What have you done NOW?



Getting lost in the problem

focus bokeh
Find your focus: the solution, not the problem

Something occurred to me the other day. Well, it has occurred to me several times before, but sometimes it takes a few occurrences before your thoughts really begin to take shape. I spend too much time focusing on problems, and not enough time working on a solution.

For example, you get in an argument with a friend. The argument ends and you are upset. You go home feeling distraught, wondering if the friendship is going to be ruined by this argument. You go over what you said, and what they said. You think How could they say that to me? and other various lines of questioning about the argument. Your mood worsens. Your day or week goes on and you worry over the details. You wonder if you should call them, and also why they aren’t calling you. You go through the argument again and again in your head. You worry about irrational things and what ifs: What if we never talk again? What if they think this is my fault? What if they are telling other people it’s my fault? In your mind, the situation can very quickly snowball. It makes it difficult to actually have a good day and enjoy anything going on around you. It consumes you.

How many times has this happened to you? I often wear my heart on my sleeve, and am sometimes overly sensitive… so I find myself going through these motions often when an argument or situation arises. Going over and over things in my head can last for days, and I know it bothers me to no end when a situation like this goes unresolved. I can’t concentrate. I can’t enjoy life.

Recently, when something like this happened to me, I tried something new. I went through the process and went over the details in my head. I think this is a healthy exercise, and helps me identify exactly what happened. But rather than dwell on it and relive it over and over, or worry about things that may or may not happen, I stopped myself. Each time after that when my thoughts got rolling out of hand, I stopped myself then, too. Not only that, but rather than focusing so intently on the problem, and what happened, I began to try to think of a solution. I said to myself, “What can I do to fix this problem?” It dawned on me that shifting my focus from the problem, to working on a solution is the only positive action I could take to move forward.

I had to remind myself multiple times to stop the snowball of thoughts from getting out of hand, and I didn’t come up with a solution right away, but this process definitely helped! I didn’t feel terrible for days, until I could resolve the problem with the other person. I was able to enjoy the company of others without being grumpy or out of sorts. Thinking of a solution to the problem was a much more positive way of resolving things than dwelling on what went wrong.

Finally, I am learning to be able to file a problem away until the appropriate time. I was spending far too much time wallowing, and even bathing, in a problem, and not enough time enjoying what was right in front of me. We have only so much time on the planet; Why spend it bathing in ill feelings and worries about what if and reliving something you can’t change? Spend it moving forward!

The jumbo sized parmesan

Often in life, we find ourselves on auto -pilot. We get into routines and we often turn our mind off when going through actions or making decisions. It happens… But sometimes, we need to remember that little voice that tells us not to buy the Jumbo sized Parmesan, because we don’t really need it.

What’s this about Parmesan? I was thinking about my little voice – the conscious one that helps me make better decisions, and remembering one time when I was grocery shopping. I was wandering the aisles… picked up some supplies for making pasta and salad, and remembered I needed some Parmesan cheese. I ambled to the Parmesan section, and saw that a Jumbo Family Sized 1KG pack of Parmesan was on sale for only $7.99! Auto pilot kicked in, figuring the sale was a great idea, and I popped the mega-Parm into my cart. Then, the little voice spoke up: “Do you really need 1KG of Parmesan?” I thought to myself No, I don’t. A short, in-my-head conversation ensued regarding the fantastic value of the 1KG mega-Parm vs. paying almost $5 for less than 1/4 the size. Ultimately, the voice won. Why? Because it’s the voice of reason!

What does a 1KG pack of Parmesan have to do with real life? Well, we often have this voice of reason silenced in real life. Ive been practicing clicking off the auto-pilot button, and taking time to listen to this voice. It’s amazing what taking 5-10 extra seconds to make a decision can do for you. From Parmesan to bigger life decisions, it really pays off to take one step back from things before you just say yes and drop the mega-Parm into your cart, or buy that sweater you like but don’t need, or agree to helping a friend re-paint their entire house for free…

Making good decisions in life is not as difficult as we think. We’re just so used to being on auto-pilot that we often don’t take that extra time (often simply a few seconds) to really evaluate what we want and what we need, and then act appropriately. It’s just a matter of correctly evaluating the problem and taking time to come up with solutions – and then choosing one that works best and is not necessarily just the easiest. Life is so busy, it becomes easier just to make the auto-pilot decisions. I find myself in more knots when I have not taken the time to think about my decisions and actions. Obviously, for me it’s a work in progress, and probably always will be. But the key is awareness!

The middle ground on relaxing is not really a middle ground

I’m finally learning that tasks and obligations and deadlines never end. Whether it’s with work, at home, a favour you’re doing for friends… I still find myself saying “After Saturday, I can relax.” Why is that? Is it because I need to or want to relax? Who doesn’t?! The point is that I continue to have a designated relax time. Why can’t I just always be relaxed?

I don’t think the solution is to not have stuff to do or have projects to complete. I think there is always going to be something I need to get done or something to prepare for, study for, clean for. Because if I didn’t have stuff to do, goals, deadlines, etc., I’d be bored! So what is the middle ground? Is there one?

I have decided that there has to be a point at which I am truly relaxed in every moment in every day of life. Where the fact that I need to get this project done by 4:30 doesn’t stress me out. Where thinking about all the things I still have to do before next week doesn’t make me run around in circles inside my mind… I don’t want to go over the list in my head seven times before bed to remember all the stuff I have to do. I don’t want to stress about timing, that I have to get this and then go there, and be back all within an hour, just so that I am on time for something else.

I will get to that point, or that frame of mind where I realize that everything is going to get done to the best of my ability. Only if I am doing something that I consider to be sub-par (which is completely different than doing something that others judge to be sub-par) am I allowed to stress – a little. I will balance my standards with a healthy expectation of myself.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all do that – and it was easy?! But who ever said life was easy 😉 That’s the fun part!

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