For My Birthday

I had a Birthday! Gon’ Party Like It’s My Birthday! I have survived another trip around the sun. In the past I have done life lessons for every year of life. This year I want to do something different.

This year I just want to write about one thing. There are several principles that guide my life, but there is one experience that has impacted my very deeply. I can honestly say that it has changed my life forever.

I’d like to tell you a story. I have always been a great student. My family places a high value on education so there was no question that I was going to college. Of course, I was really excited about college and looked forward to this period of my life. I planned to major in Biology because I loved it and I planned on going to medical school after undergrad. My plan made perfect sense.

Like many high school seniors I read all the brochures and catalogues that came to the house. I searched through the lists of best colleges and wanted to go to a prestigious school. My top choice was Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. I interviewed for a spot in the next freshman class. I was overjoyed when I was accepted. Then something happened that changed everything: I was awarded a $100,000 renewable scholarship to the University of Minnesota.

My heart said go to Wellesley. That was my dream. My family (and just about everyone else) said to go where the money was. Such generous scholarships are hard to come by. Being only eighteen and very inexperienced, I went with the money. In the fall I started as a freshman a the University of Minnesota.

That was a first in many aspects. It was my first experience with depression. I hated every day. I can honestly say that it was the most miserable year of my life to date. U of M was huge. There were as many people in my General Chemistry class as there were in my whole high school. My grades were mediocre. I was miserable. Worst of all, I felt hopeless. I thought that my dreams of going to medical school (or anything else) were ruined. It was awful. It wasn’t worth the money at all. I felt like I had sold my soul for $100,000. $100 million would be one thing. That might not even be worth selling out on your dream. But I felt like a fool for selling out for a measly $100,000.

Every day, I regretted going there. I wished that I had gone to Wellesley, or anyplace else. I did survive the year in Minnesota but having that experience changed my life forever. I had felt the pain of regret and for the rest of my life I would remember it. Since that time I have let that pain guide my decisions. When considering a big decision I always stop to think, Will I regret it if I don’t do this? Will I look back and wish that I had taken a chance? If the answer is yes, or even if I suspect that it might be, then I jump in. I use this thought process for making purchases, taking jobs, having difficult conversations. I am always trying to avoid regret and I feel that it has guided me pretty well. Because I refuse to live with regret I am pursuing God’s calling even though I do not know where this path will lead.

Not that all of my decisions have been perfect, but overall, I live free of regret. I want the same for you. Follow your dreams. Don’t be ruled by fear. Don’t sell yourself for money. Do what scares you. Take a chance. It makes all the difference.

Live with no regrets.

 

Productivity At What Price?

I am sitting down to my laptop feeling a sense of guilt and a bit of irritation. I didn’t get nearly as much done this afternoon as I wanted. I feel like I wasted time that I could have used for writing or job hunting.

When I think about it, I didn’t actually waste the day. My aunt fell and twisted her ankle this morning so she couldn’t drive herself to the store. We decided that I would drive her. First, we had a lovely lunch at Cracker Barrel. Then, we went to the grocery store where we got food for the week (including lots of healthy foods). While we were there we met a delightful 93 year old lady who reminded us that the secret to having a good life is trusting Jesus. When we got home we found that the snow plows had blocked our driveway so we then had to shovel a path just so that we could park.

All of these things took longer than expected. I came home feeling so much pressure to get things done that I was momentarily paralyzed. I didn’t even know where to start. The guilt I felt was oppressive. I felt like I had wasted my whole day.

I didn’t do the things that I wanted to do but my day was not wasted. I helped my aunt with errands that she couldn’t do alone. We got groceries for the house. I stopped to take some pictures of the winter wonderland that is outside. I helped my family clear the driveway. All of these things had to be done. So why do I feel so guilty?

I think that the problem is that I am very task oriented. I want to do something. I am not accustomed to going with the flow. I want a schedule and I want to be able to see measurable progress. I want results. I want to write for two hours and then see that I have written 1,000 words. I want to know that I have sent 10 good resumes. I want results that fit my definition of productivity.

How often do we miss the everyday events of life because we are trying to keep a schedule? How often to we miss opportunities to connect with friends and family because we want to get more done? Life is made of little moments. If we don’t notice those little moments, who will? If we are not present for the moments as they happen they will be lost to us forever.

My message today is simple. Choose wisely. My day was not good from a productivity standpoint but it was great from a family standpoint. I connected with my aunt. I made sure that we have ingredients for our meals. I helped to move a ton of snow. I was there for my family today. I chose them.

Yes, it is hard to deal with distractions. Yes, your To Do list will be screaming in the back of your mind. Yes, you may have to deal with guilt when everything doesn’t go exactly as planned. Yes, yes, yes. But you may also experience a moment you would not have otherwise had. I would never have gotten those lovely pictures if I had been chained to my laptop all day.

We have to choose. How will you spend this moment? This hour? This evening? This day will never come again. What will you do with it? Choose wisely.

Why You Should Slow Down

We live in a world that is addicted to speed. We have quick rice, quick oatmeal, and a while host of other convenience foods. We have a plethora of fast food options for when we want food on the go. We routinely sacrifice quality for speed.

All this rushing around is not good and it is not efficient. It has bad effects on our health, our emotions, and our overall productivity. We all need things done but rushing from place to place and activity to activity is not the answer. Instead, it is counterproductive.

It creates stress. Rushing from one task to another creates stress. There is the pressure to hurry and get one thing done so that we can dive right into the next task. It makes us drive like madmen. It makes us feel guilty when things when things take longer than expected. All this stress builds during the day and when it’s time for sleep our brains are still buzzing.

It is less effective. Benjamin Franklin had it right: haste makes waste. A rush job often has to be redone. Why waste the time? If it is worth doing, it’s worth taking your time and doing it right the first time.

It prevents you from enjoying the moment. Rushing around keeps you focused on the next thing. It keeps you focused on the clock. It packs your schedule so full that you don’t have time to enjoy anything. We miss beautiful moments with our family and friends. We miss the beauty that is around us. We miss the opportunity to reflect, think deeply, and absorb all that God is trying to teach us.

How can we slow down?

Simplify your schedule. You must control your schedule or your schedule will control you.  Do not take on too many commitments. Sometime you have to say “No.” Choose only the things that are most important to you.

Plan properly. Be realistic. Don’t plan errands on opposite sides of town and leave no time scheduled for transit. Include things like driving time, meals, and meal preparation into your schedule.

Build in time for relaxation. Despite what the messages on television tell us, we cannot do it all. It isn’t healthy. It is not healthy to rush from place to place and collapse in bed exhausted at the end of the day. Many things that we do during the day deplete our physical and mental energy. Each day we should take some time to fill ourselves up. I usually do this by journaling or reading. Some do this by meditating. Find a way to recharge your battery every day.

Slowing down is the only way to retain your sanity in this crazy world. Slowing down helps us to be more productive. We can think ahead about ways to do things properly and allows us to execute that plan in a way that creates quality results.

Slowing down allows for more happiness. When you take your time eating you can really savor that slice of cheesecake. If you take your time on the drive home you can admire the beauty of nature. If you take your time you can really engage others as you talk to them.

In a world of speed, it pays to slow down. Take a walk to decompress. Do some yoga. Read a chapter of your favorite book. Schedule some time to relax each day. Get out of the rat race and take some time to slow things down. You life will be better for it.