Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Abolition of Competition

Look up the word “competition” and you might see the following definitions:

- The act of competing, as for profit or a prize; rivalry

- A test of skill or ability; a contest

- Rivalry between two or more businesses striving for the same customer or market

- Ecology The simultaneous demand by two or more organisms for limited environmental resources, such as nutrients, living space, or light

From Mother Nature’s point of view, the ecology definition makes a lot of sense. After all, isn’t survival of the fittest all about competition? The cave-stud who speared the most bison got the most fertile cave-babes. The plant that gets the most sun and water thrives. I understand competition for the sake of survival. But what about competition for the sake of keeping up with the Jones’s?

Now don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with a little healthy competition to muster more mojo. Competing with yourself to measure your progress can be a great way to stay motivated and inspired. Learning how to lose can provide a valuable lesson as well… failure often teach us more than success does. And everyone needs to learn how to lose gracefully.

But when does competition become a sass-sucking scenario?

You know what I’m talking about. You know that dad at your kids baseball games who yells at his child whenever he makes a mistake, yells at the umpire whenever a call doesn’t go his way, and yells at the other parents for yelling at him. You know that co-worker in your office who takes credit for every good idea, knocks down any idea she didn’t think of, and talks nonstop about her grandiose ideas. And how about that neighbor who has the most expensive car, the brightest holiday decorations, and the landscaping that cost as much as a college education? Why do those people compete?

They compete to win. That’s it. They feel the need to beat everyone else because they don’t feel good about themselves otherwise. Winning is the only way they can feel okay in the world, and they will do anything to be sure everyone else knows that they are okay. But here’s the thing about that… they will never feel okay, no matter how many awards they win or accolades they receive, because mojo can only be found INSIDE ourselves. We can’t get it from our children’s athletic abilities, or our high-powered office jobs, or our Lamborghinis.

So here’s a good question to ask ourselves. What would we do if nobody was watching?

Picture this: Nobody can see your clothes. Nobody can see your car. Nobody can see your house. Nobody knows what you do for a living, how much money you make or donate to charity, or how smart your kids are.

Would you live your life any differently if the only person you had to impress was you?

Maybe you’d spend more time in your pajamas and spend less money on your car. Maybe you’d worry less about how your lawn looks and worry more about how your life feels. Maybe you’d go for a run just to feel the sunshine on your face and not to lose the extra jiggle in your legs. Maybe you’d find a career that energizes and empowers you instead of sticking with a job that stresses you out but impresses your neighbors. Maybe you’d spend time with your kids just to hear them roar with laughter instead of grooming them to be rule the world.

Perhaps we, as a society, should strive more for serenity and less for social status.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with nice clothes, nice cars, and big bucks, as long as you have those things because YOU really want them and not because you think others will be impressed by your importance.

There is always room to improve your groove and strive for success. Just keep in mind that success doesn’t necessarily mean being the best at everything. Success could mean having a loving family, a satisfying career, and a life lived with integrity. Success could mean sitting on your porch every evening to watch the sunset, making music, and smiling when you look in the mirror... regardless of what looks back at you. Sometimes contentment trumps competition.

The next time you’re unsure of your motivation for something, ask yourself this… How would you live if nobody was watching?

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Time Trap

I recently asked you, my mojo-minded mates, what the biggest peril to your pep was. Not surprising, the thing you are missing most is not something that can be found after it is lost. It’s priceless, although it’s free. It’s the one thing nobody has enough of… time.

Couldn’t you have asked for something easy, like a kale smoothie recipe? TIME? You want to talk about TIME? REALLY? This is one of the great challenges of my life. I’m a full-time mom, a full-time employee, a part-time student, and a 24/7 sanity-seeker. You want ME to help YOU with time? You really know how to hurt a girl.

I feel your pain. Finding time to do everything we need to do can be overwhelming at best, and downright terrifying at worst. This is one of life’s biggest struggles. How do we find time to take care of our families, see our friends, nurture our relationships, cook healthy meals, forward our careers, continue our educations, exercise our bodies, meditate our minds, clean our homes, wash our clothes, pet our dogs, and be sure we stay up-to-date on Facebook?

There are 24 hours in our day, no matter who we are. So how is it that some people seem to have enough time to do everything they want to do, while others do not (like me, and apparently most of you)? Do they have an extra few hours that we don’t know about? Do they not sleep? Do they multitask? Are they cloned?

