In this and the next several posts, I'm going to go over a few of the basic principles I've been focusing my thinking on and working into my life. They are all well worth spending your time thinking about too, but you can just focus on what makes sense for you at this point in your life. Let the other stuff sit on a back burner where you can keep an eye on it and move it to another burner when you need to.
Learning to take your time is also for you if you're frequently tempted to be all gung ho and start off anything new by being perfectionistic about one aspect of it or another. In that process, you're really setting yourself up to fail or to make yourself unhappy and unpleasant to be around. All of the principles I'm going to point out should be taken as opportunities for upgrading your life not bulldozing it.
Principle 1: Things Actually Take Time
I frequently tell my students life is more like gardening than car mechanics. You work the soil, pull weeds, fertilize and water here and there. Fresh air and sunlight do the rest. You can't grow things if you keep ripping the garden up. Some other metaphors apply as well. You're running a marathon. Life isn't the 100 meter. You're on a lifelong journey. You're not going to really enjoy life if you keep focusing impatiently on just trying to get to your next destination. You might as well stop asking, “Are we there yet?” or hopping off at every exit for something to keep your inner two year old happy.
It takes practice to stay comfortable with uncertainty and being in the middle of some process for a significant amount of time. I've never been fond of the phrase “trust the process,” but anxiety and impatience don't make anything move along better. You might as well rest in knowing that you've done whatever it is you can do (assuming you have) and now everything else just needs to finish coming together. These situations are all great opportunities to watch your mind in action.
One of the ideas that has made this easier for me is understanding my brain often acts like a “thought pump.” Stuff just comes out of nowhere and it's up to me to do something with it. Many times that something is just to notice that it happened, say OK to myself and then just move on. Thoughts are just thoughts and sometimes they're useful and sometimes they aren't. You decide. The same goes for feelings. Both of them happen in your head and they only have significance if you give it to them.
I know some thoughts and feelings are easier to accept, let go or ignore than others, but you probably know yourself well enough to know the ones that get to you and that you need to take a whole lot less seriously. We all have a set of habitual thoughts on speed dial. When the frustration or worry about the time something is taking comes up, you've got another opportunity to practice. You can even practice asking yourself better questions which we'll get to in another post. In the meantime, a couple of constructive questions that might help are: “Has anything really changed that I need to consider?” or, “What else could I be doing, thinking about or enjoying right now?”
Learning patience is one of the keys to finding peace and contentment in the moment.
Your happiness is waiting.