The Game of Life

Do you know exactly how many days, hours, minutes you have left in your game of life? Here’s why I ask.

As I watch my son’s soccer team play a game that they are losing 1-0, they are trying hard to tie it up. But when a parent calls out that there are only 5 minutes left to play, every player on the field kicks into a higher gear and becomes more intent on reaching the goal.

I watched my other son run a cross country meet this weekend. After 3 miles of running, I see the clock, I see him, and I yell, “You can still PR! Sprint!” And as if he had fresh legs, he did just that. Sprinted to his personal record for a cross country meet.

So this all got me thinking. What if the players didn’t know the time they had to play. What if the soccer teams took the field and didn’t know if they’d play 20 minutes or an hour? What if a runner had no clock or watch along the course? What if a golfer didn’t know how many holes were going to be played each round? How many innings for a baseball player? How many laps for a race car driver? Apply to the sport of your choice. My point is, how hard would athletes play if they didn’t know how much time they had to reach their goals and win their game?

Now, what about the game of life? Do you know exactly how many days, hours, minutes you have left? No! So what are you waiting on? Get your game plan together. Suit up. Take action. NOW. To reach your goals and win at the game of life!

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If Not Now, When?

Have you accomplished everything you want to accomplish in this life of yours? I know I haven’t. In fact, I know I have more interests and goals than I will ever have time to get to in this lifetime. So maybe that is why phrases like “just killing time” or “wasting time” and “I have nothing to do” drive me crazy! Time is precious. We only get one life and we have no idea how much time is left in it.

Don’t you want to do something bigger with your life? Have you really checked off all your goals and dreams and have nothing left to do? What are you waiting for? Do you not know where to start? Do you think it’s too late?

It’s never too late and there is always something you can do! Every day that you get to wake up is a new opportunity. If you don’t know where to start, then start by brainstorming a list of things you find interesting or want to try. Let’s say you’ve always wanted to learn how to speak Italian. Maybe your list has “check out Italian language CDs at the library.” There. Boom. You’re on your way. Now set a goal to listen to the CDs while you’re driving home from work or while you’re cooking dinner. Maybe you find that you love it, maybe you don’t, but you DID something.

You can apply the example above to anything on your list. Make a goal. Make a plan to accomplish the goal. Time is our most precious “non-renewable resource.” When it’s gone, it’s gone. So if there’s something you still want to do in your life, ask yourself this question: “If not now, when?”

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Stop Stressing Out About Work-Life Balance

I made a post on Instagram Saturday morning in which I said instead of work-life balance, we should have Work-life Awareness. (I don’t know if that’s a term anyone else uses yet, but I’m using it now. If it becomes a thing, I’m claiming it as my own.)

Anyways, I was making the point that “balance” doesn’t have to be taken literally. I mean if we took it literally we would spend 12 hours at work and 12 hours for ourselves, our friends, and our families. I hear people trying to achieve this balance of time and energy on work and personal and then stress out that they can’t achieve it.

I have to suppose that when the term “work-life balance” was first created, it was meant to remind people not to be workaholics and try to get ahead professionally at the expense of their health and their relationships. But over time, it seems to have become one more measure that people have added to their checklist of “if I do this I’m closer to perfection.”

I am proposing work-life awareness and measuring happiness instead of perfection (whatever THAT is.) If you’re ready to make the shift to work-life awareness, start by asking yourself two questions at the end of the day or week or whatever time period feels right for you:

1. Am I happy?

If you spend 80% of your time working and you LOVE your work, you’re probably happy. On the flip side, if you only gave about 20% of your time and energy working at a job that’s just a job and were freed up to be fully present with friends and family, you’re probably happy. Just be aware of that.

2. Will I regret these choices of how I spent my time a year from now? 5 years from now? 10 years from now?

Not to rain on the happiness parade, but ask this question because you may be happy today, but later you don’t want to either regret spending so much time in the job you love that you missed your kids’ milestones or regret not spending enough time working on a career and feel like you’ve missed your calling. Be aware of that too.

Whether you want to call it “work-life balance” or “work-life awareness” or any other term you coin, it’s really just semantics. But please, stop stressing out about it and find your sweet spot, your happiness, your zone…whatever you want to call it.

