I love to read about, think about, and practice new productivity methods. I am always on the lookout for that wonderful new notebook, calendar app, pen, pencil or gadget that will make me more efficient, help me get more work done, and help me to feel that I have reached a new goal or accomplished a big task. Do you ever feel like that? Do you search for that one thing that will help you get where you want to go? Better yet, in the time of COVID-19, do you ever wonder when you will get to the finish line, to the end of some project, or to the end of this new world that none of us likes that much anyway? Do you hope that, finally, this pandemic will be over, and we will be there, wherever there is?
Shawn Blanc writes about productivity and teaches some crazy good classes at his website thesweetsetup.com. Check it out if you have the time and the inclination. Now, he also sends out inspirational and instructive emails once or twice a week that drop a little knowledge, tell about a cool gadget, or offer some productivity hack that us mere mortals might find helpful. He sent an email out this week that hit me at exactly the right time in exactly the right way, and I thought I would share what I learned with you.
He started the email by telling the story of his journey to earn a black belt. The training was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. When he got to the testing day as one of twelve who were going through this rite of passage, he thought that finally earning the black belt would be the goal that all aspired to get to. After completing this and coming back to the studio just two days later to continue his training, he quickly realized that the black belt had been a goal but not the goal. He learned that when something in life is important, you don’t simply show up every day until something happens. You simply show up every day. As Shawn said in his email, life is lived in the day-to-day.
He made the point that there is a great deal of “satisfaction (to be gained) in the small daily wins and the joy of consistently choosing to do the the things that are meaningful, valuable and important.” We all seem to think that if we strive for the huge goals and the big flashy wins that they will somehow come faster or easier. In fact, says Blanc, “if you’ve got a habit of showing up every day then I guarantee you that along the way you’ll pass milestones and accomplish big goals.” Milestones are wonderful things, but once you reach them, “you get back to living your life”.
During this past eighteen months, we have all felt that if we could just get though to Easter, to the summer, past the holidays, to the next summer, or to the next fall, that somehow we would have arrived and everything would be okay and back to normal again. We are fooling ourselves. We may be looking at a normal that bears little resemblance to the one we had in 2019. Is that bad, tragic, depressing? No, it just is. If we are committed to showing up at work, for our kids, for our spouse, or for others just until the pandemic is over and we can go back to our own lives the way they were, we are going to miss a lot of nows, a lot of our life in the present that we are squandering while waiting for that elusive “normal” that may never return. If we are waiting for the until, the finally, we are destined to be disappointed.
“If you are doing something that matters”, says Shawn Blanc in his email, “ there will always be resistance. Distractions, excuses and challenges will always be right at your doorstep. Don’t wait for the fear to go away, because it won’t. Don’t wait for the risk to disappear, because there will always be risk.” He admonishes us to “show up every day when it’s frightful. When it’s risky. When it’s tense. When it hurts. Because it will always be that way. The finally moment never comes.”
What are you doing during this terribly stressful time? Caring for an elderly relative? Teaching your kids? Working two or even three jobs to make ends meet? Learning to spend more time with your spouse? Trying to figure out how to take better care of your own body, mind and soul? I hope that whatever it is that you are doing, that you are not just showing up until. When the pandemic is finally over, I hope you will see it not as the end but as the beginning of your new life, with all of the joys and challenges that time will bring.