If you have a thing trapped in your head–an imagined better way of using your time, an alternate means of expressing your gifts or a higher form of delivering on your purpose–you have an emergency on your hands. You are dying; we all are. The clock is ticking and even as you read these words, the precious few minutes you’ve been gifted are draining down the flushing toilet that is time.
But time can be our greatest friend and tool if we wrangle it strategically. We can tether our ideas and goals to time and let time’s ever-moving bullet train carry our intentions forward in real life, where we begin to see evidence of progress.
It seems simple: make new commitments, schedule new plans, and your ideas gain momentum. Right? If it was that easy, you’d have realized all your dreams by now. What is the hidden barrier?
The invisible, sabotaging barrier is this: CHANGE. As adult life gets in motion we make hundreds of written and unwritten promises to everyone around us. These promises strap us down to one way of living. The longer we live in one way, our ability to implement change weakens. Change is a muscle and it atrophies when not used. The longer we let life carry us forward in the same habitual patterns, we become weaker and weaker in our skills for making changes and mindful choices. We need to build up strength to effectively renegotiate assumptions, redefine necessities, and make tough, important choices.
We must exercise our muscle for change every day
If we do not exercise our change muscle on a daily basis, we will never build up the fortitude to tackle the tough choices needed to truly change the path of our lives. When we truly test our strength for change, we get clearer on the forces around us and the agreements that invisibly bind us. When we don’t push, we get pulled into supporting roles in someone else’s vision.
In my life, others around me created urgencies that I would allow to trump my planned goals. Year after year I attempted to negotiate to fit my goals into my family’s goals. But when the rubber met the road, these agreements were sneakily silenced by “emergency” business trip boondoggles and more. I had to deeply evaluate how my addiction to duty left me always reactively diving to catch all the balls left in the air when others would disappear. After two decades I began to see these behaviors were not accidents; they were manipulations of my life with little compassion or attempt to recover time lost. The clock just kept ticking.
I realized the conversations would need to get tougher and I would need to build a very strong muscle for change to effect results amidst the unwritten agreements in my life. The over-arching agreement was: no matter what happens, I’ll drop my goals to catch all the balls that fall. These balls were big, children, health, finances, family, and social commitments. Which of these, if any, would I ever put at risk for my own goals?
It took years of deep work to map this out. But along the way I started exercising my muscle for change. I began to observe the many ways in which my duty addiction sabotaged my goals. For example, I had a goal of working out and accomplishing certain goal-based tasks at certain sanctioned hours of the day. But I observed that I often canceled those plans any time a peer “needed” to meet at that time because their own classes or appointments. The old me would quickly accommodate others’ needs and drop my plans, and then wonder why weeks went by wherein no progress occurred on my goals.
I started exercising the skill of pushing back to find a win-win solution in all agreements. I started with the easiest interactions, insisting that all doctor and dentist appointments be scheduled for the late afternoon on a Friday. This ensured that my week would not be broken up by appointments and when they did occur, they were set at a time when my brain was generally ready to check out anyhow. This small step was a critical retraining of my reactionary behaviors, shifting me from immediately accommodating others to automatically and planfully selecting a timeslot that supported the best flow for my productivity.
From there I moved into slightly more uncomfortable negotiations: disappointing friends. If a friend texted asking to move back a meet-up by several hours, instead of letting time drag on, I’d say “let’s just reschedule for next week.” The old me would have let others’ schedule changes ruin my 5:30am workout or leave me killing precious time midday.
It took a lot of work with therapists and expert reading to get clear on the largest barriers to my life goals and the tough choices would eventually need to make. But by practicing changes to all my behaviors and assumptions every day, I got really good at knowing where I wanted to be and who I was willing to disappoint to protect my vision.
Changes we can practice every day include letting go of conveniences, redesigning time patterns, asserting ourselves without apology, observing others’ disappointments without reacting, and holding others to fair agreements and walking away when they are not upheld. We can also note and document any people or environments in our current life that are incompatible or unsupportive of our intentions. This is a LOT of work, but it grows our muscle for change.
Push hard, but don’t break: the kind-edge concept
There is a finesse as we work to change old assumptions. We need to learn to push without causing everything to break. KindEdge is the concept I dubbed when, after two decades of always giving in to others and delaying my own goals, I finally dropped the palliative self-care time-wasters and injected a dose of wise warrior into my mindset.
I needed to maintain daily rhythms that were rewarding, repeatable and sustainable: kind. But I also needed to ensure my practices were truly pushing me to my edge, enabling me to get uncomfortable and out of my element, in order to truly grow and change. With that growth, my muscle for change bulked up. I got clear on who I wanted in my life and what environments aligned with my greater goals. I completely lost any form of guilt over prioritizing my remaining minutes on earth for whatever got me jazzed. My gut became the boss; any person or thing that I felt was a time-waster, I’d happily skip.
This concept of kindedge has framed every day from there forth. Transformational change is a long-game. The KindEdge mindset enables my health and personal priorities to be nourished in each day while also calling for tough trials that further my range each day; I push myself in ways that scare me, but that move me further towards the life I’ve always imagined.
My momentum snowballed. I began to see how seriously I had to take all the agreements I make in my life. I had to see that dropping one commitment to myself was the beginning of a pattern. In the years that had flown by I could see the evidence of how those delays play out. Good intentions lay frozen in time for decades. This is serious business; this is the project of YOU before you die.
I’ve taken a practical approach to all of my changes. If life is short, and if I take myself seriously, I can have no patience for soft goals or woo woo concepts. I sought out science-based expertise and I designed action-oriented guides for myself to ensure progress was visible “IRL” (in real life).
I’m telling my story, and sharing my tools, to help you accelerate towards kind, sustainable change… pushing to the uncomfortable edge where you can see the cliff, and the beauty beyond, and finally take the leap.
*My self-sabotaging duty-addiction was replaced by an addiction to letting my gut guide.
*NO blame of others – I realized I walked into my life 2 decades ago without key skills and I hold myelf accoutnable for building and uing them. I looked at all my agreements – and saw so many. I recall being lauded in work for giving up my birthday plans, and for leading an international call when I – and my family – were all throwing up ill – … b/c my boss was ill and could not lead the call. I also recall sliding into a ditch in a snow storm while my kids were in teh bakc seat and I was leading a call in a similar situation of covering someone else. NO – NO – NO. None of these things were to be rewarded. There is no person in the world to blame, but with mhy new skills… all was getting better.