To answer these tantalizing questions, I decided to think about all the people I know who seem to have enough time to do everything they want to do. I know A LOT of people, so surely there will be a long list of those who manage to get everything done, but are still happy and successful? Who can I talk to who has time at the end of a day, but still has a rewarding career, a healthy relationship, time for hobbies and activities, and quality time with their family and friends?

Hmmm… this is tougher than I thought.

And then it hit me. There is only ONE person I know who fits this description, so I decided to set up an interview. I called his number right away:

ME: Hi Dad. It’s me.

DAD: Hi. What’s up? Didn’t I just see you a few hours ago? (makes time to see family – check).

ME: Yeah, but I have a few questions for you.

DAD: Okay, but can I call you back? I’m having dinner with friends. (makes time for friends – check)

ME: Okay. Call me when you get home.

DAD: It might be bedtime by then. Can you call me in the morning? (makes time for sleep – check)

I called the next morning.

ME: Hi Dad. It’s me again. Whatcha doing?

DAD: I just finished my walk. (makes time for exercise – check)

ME: I’m writing my blog on how we can find more time in our lives. The only person I could think of who seems to have enough time to fit it all in is you. What’s your secret to time management?

DAD: It’s all about planning my time. I allocate enough time to get ready in the morning to get dressed, exercise, eat breakfast… And then I allocate time to work. After work I allocate time to have dinner and relax. I know I’m a day person, so I go to sleep relatively early and wake up relatively early. Someone who’s a night person may decide to allocate their time differently, but it’s the same strategy. Once you decide what you want to do, all you have to do is do it! It’s just about following your own plan. Most people either don’t have a plan, or they have a plan but don’t stick to it.

ME: Sounds like you’re pretty disciplined.

DAD: Yes, but it’s more than that. It’s all about setting your plan in accordance with your priorities.

ME: How do you decide what your priorities are?

DAD: That’s different for everyone, but in order to be successful, you have to manage your time in accordance with your priorities. If you screw up your priorities, you’re screwed.

ME: I guess so!

DAD: Now I have to go golfing (makes time for hobbies and activities – check)

After I hung up, I deduced that finding enough time to live a happy and satisfied life depends on two things… knowing your priorities, and planning your days around those priorities.

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Then why do so many people, myself included, have such a hard time with this seemingly simple task?

If my priorities are my family, healthy eating, exercise, my career, my education, and a healthy social life, then my “plan” would fit in those priorities. I know I need 8 hours of sleep to feel good, and I know I’m a morning person. Given those parameters, my typical week-day plan might look something like this:

7:00 – 7:30 am – rise and shine!
7:30 – 8:30 am – yoga
8:30 – 9:00 am – green juice for breakfast
9:00 am – 12:00 pm – work
12:00 – 1:00 pm – lunch and walk
1:00 – 5:00 – work
5:00 – 6:00 – free time with family (bike ride, help with homework, etc.)
6:00 – 7:30 – dinner (cooking, eating, cleaning up)
7:30 – 8:30 – get kids ready for bed (aka snuggle time!)
8:30 – 10:00 – study, read fabulous books, catch up on Facebook, or call friends
10:00 – 11:00 – get ready for bed

This is a pretty good plan! So what goes wrong?

For one, I rarely start working at 9 and stop at 5. Yoga gets replaced by answering emails that came in overnight, and free time with family gets replaced by answering emails that came in during the day. If I’m being honest, work emails and phone calls even stretch into my allotted dinner-time. And although my priority is my education, my nights are often spent watching mindless tv instead of studying or reading. In my case, my problem is that I’m not being true to my priorities. And that makes me sad.

I’m sure that nobody, while on his or her death bed, has proclaimed, “I wish I spent more time working. I wish I answered a few more emails. I wish I climbed that corporate ladder faster.” I’m pretty sure, though, that a few regretful souls have uttered the words, “I wish I took better care of myself. I wish I spent more time with my family. I wish I had my priorities straight.”

So thank you, my groovy gang, for asking me to write this post. It’s been an eye-opening lesson for me, and I hope it has been for you as well. So let’s plan our work and work our plan. But more importantly, let’s honor our priorities. Let’s use our time wisely, so we have no regrets at the end of time.