December 4, 2015
“Things that matter most should never be at the mercy of things that matter least.” Goethe
In 2009 a teacher named Amanda gave me a book called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff—And It’s All Small Stuff. By Richard Carlson. If you have not read the book yet please read it. I will try to summarize some of his strategies:
Learn to Live in the Present Moment
To a large degree, the measure of our peace of mind is determined by how much we are able to live in the present moment. Irrespective of what happened yesterday or last year and of what may or may not happen tomorrow, the present moment is where you are—always.
Without question, many of us have mastered the fearful art of spending much of our lives worrying about a variety of things all at once. We allow past problems and future concerns to dominate our present moments, so much so that we end up anxious, frustrated, and hopeless.
On the flip side, we also postpone our gratification, our stated priorities, and our happiness, often convincing ourselves that someday will be better than today. Unfortunately, the same mental dynamics that tell us to look toward the future will only repeat themselves so that someday will never actually arrive.
When we are busy making other plans, our children are busy growing up, the people we care about are moving away, our bodies are getting out of shape, and our dreams are slipping away. In short, we might miss out on life.
No one has a guarantee that they will be here tomorrow. Now is the only time we have, and it is the only time over which we have any control. When our attention is in the present moment, we push fear from our minds. Fear is a concern over events that might happen in the future—the copying machine might break, my prep time will be taken, our students will not meet the standard on the standardized test, and so on.
To combat fear, the best strategy is to learn to bring your attention back to the present. Mark Twain said, “I have been through some terrible times in my life, some of which actually happened.” I don’t think I can say it any better. Practice keeping your attention on the here and now. Your efforts will pay off in great dividends.
In addition to this strategy, Jeff Zoul the author of “Improving your school one week at a time” and Beth Richardson would share an excerpt from Stephen Covey and colleagues’ (Covey, Merrill, & Merrill, 1996) work, First Things First, I would like to share it with you. It is nothing that you haven’t already heard, but it is worthy to bring once again to the fore-front of our minds. The story is called “Put the Big Rocks First.”
At a seminar, the presenter pulled out a wide-mouth gallon jar and placed it next to a pile of fist-sized rocks. After filling the jar to the top with rocks, he asked, “Is the jar full?”
The group replied, “Yes.” He then got some gravel from under the table and added it to the jar. The speaker jiggled the jar until the gravel filled the spaces between the rocks. Again, he asked, “Is the jar full?”
“No!” shouted the group.
Finally, the speaker filled the jar to the brim with water and asked the group the point of this illustration. Someone replied that you could always fit more things into your life if you really worked at it.
“No,” countered the speaker. “The point is, if you didn’t put the big rocks in first, would you have ever gotten them in?”
As you go through this year, think of the “big rocks” in your life as the things you can do to make this a happier and more productive year for yourself and others. What are your big rocks? Can you identify and define them?
Have a great weekend.