Been watching the Olympics? Do the athletes’ practice, perseverance and performance put you to shame?
Well, I’m no athlete, but I think I can do a little more than I am right now. All right, I can do a lot more in the realm of exercise and in life itself. Anyone out there with me on this? I know I’m not alone. The US Army is looking for a few good men, but I’m looking for a few couch potatoes who’d like to get off the sofa and make a difference for the good. Would that be you?
I’m not talking about a revolution, per se, but a group of like-minded people who want to accomplish something, maybe even something great. Things like this start small, most often with just one. So if someone is ready to pick my husband up off the floor from the shock, I’ll volunteer to be the first. How’s that for decisive?
We’ll still talk, but we may have to slow the chatter down a bit until our walk catches and matches our pace. All those great ideas we get along the way? We’ll write them down so they’re not lost and review them, perhaps weekly. I’m just saying. Ideas are good, but they might get in our way. We’ll start with one good idea, focus on it and run. But here’s the deal. We’ve got to figure out a way to measure our results. If we can’t measure them, how will we know if we’re successful? And what will keep us from returning to the couch? Ah, there’s nothing like a deadline to keep us on track and add a sense of accountability.
Just think. If it catches on, we could shake the world. Fellow couch potatoes, unite!
Ok, I confess. I need to walk the talk. I listen to the inner editor.
As a former teacher, I would tell my writing students to get all of their ideas down on paper first. Tell the story and then go back, re-read and revise as necessary. I would tell them to keep going, and then edit, but I failed to warn them about the inner editor.
He’s the one inside your head who makes you go back and read the sentence you just wrote. He says, “Something’s not right. Try again.” Once you follow his counsel, however, it sets other words in motion and the whole paragraph requires change in order to realign your thoughts. This rewriting takes time and prevents you from completing your article, chapter or whatever piece you’re working on. It can become a vicious cycle.
I’d like to fire the inner editor and send him packing. In fact, I’ve done that several times, but he must sneak in the back door because before I realize it, he’s returned and set up housekeeping … again. My head knows that polished sentences will come during the editing process and can be readjusted as necessary, but the inner editor too often drowns out that logic.
One thing that helps is having some accountability. When length of the piece is an issue or a nebulous deadline exists, reporting to a trusted friend (especially one who has known the inner editor) makes a difference.
If you’ve done battle with the inner editor, tell me how you won the war.
The original lyrics included a daily to-do list with each day dedicated to a certain task or priority. For example, they dedicated Monday to washing clothes; Tuesday, ironing the clothes; Wednesday, scrubbing the floor and so on culminating with Sunday, going to church. Back then multitasking was out of the question. It actually took all day to scrub the clothes, hang them outdoors to dry, take them down, and prepare them for the next step in the process – ironing, also an all-day event.
Aside from the benefit gained as children burn off lots of energy singing the song, think about what you can learn (or relearn) from the lyrics. Although the days of one task per day are long gone, a key message is prioritize. If you’re one who is easily overwhelmed by things that need to be done or procrastinates on projects taking you out of your comfort zone, try these tips to help you focus.
Make a list of what should and can be done in your day. Be realistic.
Assign time frames for each item on your list. (This is often a good way to reduce its size.)
Dedicate a certain amount of time to one task or phase of a project and work on that.
Use a timer. Besides providing a measure of accountability, you can see there’s light at the end of the tunnel as well as how much you can accomplish in your time allotment.
Ignore rabbit trails or interruptions seeking to divert your attention. Unless it’s a matter of life or death, it can usually wait.
Stick to it until the time is up or you’re finished.
The self confidence you’ll gain from your achievement will be well worth the time it takes to prioritize your day and focus on what’s most important.
If you still have little children around, see what other benefits you can gain from their songs. By the way, today’s version of the Mulberry Bush ditty addresses hygiene issues so feel free to continue to sing it with your kids.
You’ve heard the phrase, “Charity begins at home,” but what does it mean?
People most often use it to convey the idea that you need to take care of the needs at home before you go outside to help others. I think of it in a different light and would begin with this question. How do you know you are getting the most for your donation dollar? You don’t even need to cheat to get the answer. You need to do your homework. In other words, begin at home to check out the charities before you give.
Those who know me understand I have an altruistic bent. I want to use my time, talent and treasure to impact the world and make a real difference. Not-for-profit organizations are of great interest to me, especially if I feel drawn to their cause and know they handle the donations they receive wisely. It goes without saying they must also accomplish their mission responsibly and efficiently. In other words, I want to make sure that if I donate a dollar (or more), I want to know that the majority of it is spent on the core objective rather than on administration and fundraising, although I do realize these costs are valid.
I found a wonderful tool called Charity Navigator to help me test the organizational waters of the largest philanthropic groups here in America. This independent charity evaluator not only shares the results of their investigations in a user friendly, easy-to-read format but they also provide their methodology for checking out the financial health and accountability and transparency of these groups. In addition, they provide other data about the charity including a synopsis of its mission, history, reviews and news. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine rated Charity Navigator “The Best List 2011.”
In today’s economy when money is tight both for you and the numerous charities vying for funding, it makes good sense to check their report cards first.
As a child, I loved Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare. Being athletically challenged, I could rarely identify with the hare but delighted in the knowledge of the slow and steady turtle winning the event. Although Aesop did not include it in the text, some illustrators depict a crowd of onlookers cheering the tortoise on as he painstakingly took each step. Though the moral encourages us to get into the race and persevere to the end, it begs the question is once begun really half done? (It certainly did not work out that way for the hare.)
Many may attribute the turtle’s success to his commitment, focus and determination alone. I think the affirmation of the crowd also played a major role to spur him on when he became discouraged by his opponent’s quick start, when his racing form was lacking or harmful or when weariness may have precipitated thoughts to quit.
The tortoise and the hare appear to be participating in a one-time event. Yet throughout our lives, we humans are called upon to make minor adjustments as well as drastic changes as circumstances and relationships fluctuate. Studies show that such changes don’t occur over night. It takes time to develop new habits and create new patterns in the brain.
As one traveling the road of reinvention, I am greatly encouraged when others share their experience and insights with me. I appreciate their challenges and support. Having a mentor, accountability partner or good friend moves you forward more quickly than if you were going it alone. I find that spending time in the Bible and prayer provides continuous inspiration from my Creator and empowers me to go in the right direction. In addition, I seek out people who will ask me the hard questions about my progress and encourage me to get up again when I struggle or fall.
If you don’t yet have someone like that who can encourage you as you begin your newest challenge, count me in as your head cheerleader, and go for it!