Something needed to change, and quickly.
I was shelf-worn— exhausted by the same things you probably are— straying priorities, a perpetual to-do list, and not enough resources to complete anything with excellence anymore. I work with people everyday who feel the same way; too busy leaders with too much to do and too little time. People who, for all their success, are so wrapped up in getting things done, that they forget who they are, at their core, where it counts.
I’m positive it doesn’t have to be this way; at least not all the time.
Sure, I had lots of legitimate ‘reasons’ for my descent into mediocrity, but focusing on that part of the equation wasn’t going to provide me with the reboot I so desperately needed. What was my deal? I needed to find out, and change up my life, before it changed me in ways I hadn’t chosen.
So I QUIT!
Inspired by Sam Horn’s Year by the Water, Jeff Nischwitz’s Camino de Santiago walk and Christine Kane’s annual silent retreat, I decided to conduct a little experiment of my own— I would head to my favorite beach on the Oregon coast for five whole days. Without children. During that time, I would quit everything that wasn’t fundamental to my existence ( Maslow’s Basic Needs). Everything.
Though not as dramatic as my colleagues’ expeditions, it was the ‘one thing’ I could do, in the short term. I set two parameters for myself: 1. I was to stay conscious, and support all of my choices with deliberate actions and inactions. 2. I was to be forward focused, at all times, in my thoughts and actions (i.e. no looking back on who I’ve been or what I’ve done in my history)
I quit technology
all online activity
my cellphone (except for my kids)
watching the news
listening to the news
reading the news (yeah, I’m a junkie)
I quit negativity
criticism of myself
criticism of you
I quit distractions
everything that kept me from being present to my life
trying to “figure it out”
asking anyone their opinion
seeing what’s wrong with a situation
looking for a problem to solve
looking for a person to rescue
a scarcity mindset
thinking “I don’t know”
For five days, I didn’t pick up ONE. SINGLE. THING. to replace anything I’d quit.
If I caught my thoughts wandering into places they weren’t allowed, I told myself, “I don’t do that”. Period. I reasoned that just because my thoughts had been used to taking a certain track, didn’t mean it would have to stay that way. Instead, I’d ask myself, “Well, how do you want it to be, going forward?” and then I’d create a new path for my mind to explore that future.
Hour after hour, I sat in the openness, in the space created by the absence of the things I quit, and savored the ‘now’ of every moment. Yes, I know there are dozens of books that speak to this, and yes I have read many of them; But reading about an apple is not the same as tasting an apple, is it?
For five days Lola, my Goldendoodle, and I walked the beach, five miles round trip. She and I shared snacks, naps and waves. She ran like the wind, and I pretended I was the wind. I journaled, meditated, read and knit. Then we walked some more.
For five days, I never once doubted my decision to quit these things. I wasn’t bored. I wasn’t sad. I didn’t miss any of it. I was present to my ‘now’ every moment of each day. I was relieved to find out I wasn’t ‘broken’ and then it wouldn’t take long to ‘fix’ me. I simply needed down time.
I reminded myself that I quit these things because I’d developed some habits that gave me results I didn’t want. Said another way, I didn’t like the results I was producing so I looked to the habits behind my behaviors and my thinking, and chose differently. I chose fresh ideas, creative thoughts, and inspiring actions; things that fully supported my future and the future of my new business, The Leadership Incubator. I chose from a place of gratitude and self-love.
“What’s in the way is the way”– Solomonism #301
It was bliss.
I smiled a lot and talked to complete strangers; this wasn’t a new practice for me (“Mom, do you have to talk to everyone?”) but what was different is the way I listened— with my whole body. I saw these people through the lens of human-to-human; and I listened to them the same way. I spoke to them with gratitude for their presence. I came away from each conversation somehow rejuvenated and rejoicing.
WHAT DID I LEARN?
That my life is much richer, and more full of love and grace than I’d recognized. I’d been too busy focusing on what was missing or what needed to change, to see how abundant a life I truly have right now. I’ve now scheduled time for that in my future. I plan to quit for five days, once a quarter.
I disconnected from technology, negativity and distractions so I could reconnect with myself. It worked. The ocean is still within me; the gratitude still abundant. My plan is to keep it that way, whether I’m meeting with a senior leadership team or talking to an individual client; whether I’m with my children or creating a program.
You should try it sometime— your own version, of course.