How do people improve on the ambitions they pursue?
In a recent blog post I contemplated possible resolutions and goals for 2018, and the word “investment” resonated with me. I vowed to do more than swirl through my day to day, but sink, deeply and wholeheartedly into each 24-hour span of time. To be completely honest, current life looks a little like this:
Split Decisions. The Snooze Button. Instant Gratification. Social Media Scrolling. Quick Forehead Kisses. Traffic Congestion. Payday! Email Pile-ups. Quality Friend Time. Productivity Milestones. 7PM Weekday Dinners. Workout Routines. Workout Ruts. Meetings. Plane Rides. Dinner Dates. Coffee Mornings. Laundry. A Good Phone Conversation. DVR Reruns On The Couch. Cleaning. Conference Calls. Missed Text Messages. Meal Prep. Party Planning. Coaching. Dog Kisses. Falling Asleep In My Book.
…It’s a definite grind, I cannot deny that. Although there are many instances of joy woven between the words that create the above paragraph, although my life, overall, is quite satisfactory, each day feels like I am riding in a car that has sensitive breaks. I push on the gas and lunge forward, then slam on the left pedal and brace myself. It’s like life is moving too fast and I am spinning constantly, keeping up with traffic but not getting any glimpse of the views. I try to slow down, enjoy the moments, and I come to a standstill.
It’s time that I learn how to become a better driver. (My husband would agree with me, in both a literal and metaphorical sense.) My goal in 2018 is to slow down altogether. Pay attention. Nurture. Choose quality over quantity. Design days that look more like this:
Vitamins. Compartmentalization. Early Morning Meditations. Coffee. Hand Holding. Strategic Meetings. Girl Dates. Personalized Coaching. Office Organization. Volunteer Work. Family Time. Handwritten Letters. Wine. A Steady Workout Routine. Date Days. New Recipes. Writing. Dog Kisses & Husband Kisses. A Good Phone Conversation. Books. A Productive Agenda. Stargazing. Board Games. Divided Chores. Meal Prep. Financial Planning. “Just Because” Gifts. Routine Doctor Visits. 5:30PM Dinners. Laughter. Backyard Exploration. Imaginative, Intellectual, & Creative Growth. Peace.
The above sounds so lovely, but lofty. How does one achieve such balance? In a world where so many people are (once again, figuratively and literally) driving 75 MPH on Life’s highway… how does one learn how to ease on the breaks without being ejected from the car?
In my department team meeting this week, my supervisor added this Ted Talk to our agenda. We all watched the short video together and I found myself nodding at many of its takeaways. It seemed to answer the question to my proposed scenario.
In order to excel at driving, one must practice-
In a parking lot.
I encourage you to watch the video, but also will summarize. Eduardo Briceño is a learning expert who speaks about how to properly discover and master new things. Whether at work, at home, in intellectual or creative endeavors, we must examine the actions we take and refine our skills in what is called a learning zone.
Life is so fast paced, we have such little time for white space, that we often just carry out all of our tasks and maintain our livelihoods within our “performance zone.” We wake up, we get a quick workout in. We take our coffee to go and we drink it in the car. We perform to our highest potential at work, we go home, we spend time with loved ones or solo, unwinding, and then go to bed. It’s a routine that we have all grown accustomed to. But bodies plateau without taking time to tweak regimens. Focus on muscle groups during sets. Plan workouts that will target and stress certain areas. At work, raises may not be guaranteed if you are not taking time to learn more. Take risks. Think outside of your role.
But how can you advance your workout routine if there isn’t time in the morning to do so? How is it possible to take risks at work when stakes are so high?
Eduardo discusses the notion of building in “learning zones,” blocks of time that allow you to practice, train, ponder, etc. in a low consequential environment. The goal of these learning zones is to improve. The action required, is to come up with activities for improvement, and the idea is to concentrate on what has not been mastered yet. Mistakes in this zone are inevitable, but welcome because repercussions aren’t enforced.
I’ll give an example in my everyday.
My husband is an excellent cook, and I am quite spoiled: Every night I come home and dinner is prepared since he gets in an hour earlier than me. It has gotten to the point where I feel like I am not at all skilled in the kitchen- I never get to dabble anymore. Although eternally grateful when greeted with incredible aromas at my entryway, I want to feel like I am contributing as well, you know, investing in my marriage by giving my husband a night off. “I’ll cook on Friday’s,” I told him one night. “It will be fun for me- I’ll find a complex recipe, go grocery shopping, surprise you with something yummy,” I promised.
I was excited until my day rolled around and I hadn’t gone grocery shopping- My week had been hell and I hadn’t even found a recipe that I wanted to try yet. I left work during prime-time traffic and instead of going home, stopped at the grocery store. I scoured through the Trader Joe’s frozen section, was about to grab General Tso’s chicken but opted to just suck it up and find something that required a little bit of effort. I sped home, watched the clock tick while I bounced around the kitchen, chopping, boiling, sauteing, and plating. My husband and I sat down to eat at 7PM and as he took his first bite, hummed, “Mmm…” I could barely smile. I felt defeated, although I successfully made my meal and kept my promise. I still had my shoes on, barely took my coat off, and was unable to really unwind as we sat and twirled our angel hair. “I don’t want to cook on Friday’s,” I whispered.
So what if I chose another day? A weekend perhaps where I could wake up and drink my coffee while searching through Pinterest recipes? What if I had time to print out the ingredients and bring them to the grocery store? With more hours, I could make crockpot meals, whip up an accompanying dessert, set the table and (gasp!) enjoy a glass of wine while I plated?
With more time, I could make a second helping if things burn. My husband would laugh at the fire alarm going off, would make an Instagram video of it rather than screaming at me in frustration. I’d feel proud for making something, infused with love, we’d add a snapshot to our #bmmfcookbook photo reel. The activity would contribute to a weekend, well spent. We’d look forward to the next.
In short, I need to implement more learning zones so that I can truly maximize on these “investment” exercises. I need to set aside time when I can practice “driving in a parking lot:” Dabble in cooking. Read books on leadership and time management. Idea share. Edit my creative work. Research J.Lo’s booty workout.
I’m ready to be a “Sunday Driver,” and people can honk all they want.
I’ll have one hand on the wheel, the other one waving, and there won’t be any rush to hit the gas or the brake.