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My Son Almost Got Hit By a Car…and Other Potential Perils of Being a “Go-Go-Go” Parent

The team was already gathering when I pulled up to the school with my son. I said, “Okay, we’re here,” and he looked up from his phone, scrambled to get his things together, and jumped out of the car. In my side mirror, I saw a van pulling around us and I yelled, “Wait!” at my son, but he’d already slammed the door and didn’t hear me. That nano-second played out in slow motion as I watched him never look, running in front of the van to join the team. Thank goodness the driver of the van was looking straight ahead, saw my son, and slowed for him.

Had this been a sitcom, there would have been a laugh track played as the disheveled boy ran to practice, probably dropping something along the was. The sitcom mom would smile and shake her head and be off to her next busy mom task.

My life is no sitcom, but what it is — and probably yours too — is a daily attempt to be a nurturing, productive role model for my children. I want my boys to see and hopefully model my work ethic as they grow into young adults. But this episode with my son brought to my attention that I also have to teach them the strategies that allow me to be so productive.

Before I share about strategies, here’s another story. After I dropped my other son off at camp, I was walking back to my car. Another mom and her son were hurriedly speed-walking toward the camp drop-off spot. The mom had a can of sunscreen and she was spraying the boy’s arms and legs (or at least she was spraying the air around his arms and legs) while they were in motion. A couple of us witnessing this scene chuckled as she looked up, laughed, and said, “We are SO late!” It was a funny sight, and again could have included a laugh track and been a funny scene in a busy sitcom about parenting. But the thing is, she wasn’t “SO late.” In fact, she was less than 5 minutes late. She was simply caught up in the “go-go-go.” Driving away, I began thinking about what we are modeling for our kids.

Some of us are naturally type A personalities. I am. I enjoy being a productive “go-go-go” mom taking care of my three boys, working, working out, etc. I’ll point out here that I am a “go-go-go” mom, meaning I like to accomplish as much each day as I possibly can. However, I do not encourage overscheduled, “go-go-go” kids.

The two stories I shared earlier reminded me that we, as parents, should also teach our children the strategies we use to be productive. Otherwise, we might just be raising kids who feel stressed out trying to follow in our productive, “go-go-go” footsteps. So here are three strategies I am working on with my kids (and it is a nice refresher for me too as I practice what I’m preaching!)

  1. Prepare the night before. Sometimes we think we’ve got this, we can just wing it in the morning, but even if we can, why not prepare the night before and have a calm, easy-paced morning? (If you’re wondering how to model this for your kids because you’re so used to just doing the prep work behind the scenes, here’s how I’m doing it. I’m talking out loud about what I’m doing and why. “Ok, let’s go ahead and pack lunch tonight so we’re not rushed tomorrow.” And I’m asking the boys questions to keep them listening. “Do you want pb&j for lunch tomorrow? Great. Can you please pull out the stuff to make that?” For us this week, we’re looking at the forecast. “Let’s put the sunscreen bottle on the counter so we don’t forget it in the morning.” And we’re planning clothing. “You’re running tomorrow. Make sure you have clean socks.”)
  2. Take a breath, collect your thoughts and your things before leaving the house/car. Even though we prep the night before, we need to take a pause and make sure we’re not running out disheveled. (Again, I actually practice this with my son, having him pause, put his phone in his bag before opening the car door, and remind him to be aware of his surroundings — to not almost get hit by a car!)
  3. Ask what’s more important. Sometimes even with preparing the night before, we find ourselves running late — because we’re human and maneuvering in a world full of other humans. We grown ups know how to prioritize and get our day back on track, but we need to model this strategy for our kiddos too. (Especially since I will have young drivers in a few years, I am modeling how to prioritize when in a rush.) By asking the question, “What’s more important?” we can model how to prioritize. When asking the question, make is consequence- based. (If my son is playing a video game and I ask what ‘s more important, the answer is always going to be the video game. By comparing consequences, kids understand what you’re really asking. And yes, my son will still say the video game is more important, but he gets this smile and change of tone that let’s me know he understands and just doesn’t want to admit it.) So I model this consequence-based question while driving by asking, “What’s more important, that we get there on time or that we get there safely?” or “I could go faster, but is trying to make up time worth getting a speeding ticket, which will make us even more late?” The desired outcome, of course, is that when our kids are faced with making important decisions on their own in the future, they will weigh the consequences and choose wisely, especially when it involves operating a 2-ton motor vehicle!

