Today, I found myself in the bathroom trying to escape parenting, closing my eyes, and focusing on my breath. There were too many things on my plate, and I was losing it. I had blown up at my daughter for something stupid. I was having trouble focusing on my mounting work tasks, and I was feeling frazzled from the last 15 days ruling the roost solo with my wife out of the country. Instead of finding calm in my meditation all I could hear was the famous Serenity Prayer on repeat:
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I cannot accept
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
Well, in my pessimistic mood, I only had one choice. I had to challenge the logic of that prayer. You see, at the outset, it seems like a solid mantra, but I took issue with “the areas of things that I cannot change.” It may be hubris, but I am pretty capable. I rarely shy away from a challenge, and there are many things that I can change***. In fact, all the things that were stressing me out were things that I could do something about. With enough time I could overcome every one of them…I just didn’t have enough time! What I discovered at that moment was that there are many situations where it is not that you cannot change something, it is that you don’t know what you should change first. With time as the ultimate limiting factor, I needed to reconnect with my values. Only my values could tell me where to start.
Before I came to work with Brockway, I never would have had this thought or realization. Values were not something that I had taken the time to define for myself. I had never sat down and actually contemplated what things mattered most to me. After I went through the Propel program, what mattered most and my values were crystal clear.
Awakened by the realization of what I had to do, I cancelled two meetings. I abandoned the idea of reaching 100% completion on the house projects I started to surprise my wife. Instead, I focused on having a Valentines dinner date with my daughter as something special for us on our last night alone before my wife returned. Once those actions were taken, it was amazing to feel the stress melt away.
Without a clear understanding of what matters most to me, the decision of what to cut would have been a lot more difficult. There is a huge chance I would have missed the opportunity to see my 7 year old squeal, wiggle, and tell me about all of the valentines cards she received at school today. No amount of courage to change things or serenity to accept things would have gotten me where I ended up tonight. Only understanding myself, reframing my situation, and focusing on what was most important could.
The work will get done tomorrow, the people I was meeting were very understanding. My wife will still love me despite needing to wait an extra day for her surprise. Most importantly though, I will never have to face regret for wasting my precious life in a stressed out haze without direction. I am very lucky!
***Of course there are many major problems in life that one can do nothing about, especially when it comes to controlling the actions of other people. I am not discrediting those issues, but today was not a day where unchangeable things or people were getting me down.