I have a confession to make. I love to be in control. I love to plan and schedule and create order. I was raised on Stephen Covey, and the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People pulse through my veins.
First things First.
Begin with the End in Mind.
Roles and Goals.
Big Rocks and Pebbles.
If you have no idea what i'm talking about, you can check out his work here here. Its fantastic.
My children believe in .... oh wait...nothing at all. They believe in sleep and reading and pizza. Its been a bit of a conflict for the past 19 years. I feel like i've been in a tug of war with absolute chaos. The most accurate term I've ever heard is pushing ropes. Thats what my life feels like. To be fair, they are wonderful, intelligent, kind, moral, talented and all around cool kids, but they defy structure like a blob of GAK. (You could even use a 4 letter acronym that starts with A and ends with D to define them and you would be right, but I refuse the label.) It's a problem, mostly mine, because jello isn't really affected by much.
I'll confess that i've been pretty judgy about it all these years. I have a crystal clear picture of what life needs to look like and they have been screwing it up since day 1. Especially my mornings. Mornings are the most important part of the day. How you create your morning determines how you create your life. I'm SERIOUS. (Its habit #1, Begin with the End in Mind.)
Here are the things that need to happen in the morning.
1. 1 hour of personal study
2. 1 hour exercise
3. Shower, dress, makeup
4. Clean room
5. Family devotional
7. Make lunches
8. Clean kitchen
9. Backpack Check (remember the acronym)
All of this must be done in time to leave the house at 8:15am so I can spend 75 minutes in the car driving the children to their various educational programs.
For years I've been 99% consistent on #1-5. I felt pretty strongly that children should be empowered to take care of 6-9 themselves. After all, the goal of childhood is to teach independence, right? And I was empowering them to be responsible, right?
Then about a month ago, I read a book called Essentialism that rocked my world. It takes Covey to a whole new level. Essentialism is defined as "The disciplined pursuit of less". In this book, Greg Mckeown challenges the reader to identify their "Essential Intent". He poses the question "If you could only do ONE thing well in your life, what would it be?" I narrowed the question down and asked myself "If I could focus on only ONE thing for the next five years, what would it be?"
Why five years? Five years from now, my youngest child will go to college, so it's the amount of time I have left with children living in my home. Children-Chaos makers, blobs of GAK-and also the source of all my greatest joy. As I pondered this question, I realized that there is only one thing that really matters. My essential intent is that the next five years are lived in such a way that these children, when they are grown, want to come back and visit. That they want me as part of their lives. If this is the ONE thing, then how should that be reflected in my life, in my day, in my morning?
It forced me to re-evaluate my morning priorities. I was so busy focusing on efficiency and outward appearance that I was not taking time to enjoy these awesome people I created! Looking at the list of musts, there are several things I cannot budge on. Exercise is essential for my mental and physical health. Time to connect with God and ponder is what keeps me alive. My bedroom takes about 5 minutes, so it's not a huge deal. I desperately wanted 30 minutes to BE with my kids and make them breakfast and visit with them before the day began and I couldn't figure out where to get it. Until I considered the unthinkable. I could give up showering.
I don't mean give it up altogether. I mean, put it off until the kids are fed and dropped off at school. It runs counter to everything I was taught. What would my mother think? What if the other mothers saw me in my spandex with my hair up in a ponytail? What if I got in a car accident and the officer saw me like that? What if I got distracted and NEVER showered and it was 5 pm and I looked like a hag? What if it derailed all my success in life and business and I ended up as a total FAILURE all because I left the house without hair and makeup?
This leads us to another key point of the book. Everything in life is a trade off, so instead of asking "How can I do both?" ask yourself "Which problem do I want to have?". I applied this bit of wisdom to the situation and the answer was clear. If I have to choose between the problem of starting my day an hour later and consequently accomplishing less or the problem of a lonely and miserable existence because my children feel no connection to me, I will take less productivity any day. Its been a week and it's been awesome. I have freed myself from the pressure to do it all and i've truly enjoyed that 30 minutes each morning connecting with my family before the rush starts. I've seen more of the beauty in my kids and less of the negative.
I invite you today to take a hard look at your life and ask yourself What is YOUR essential intent. Does the flow of your day represent your true priorities? Stop trying to do it all and choose to do what's essential.