Spring Forward – But Not So Fast

Spring forward: Several weeks ago we disrupted our winter patterns and changed our clocks. Not only was this a seasonal disruption, but by decree it happened earlier in the season than we are accustomed to. What was your reaction? Change the clock and keep on with whatever was on your weekend list? Stop and realize that this was an opportunity to re-think how you spend your day? How many patterns did the simple change of one hour interrupt? Suddenly, dawn was an hour later; was it harder to fit in your morning routine? What did the lighter ‘longer ‘daylight’ offer?

These are the questions (along with many more) I ponder as a life coach. We have adapted to our busy lives by being on autopilot. Sometimes, that is good, no need to rethink the same task over and over, efficiency has its place, My question is: when do we turn off auto pilot and notice where we are and where we want to go, how we want to be? Are we sailing too close to a rocky shore? Can we see the subtle change in the color of the rocks as we pass by? Where do we want to turn our attention next? Do we want to take advantage of the opportunity in front of us? Will they add more to our plate or simplify our day? How do we evaluate the constant input? How much are we tuning out, to what do we tune in? These are the everyday choices we all face. Do we even know we are making them?

Years ago I taught a Continuing Ed course called ‘Questions not Answers’. On the first evening of class, as we were introducing ourselves, one student demanded to know what this class was all about. “Time to reflect” I replied, almost surprised at my own answer, “We no longer have the societal structures for reflection and contemplation that have held other generations”. Many have written volumes on the cultural shift to busy-ness and the constant stimulation most of us experience. I am interested in how we choose to engage with our world. And whether we individually feel ‘at choice’ or on autopilot with no off button in sight.

Often I hear that ‘near miss’ incidents, the death of a friend, a medical diagnosis, are wake up calls to pay attention and ask ourselves the ‘really important’ questions: Where am I going? What am I doing? Do I want to be doing that or ……? And if not, how can I? The thriving self-help book industry is a testament to the fact that more and more people are asking these questions and searching for answers. For years the corporate world has been looking at Values (whether you believe this or not) and Vision and Mission (purpose), but as individuals we have not been offered similar tools for the same kind of clarifying thought process. Some may have access to this inner inquiry through religious affiliation, others through volunteer endeavors. For many, the questions remain. How do I get closer to what a meaningful life would look like for me and how might that benefit the people and causes I care about? Personal values would be this coach’s answer; getting clear on our foundational decision making process. Then, when we want to be on autopilot we have created ‘settings’ that are relevant to us personally, and when we need to be ‘at the helm’ making timely decisions, we have the energy and clarity to do so.

Breaking and remaking patterns calls for commitment. Commitment to look at what is calling to you in your life and then choosing to move in that direction. First, get really clear on what you want and what having it will do for you. In addition to values, another way to gain that clarity is to imagine, with all your senses, what it would be like to already have it and how that would feel (look, taste, etc). The more multi-sensory your imagined outcome, the more drawn you will be to all that it represents. Then, I recommend that you take small and manageable steps; training wheels so to speak. Yes, it would be lovely to commit an hour a day to exercise or journal writing or prayer – is it realistic to start there? Would you embark on marathon without building up to the distance? How about 5 minutes a day or 15 minutes every other day until the desire to continue and the benefits begin to accrue? My guess is that even the busiest of us can make that commitment to ourselves.

My desire for you is that you spring forward with intention to push through the softening ground of your own resistance to a longer, brighter day.