“I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.”
Steve Maraboli, author of “Unapologetically You”
When I was in junior high school, one of my teachers introduced me to the classic movie, “To Kill A Mockingbird.” I watched it so many times that I actually started to memorize some of the dialogue.
In one scene, the little girl, Scout, is being put to bed by her father, whom she calls Atticus. As he’s tucking her in, he pulls out his pocket watch and lets her open it up. She says to him, “Atticus, where’d you get this watch?”
“Your mother gave me that watch, Scout, and I reckon someday it’ll belong to your brother, Jem.”
As soon as I watched that movie for the first time, I wanted a pocket watch. It may not have been very practical, but it sure looked cool. When I finally got one, I wore it in my vest, with my three-piece Sunday suit; I wore it on the belt loop of my jeans, and I even put it in my pajama bottoms — just so I could pop open the case and stare down at it like Atticus or Gregory Peck, the actor who played Atticus.
People would ask me what time it was and I’d say, “I reckon it’s time for bed, Scout.” Then I’d wind it up and shove it back into my pocket.
That fascination lasted for about three months. By then, everyone I knew was getting sick of it, including me. It was no longer quite so cool. And before long, the pocket watch just sat in my dresser drawer, unused.
A few years later, I dug out the old watch. When I began to wind it, I found that it didn’t work anymore. I hadn’t dropped it. I hadn’t bumped it. I hadn’t even used it. And that’s exactly what the problem was. Later, I learned that some of the older watches contain a certain oil that gets gummy when the parts aren’t moving. And if the watches aren’t wound up once in a while, the parts get jammed up and they stop running.
1. Use it or lose it.
That’s how human bodies and brains are put together. We’re like a handcrafted watch. If we don’t put our bodies and brains to use, they start to slow down and won’t work properly. They might even stop running.
But it doesn’t take much to get them going again. We just have to wind them up about three times a week. Working out … even if it’s just a brisk thirty-minute walk three times a week … or listening to a motivational recording thirty minutes a day three times a week … can not only enrich our lives but actually extend our lives. Both activities are vital sources of health and energy.
When it comes to your body or your brain, you need to use it or lose it … but …
2. Don’t overdo it.
As author Ralph Brandt reveals, a nationwide survey revealed that 87% of Americans felt that they had too much stress in their lives. Their watches were wound too tight. So it’s no surprise that the three best-selling drugs in this country include a tranquilizer, an ulcer medication, and a drug for hypertension.
More than half the time you and I go to the doctor, we are experiencing symptoms that are either caused or complicated by stress. Indeed, stress may be the number one threat to our physical, mental, emotional, occupational, and relational lives. And it affects all of us … at all stages and at all ages.
That’s why one of my most requested keynotes and seminars continues to be “Take This Job and Love It! Managing Stress, Preventing Burnout, and Balancing Life … On and Off the Job.”
After Social Worker Sarah Beckius from the “South Central Organization of Providers to Educate” attended the program, she wrote, “I returned to my work and home life re-charged and equipped to be a better me!”
And Jo Gardner, a Logistics Specialist at Boeing, commented, “This program is full of life-changing information and strategies that made me re-think, re-evaluate, re-tool the way I was living my life and doing my work.”
So how you do use it but not overdo it?
3. Simplify your life.
Weed out things at work or at home that don’t mean all that much. Even though I believe you can do a LOT, you still have some limitations. You can only do so many things well. So learn to say “no” to some good things so can say “yes” to some better things.
For example, you may have to say “no” to that long-time friend who always drags you down so you can say “yes” to more fun time with your kids. You may have to let go of some of the 50 great ideas you picked up at a seminar so you can truly commit yourself to the 5 best ideas you learned.
4. Take a break.
Human beings need accomplishment for the brain to thrive, and human beings need exercise for the bodies to thrive. BUT, human beings also need some downtime to re-charge their brains and their bodies. And as hard as it may be to take time off when you’re really, REALLY busy, that’s probably the time you need it the most.
It’s even good for your productivity. When you take an occasional break, you often get more done in the remaining time than you would have if you’d worked straight through.
Remember the old line? All work and no play makes you dull. But it also keeps you stressed out and boring.
On the other hand, successful people ,,, in the truest sense of the word “successful” … are never boring. They’re fun. They’ve learned not to take themselves and their failures too seriously. They’ve learned to lighten up, laugh, have some fun time once in a while.
Please, please, please don’t end your life, looking back on it filled with regret. Don’t put your life or your pocket watch in the drawer and forget to take it out and wind it up. Don’t be like one person who left this world with these words she had written.
“If I had my life to live over again, I’d try to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax. I’d limber up. I’d be sillier than I’ve been on this trip. I know of very few things that I’d take seriously. I’d take more vacations. I’d be crazier. I’d climb more mountains and swim more rivers and watch more sunrises. I’d do more walking and looking. I’d have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones.”
“You see, I’m one of those people who lives life prophylactically, sensibly, hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments. But if I had it to do over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else — just moments, one after another — instead of living so many years ahead each day.”
“I’ve been one of those people who’d never go anywhere without a thermometer, a hot-water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat, an aspirin, and a parachute (just in case). If I had it to do over again, though, I’d go places, do things — travel lighter than I have this time.”
“If I had my life to live over again, I’d start barefooted earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I’d play hooky more often and wouldn’t have made such good grades, except by accident. In short, I’d ride a lot more merry-go-rounds and pick a lot more daisies, if I could live my life over again.”
Such great insights. The question is … what are you going to do with them?
ACTION: Select three ways to simplify your life and work … starting today.