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Finding Focus

All fall, winter, and spring I make lists. Lists of ideas, events, items, goals... things that I will do in the summer. "Oh, that's a great summer project" can be said about cleaning the basement, training for some athletic event, developing a new morning routine that fits in the myriad self care ideas I have collected, and learning how to play the ukulele.

And yet...

I have not cleaned the basement.

I have not participated in an athletic event.

My morning routine is now three hours long.

And I cannot tune the damn ukulele.

I am a fastidious morning tooth brusher, however. I am very accomplished in that. I reached for my tooth brush this morning and I had to push aside a new one still in its package. Mine, on the other hand, was fending for itself in my bathroom drawer, snuggling up to the mascara for protection. The bristles are splayed and I won't tell you about the handle.

"Why are you still using this gross toothbrush when a new one is right there?"

Because I don't know if the new toothbrush is going to understand that my gums can be tender, that the old toothbrush is splayed perfectly and that it gets the job done and is in no way going to mess with my mouth. It is comfortable.

Saving projects and dreams for summer time is scary especially when it becomes summer time. It's like opening the new toothbrush, changing toothpaste, and brushing with my left hand. I feel too much pressure to accomplish it all.

My battle is between the planning and the actual doing.

Luckily, I reach into my self care library for answers. I have been reading Atomic Habits by James Clear. My tooth brushing habit is a system that I have practiced for over four decades. It is a system that is so automatic, I don't think about it. Changing toothbrushes won't change my system but it makes me consider details that I otherwise do not consider. I have to stop and use energy to think about the best tool for my action, in this case, committing to the new toothbrush. What is not being considered is IF I will brush my teeth. I will. It is a system that works

How can I make systems out of my goals?

James Clear has a whole book on the how to make systems but one sentence keeps rolling around in my head: "The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but one who you wish to become."

Whoa... let's go back to that list above.

  • Do I want to be a person with a pristine basement? Nope. I would like to be able to find things in the basement. That is it.

  • Do I want to participate in athletic events? Not regularly but I do want to be fit. So when the opportunity arises, I can choose to participate.

  • Does my three-hour morning routine truly set me up for the day? No, it takes half the day to complete it!

  • Do I want to play the ukulele? Not really but I do want to tune it.

I can narrow the focus of my planning to create a system where I exercise consistently. This is who I want to be and where I want to place my energy so that exercising (and I have a broad definition of exercise) is as automatic as brushing my teeth.

(And YouTube will help with the ukulele.)

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From our All-School Assembly, February 28, 2024 Written by Nell Dailey “On this rainy day in February, I want to share a story with you. So sit back, put your phones away, and give me your attention.


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