Conversations at the Crossroads.

Change One Thing

Last night I had the pleasure of dining with a dear friend from New York. We chatted over our meal for about three hours, and I believe we might have talked for three more if it hadn’t gotten late. It was wonderful.

Among other topics, we each shared our career aspirations, and the challenges we are currently experiencing in getting “from here to there.” It was apparent (and no surprise, really) that for all the commitment, personal strengths and resourcefulness we bring to our endeavors, we both have moments of overwhelm, coupled with concern that our struggles may have no short-term resolutions.

Does that sound familiar?

As I revisited last night’s conversation today, I was reminded of a post I had written on my personal blog about a year ago. I had been frustrated with myself around a few aspects of self-employment, specifically time management and focus. I had remained frustrated and stuck for a long time. And then I made a decision—to change one thing. Just one, because the feeling of overwhelm prevented me from taking on any more. Just one, because I wasn’t convinced that there would be returns for any efforts I might make.

I am thinking of that post today, because it suggests an approach that has proven useful and has broad application. I am sharing it here, for my friend and for you. It was part of a series on changing your patterns (“C.Y.P.”). If it resonates, please let me know, and I will share the follow-on posts in newsletters to come.

April 2012

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to be more present, more “in the moment,” and less susceptible to distractions. I feel like moving in this direction will help me with my time management issue, and it will undoubtedly make me feel more peaceful too.

One insight that I’ve had is that technology makes it hard for me to do this—to be present. Just when I start to gather clarity and focus around something, a sound or visual interruption will jolt me out of it. It seems like I’m in a permanent state of A.D.D. It’s driving me crazy actually.

So I took my dog for a walk today at noon and I left my phone at the house. I was headed to the park to let him run around, and I was determined to stay out for at least an hour. My goal was to just be at the park, to be part of whatever was going on there and nowhere else. Without a phone to ring, vibrate or compel me to browse, I was simply going to be a woman at the park with her dog.

Maybe it sounds like the dumbest little thing, but I would challenge you to think of the last time you intentionally went somewhere without your phone. You (like me) probably don’t do it intentionally… ever.

Why is that? What are we afraid of missing? How significantly is it changing our experiences to allow those interruptions to come whenever they feel like it? Why don’t we try harder to control the interruptions and just be present? What might we gain by changing our patterns?

It’s a gorgeous day here today. As Dash and I roamed the park, I felt the sun on my face but also the chill of the wind on my arms. I heard dogs barking and children laughing and a few really amusing conversations. I saw dozens of sailboats in the bay and some really determined sunbathers in bikinis (seriously, it’s not that warm, ladies). I smelled the freshness of the spring air. I pet some fluffy Labradoodles that came our way to play with Dash. I even traded numbers with the walker of the fluffy dogs, so that we could make plans to bring our dogs together to play sometime next week. Spontaneous conversation and human connection—what a novel idea! These things don’t happen—these opportunities for multi-sensory engagement with the world—when we stop paying attention to our current coordinates within it.

I changed one thing today. I dared myself to break a pattern and take a different approach. I feel like I was rewarded for this effort, which of course compels me to do it again. I’m wondering if (and hopeful that) this is how habits get broken and/or re-engineered into more productive ones: keeping it small, making one change for the better, and observing the ripple effect.

Do you think I’m on to something?

With support and encouragement for your journey,

Founder, The Crossroads Coach

Published August 2, 2013