys.  You know, like shark day.  I don’t know.

Oh, the boys.  Does primary caregiving mean that that is my one thing?  It is clearly a very important thing.  A very very important thing.  But is it the only one thing?  I mean that does seem to be the definition of “one thing,” but is that it?  And if I’m doing other stuff, am I somehow shirking my true one thing?

And then I can’t help feeling like I’m so darn privileged that I shouldn’t even be asking this stuff.  Cancer and hunger and terrible things happen to lots of people everyday.  I got to drive to Umbria for the weekend.  I’m very fortunate, and I know it.  Should I just be grateful and enjoy it?

I don’t know.  I don’t have any answers.  I have some ideas on things to try, and I’ll see how that goes.  Even 15 minutes a day adds up to a lot more than no minutes a day!  Assuming the kids let me.  🙂

Do you know your ONE THING?  Struggling with direction?  Anything you’d recommend on how you found your focus?  (If so, you should write a book.  I would probably totally buy it.)

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7 thoughts on “Can I be really really real with you for just a minute?

  1. Megan says:

    So many thoughts on this; but I’ll start with saying that we LOVE our stoplight clock for Brady. It’s a little different than the one you’re using (it has red/yellow/green lights). Maybe it’s because we’re in a city so we talk about, and see, stop lights all the time, but he definitely gets the “red is for stopping and staying in bed, green is for getting up” lesson.

    But overall, I love this. I’ve really been struggling to figure out how to prioritize my life while still tackling the necessary to-dos of having kids. No answers, but definitely working on it.

  2. Martha says:

    From a baby boomer’s perspective: When I left the work force in 1979 it took awhile to feel like I had a good answer to the “what do you do question” from others. That was a time when many people thought that to be a REAL woman you had to have a career and “do it all”. Thank God I didn’t have the Internet to realize all the other things that could have made me feel like my life was “inadequate”. Having the benefit of hindsight and a deeper spiritual life now I can say that staying home with my sons and giving them a sense of belonging and acceptance no matter what was the absolute most important use of my time for many years. Supporting them in their endeavors and making friends along the way with others who were also moms kept my days filled with more than laundry, cooking and cleaning. Looking back I don’t know how we ever got anything done, but we did. I would definitely encourage any young mother to spend as much time as possible with their children, loving them, playing with them, allowing them to be curious and especially reading to them and teaching them to be kind, caring, generous and polite. Give them the foundation of faith in God so that you are also providing for their eternal lives. Then sit back and find new hobbies or a new career after you have watched them grow into what appears to be good husbands and fathers in their own rite! That being said, if someone actually needs the second income (and many do) then just do your best to set aside the office/job when you are with your family and enjoy being a mom even if it is at the most stressful time of day (dinner/bedtime). I truly believe that raising the next generation is a big enough ONE THING! Keep up the good work!

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