Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Good, the Bad and the Neutral

“I hated every minute of the training.  But I said, ‘Don’t quit.  Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”

Muhammad Ali

“To increase your effectiveness, make your emotions subordinate to your commitments.”

Brian Koslow

In my opinion, a life governed by reason is likely to be more dignified than one shaped by dogma and unbridled emotions.”
Nayed Al-Rodhan

There are three times when it’s particularly hard for me to keep my eyes on my goals:
  1. When I feel bad,
  2. When I feel good, and
  3. When I feel neutral.

When I feel bad, I really don’t want to do anything.  However, the one advantage to feeling bad is that it is sometimes when I can be the most productive.  I have written that pain is not necessary for me to be in Purpose, but there’s something about emotional pain that fuels me.  It feels better to write, clean the garage or fix a resume than it does to feel sorry for myself.  It also reduces, if not eliminates entirely, my pain. 
Often, after writing I feel great.  This is because I have accomplished something.  This may be why cleaning the garage or spending focused time with one of my children can also make me feel so much better.  The secret is not in the activity but in being present in the moment.  Writing does that faster for me than anything else, but it’s nice to know that there are many options.
Another time that is difficult to be stay focused is when I’m feeling good.  Who wants to work when they’re relaxed and stress-free?   When I feel happy I can sometimes forget that I still have responsibilities and commitments and I tend to make them less important.  This can cause problems. 
One Monday morning in my senior in high school, I was feeling great because that weekend I had gone to the Senior Prom and had a great time.  I was feeling wonderful and decided not to dress up for P.E.  That one impulsive decision almost cost me my graduation because I had passed the limited number of times for not suiting up.  Fortunately I was able to work things out and graduate, but I learned a valuable lesson about being impulsive.  Happiness is nice but it can get in the way.  I still have to be present.
The third time it’s hard to be focused is when I’m feeling neutral.  This is how I felt as I approached this blog, not terrible or wonderful, just status quo.  I noticed my thoughts saying the following:
“Why don’t you take a break?  You don’t need to push yourself so hard.  The house is quiet and you can watch a movie.  The blogs will be here tomorrow.  You won’t hurt anyone if you take some time for yourself.”

I was startled by these thoughts, not because they were shocking or even wrong.  They seemed perfectly rational and reasonable.  The truth is that everything is quiet and it would be nice to watch a movie.  I rarely do that.  The thoughts stopped just short of saying that no one was reading these blogs anyway and that I’m the only one who cares or notices if I reach my goal.  It was the seductive nature of these thoughts that gave me pause.  I decided I had only one of two choices – write the blog or watch a movie.  So here I am.
So how do I overcome the good, the bad and the neutral?  I overcome by not allowing emotions to determine my actions.  A goal is a goal no matter how I feel.  Working towards that goal requires constant presence and commitment.  Presence and commitment are greater than emotion.  Emotion seems more powerful, but that is only if I let it be.
In my personal life I have noticed that I often allow emotion to overtake me.  Sometimes I don’t express my fear, anger or disappointment in a way that I hope my kids will.  At other times I allow my emotions to affect my relationships in a negative way.  My personal life, my parenting, and my attitudes all need as much focus as my writing.  Every area of my life requires commitment, discipline, focus and presence.  This doesn’t mean I can’t have fun or watch a movie. 
In fact, I think the focused life is far more fun than the aimless life in pursuit of fun.  I know how much fun I’m having writing these blogs.  I’m happier and more focused.  I know that I’m giving to myself as I give to the world.  And when it’s time to take a break, I’ll know that, too.
How do I deal with the good, the bad and the neutral?  I Get Started and I Keep Going.  Then maybe I go watch a movie.