One fantastic thing about aging – or really just the passage of time and the experience that comes with it – is how much we clearly see the conditions that support our success. You start to deeply commit to what it takes to be not just happy or successful – but actually effective.
This idea is easy to overlook. Conditions create the environments where you thrive, but can be easily ignored because they aren’t the “thing” themselves. They’re the supporting pillars for the “thing.”
Some examples here that are particular to me – and I’m sure an athlete, actor or CEO would have their own (very different) list.
Writing. I am on so many calls all week – which is part of my work – so I don’t nearly have the time to write that I used to. That means I have to create it – schedule days with no calls, no meetings. I protect these fiercely because if I don’t, I’m not as focused and good as I need to be. Saying no… in order to get to something right and good and persuasive – takes space.
Meetings. I almost always insist on an agenda (if I don’t see one in place.) An agenda-free meeting is one without the needed constraints to keep everyone focused and making decisions. Creating it or asking for it is an extra step that takes time. But without it…you have rabbit holes.
Media. I love reading, listening to podcasts, discovering new music, streaming TedTalks…all if it feels like fertilizing a garden of understanding the world, people, ideas. But not all of it. If I find myself deep into something silly – celeb gossip, Facebook, someone’s headlining misfortune – I try to move on. Not useful. Creates cobwebs. Dark thoughts.
Texts/Emails/Social: I don’t read email first thing in the morning, or during dinner with family, and I am completely out of the loop on viral jokes, and all the “things” that populate the internet for wow factor. This is because I guard my attention. I see how my device hijacks me. I feel this tension – and resist it as much as possible. It’s enough as it is!
Socializing: Once I learned that I’m actually an introvert (misidentified as an extrovert), I immediately understood why I regularly practice the Irish Goodbye at parties, and often leave an hour or two earlier than my husband. I have a certain social / party chatter tolerance – shorter than most, perhaps – which used to feel like a lack of endurance. But now I see that it’s my natural protection mechanisms kicking in – preserving physical and mentall space for my benefit. It’s a wall I recognize for it’s usefulness to my emotional hygiene.
What are yours?
Like everything, there are exceptions, and of course staying out till 3am is fun, and watching Jimmy Fallon’s “Ew!” is amazing, and catching up with a friend when you should be writing your book is worthwhile. Yep. But personal policies also make space for what matters, and at the end of the day, you actually know what happened – instead of wondering “where the day went.”
Here’s to good waves, a strong Dow, fluffy snow…and all other optimal conditions.