“The secret to success in any human endeavor is total concentration.”
When 2018 started, I was looking back on the past year and forward to the new one, and trying to come up with a new overarching goal for this year…you know, like most other humans when January comes around again. Life definitely has a way of taking us through cycles and often we have to go through one cycle over and over again before we finally learn something from it.
One of my biggest struggles ever has been my idealism and perfectionism. And yes, I do believe they are two different things. The way I’ve come to see it, idealists want *everything* to be, well, ideal. Perfect, yes…but in the broadest sense. As an idealist, I want to see literally everything settled in an ideal way; this extends to others as well. Sadness and hatred and poverty and all of the bad things break my heart. I’m an empath to the core. I want to see everything made whole in the best possible way. It’s like super-optimism. It also makes me a people-pleaser. Perfectionists want things to be perfect also, but this is more of a control thing and is almost always anxiety-driven. I think you can be an idealist without being a perfectionist, and be a perfectionist without being an idealist.
But when you put those two things together, you get me… and I’m just a hot mess. Upon consideration of what my new year’s resolution should be, it was pretty obvious that I needed to work on being more level-headed about life and I knew exactly where I needed to start. But I did NOT want to go there…
In our current culture, technology addiction – specifically, social media addiction – has become an epidemic. It is SO easy to get roped in and stuck so quickly that when you realize you’ve been scrolling Facebook for over an hour… it’s just embarrassing. This had become my life and I was ready to be done making excuses for it. But y’all, that was over three months ago. Change doesn’t happen overnight and the idealist/perfectionist combo in me HATES that (think Gollum from LOTR: “we hates it!” Seriously. That’s how I picture my brain saying that right now. And I hate Gollum, too). Change is a slow process most of the time, and it should be, because the kind of change that happens overnight is usually the quickie/easy way road to change… which almost always ends up in lots of back-pedaling because when is the easy way ever the best way? Most of the time, it’s not.
So for the past three months I’ve been working really hard on taking care of myself. I knew part of giving up distractions was going to mean investing in myself in a more holistic way so that I could give my best self to my family: my chief job and ministry right now. But guys… not picking up your phone every two minutes is really freaking hard. Sitting in silence or forcing yourself to do something that’s not addictive is super uncomfortable and almost unnerving at times. I feel like I’ve been breaking an addiction in the same way that people break drug or food addictions. It’s a lot of the same pathways in the brain that need re-wiring…and it isn’t pretty. But slowly and surely I’ve been working at it.
For my own reflection and encouragement, and hopefully to encourage you as well, I’m going to list out the new habits that I’ve been able to form in the past three months. Habit-forming usually means breaking free of that cozy comfort zone because that’s the only way that growth happens. The process can be really ugly, but the result is usually pretty amazing.
Here’s what I’ve accomplished by getting uncomfortable in the past three months:
- Waking up at 5am daily. Except on Sunday. I’ve never been a morning person, but I realized that the biggest way I can take care of myself is to do so FIRST thing in the day. And my youngest usually gets up before the sun, so there you go. 5am.
- Spending those first two hours of the day on myself. I get up, have coffee, read my Bible, pray/journal, meditate, workout, shower, and get ready for the day. I still get distracted on my phone sometimes, but it’s getting easier not to and the days when I stay focused I feel SO refreshed by 7am!
- Meditation. Before you check out and assume I’m some hippy freak, just hear me out. This has been a big eye-opener for me in the last month or so. As a Christian, I’ve always thought of prayer as a form of meditation, and it definitely is; however, meditation also involves being very still and quiet and learning to tune in to your mind and body connection… and it’s crazy how much that helps to facilitate change in ALL areas of life! It improves focus, helps combat anxious thoughts, it’s awesome and scary how aware you become of the triggers in your life that have been holding you back. Like the quote I shared above, it fosters complete concentration, so that you can make the best of every moment as it comes.
- Wasting less time on my phone. First I typed “spending less time on my phone,” but that isn’t entirely true. I downloaded an app called “Moment” and have been using it to track my screen time, but most days I’m still spending upwards of 4 hours total on my phone (which they say is a lot). HOWEVER, the difference is that now I am much more purposeful with that time. I’m using my phone for devotions, meditation, school projects with the kids, phone calls and texts to friends and family, taking photos of our life, etc. I’m also using it for social media, but I’m trying to schedule that in so that it, too, is purposeful and limited.
- Really listening to my kids. After reading “Hands Free Mama” I was inspired to not just put down my phone more often, but really listen to my kids when they talk to me. To respond to their requests for cuddles and undivided playtime with Mommy as often as I possibly can. They’re growing up so fast and are so unique and complex and parenting them is truly exhausting. Honestly, I’ve become very jaded as a mom over the past few months because things have been hard and uncomfortable and I started to just dislike parenting. It’s not all sunshine and roses. But God has been gracious to show me some small moments of joy with my kids and to remind me that I can and should love the place that he has me in life, ESPECIALLY when it’s hard.
- Giving up “me time” in the evenings. It’s the big joke for moms, right? Go to bed and get that sleep you desperately need, or stay up late and get “me time”?! But my marriage has needed some TLC too and the evenings are pretty much the only kid-free time that my husband and I have together. We have about an hour to an hour and a half after they go to bed. I can spend that time buried in my phone or I can hang out with my husband.
- Repurposing that time in the evenings has also forced me to restructure our days so that I get other tasks done during the 9-5. Even though I don’t work outside my home, I still have to adopt an “I’m at work right now” attitude and give each task it’s due attention. I’m still tweaking here and every day looks a little different, but looking back even just in the past few weeks, I can see that progress is being made.
And I’m going to stop there for now. Please don’t read that list and think “why does she think she has problems? That’s a lot of good stuff!” I mean yes, I’m proud of myself for making progress in these areas, but I still have a LONG way to go, trust me. Just in writing this post I’ve had to fight the frustration that comes from being interrupted and distracted. The idealist wants to be able to sit down and write a lovely, eloquent, blog post, the perfectionist wants it done in thirty minutes with zero interruptions, and the anxiety is shouting “Noooooo!” The reality was it took me over an hour and probably sounds more like a harried brain dump than eloquent language but…you get the gist, I hope. 😉
Some weeks are probably going to be very wordy, like this, and others will be quick thoughts as inspiration strikes. I’m using this primarily for my own therapeutic process right now, but I love and appreciate discussion and feedback, being the external processor that I am… so don’t be a stranger! ❤