I find inspirational messages -- well, inspiring. They give me new ways of looking at the world or creating more focus on beliefs I already have. But I’ve also learned that you have to put them into context of how you live your life. We can’t all live a Pollyanna existence. Life has its natural ups and downs, challenges and joys.
I came across the above quote just a few minutes after reading a passage about doing “Your One Thing”. In business, this usually focuses on becoming financially successful. In parenthood, it is about raising healthy, happy and successful children. And as a person, it is about living a happy and fulfilling life. That’s an awful lot of pressure to live out each day. I feel pressure, inadequacies and exhaustion trying to achieve that One Thing for the entirety of my day.
When reading Robert Byrne’s quote, I decided to turn my One Thing image on its head -- and infuse it with the thought of “purpose”. My shift was realizing that my Purpose and One Thing can change and evolve. Sometimes my One Thing from an hour ago needs to be put on the shelf and I need to open my eyes to a new, and more important Purpose. It is looking at new opportunities and with new eyes that we may find even greater joy. Let me give you an example.
A few weeks ago, my 24 year old daughter invited me to go shopping with her. Since she moved out in August to her own apartment, these impromptu times of togetherness are even more treasured. Just she and I walking in the crisp, fall air. We talked and found some new salad plates to coordinate with some vintage 1960’s dishes. Nothing monumental was discussed -- just thoughts on the new season of the Bachelor, a few descriptions of some of her work projects and her cousin expecting twins in May. How wonderful --- what an afternoon filled with joy. An afternoon with Purpose.
The afternoon didn’t have a big banner overhead “This is Your One Thing” for today. In fact, I had planned on working on preparing taxes that afternoon. I had set aside the day to lock myself at my desk and be productive. I had announced it to my husband. I had cleared all my other papers away. I was ready. This was my Saturday One Thing and I was ready for that to be my Purpose.
My day’s purpose changed with a quick text and an invitation to spend the day creating a simple memory. Another motivational message kept rolling through my head -- Don’t miss the important by concentrating on the urgent. My taxes seemed urgent at the time. But really, my time with my daughter was The Important. It was time I would never get back if I missed it. My taxes are happily still on my desk and no harm was created by delaying their completion.
As a second example -- a friend called and asked if I wanted to bring my dogs over to play in her backyard. I can no longer remember what I had on my calendar to accomplish that day. She had created paths in the deep snow for the dogs to have as thier raceway. It was a dog’s dream come true. What a joy to see our senior Golden Retriever happily play with my daughter’s 4 month old Labrador puppy. They were racing and bounding through the snow. My dear friend and I were able to share stories and catch up in a way that just doesn’t happen over the phone.
My simple pleasure of watching dogs play and hearing us laugh at their antics filled my soul. I hadn’t even realized how much I needed that. For my “Living a Life of Purpose” kept getting in the way of joy. My calendar was sufficiently time blocked. I was to accomplish many things that day. But I forgot to schedule in spontaneity and excitement. For really, how can anyone schedule that. Seems a bit contradictory.
Even work life offers those “ah-ha” moments when an idea is tapping on your shoulder to change course. Today is the perfect example. I’ve had rumblings of blog ideas sorting their way through my mind for some time. Last night, I looked at the Life/Purpose quote as I was paging through some motivational books. I find I develop my best creative ideas while sleeping. This morning, the tiny thought started painting the picture of this blog. Instead of rolling over for some more snooze time, I sat in bed with my computer and let the words flow. True confessions, I didn’t get to do my stretching exercises today. Maybe that will be worked in this afternoon.
My big takeaway here is to let real LIFE enter into your day. Having a One Thing or Purpose is good in the broadest sense. But don’t let your intense focus cause you to miss out on the joys and opportunities that reveal themselves to you. It may be your dog wanting to head out on a walk as you were in the middle of folding laundry. It could be a phone call from a friend just as you were heading out the door. Or it could be your desire to read the next chapter in a book, instead of going to the bank. Or it could be dreaming about a new product. Or maybe a conversation you had with a client about some challenge they were having.
We’ve all had those little “seedlings” of opportunities. They are easy to dismiss in our busy lives. Look, listen and let your inner soul be open to accepting these moments. Let go of the guilt of not finishing those tasks on schedule. So I’ve shifted my One Thing from accomplishments and goals to being open to what the day has for me. Watching that seedling grow can be the start of a might Oak. A small idea, an interaction friend or client, or a thought that you want to explore, can become a vessel for a whole new life. I’ve realized that my Life of Purpose comes from accepting today’s opportunities and seeing what is around the corner.