I know , practicing these strategies with our kids is not sitcom-worthy. Adding a laugh track to making a pb&j in advance or practicing good decision-making is not going to make it any more fun. But, practicing these strategies may help prevent a drama — and I think all parents will agree that preventing drama where we can is totally worth the effort!


Beating the Vacation Blues

Since my last post was about the importance of scheduling a vacation, it seems appropriate that today I post about returning to “real life” after vacation.  Believe me when I say I really did not want to return to work after a week at the beach.  REALLY. DID. NOT.  However, I did return to work this fine Monday and had an absolutely lovely day…because I decided to have an absolutely lovely day and took steps to make it so. Reflecting on how I went from pouting like a toddler driving away from the beach on Saturday to being a smiling, productive grown up today, I have some ideas to share that might help you when returning to your “real life” after a vacation, a weekend, or any other time away.

First, find the next thing to look forward to.  If you’re like me, you spent a lot of time planning and anticipating your time away.  You enjoyed it so much and you try to hold onto that, but you also have a little empty spot because it’s over.  Bummer.  So what’s next?  Hey, I have a brunch and a dinner date coming up next week.  And the next family getaway is only like 5 months away. That takes a little bit of the sting of vacation being over away.

Next, get organized.  In my experience, getting organized requires my brain to take over, which helps me get over the vacation blues, Sunday blues, or whatever other blues I may have.  Getting organized allows you to take action and therefore take control of an emotional situation.  Whether it’s sadness that the vacation is over or feeling overwhelmed at jumping back into your daily life (that pile of laundry waiting on you, the 100+ work emails in your inbox…) just take action.  So where to start?

My suggestion is to start with what must be done first.  For example, if you have no clean underwear and almost no food in the house, throw in a load of laundry and make your grocery list.  (Side note, laundry is my favorite chore because it does its thing in the background while I am actively working on something else.  So at the end of the day I can feel super productive!)

After completing what must be done, I suggest doing what is bugging you.  Do the thing that you’re going to keep thinking about even though it’s not the most important thing, because otherwise you keep thinking about it and you’re wasting precious mental energy.  For me yesterday, it was paying bills and getting our financial “stuff” in order.  By the end of the day yesterday (first day after vacation) I was feeling pretty accomplished, but still a little sad.  Maybe you’d consider this an optional tip or maybe a mandatory one, but I decided to indulge in a little “self care” to get over my vacation blues by continuing my vacation so to speak.  I grabbed a drink and sat out on the deck reading for an hour…just like I’d done for the past week at the beach.

Monday morning arrived, and here’s possibly my number one tip: I opened my eyes, smiled, and took a couple minutes to be grateful.  I was grateful for another day, grateful that I have a job with flexibility, grateful that I have clean clothes and food in the pantry, grateful for my health and my family.  Next tip…be kind to yourself, treat yourself, and ease back into work.  For me that meant a quick workout and then picking up a yummy caramel coffee drink after dropping my son off at an early morning practice.  You can make the decision to roll back into work happy or crabby, but either way you’re going back to work, so you might as well be happy!  I smiled and said “have a good day” to everyone I encountered this morning. It made me feel good and hopefully it even brightened up someone else’s day as well.  (Maybe your treat is not food/drink related, and it could be as simple as playing your favorite playlist while driving to work and belting out the lyrics. Just do something that makes you happy to start your day.)

Now, facing work for the first day back is not so sad or overwhelming because you’re in a happy mental space.  You can face whatever the day has in store for you.  You don’t have to get all caught up in the first ten minutes.  You can apply the same strategy to work as described earlier.  Do what must be done (maybe an urgent matter for your boss), then do what is bugging you and wasting your mental energy (sorting emails to find which ones really need action and which ones you were copied on but were already taken care of while you were out.)  Decide the top 2-3 tasks you need to complete by the end of the day that will make you feel accomplished.  Keep a to do list that you can add to as more tasks pop into your mind. (Again, reserve your mental energy by writing them down and not playing them on a constant loop in your brain.)  Anything you can cross off your to do list in addition to the 2-3 tasks you want to complete by the end of the day is bonus!

I hope one or more of these suggestions will help you when returning to “real life” after some time away as well.  If you have other tips that help you beat the vacation blues, I’d love to hear them.  Otherwise, there’s still some daylight left here; I’m grabbing a drink and my book and heading out to the deck…keep this “vacation” going!