Read an Excerpt
Hurry Less, Worry Less
10 Strategies for Living the Life You Long For
By Judy Pace Christie
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2005 Judy Pace Christie
All rights reserved.
WHAT DO YOU LONG FOR?
Encouraging Word:You can slow down your life.
Everyday Step:Jot down a list of words you would like to describe your life.
Hurry belongs to the evil one.—Ancient Arabian proverb
Many of us dash from one activity to another, worrying all the while about what else we should be doing. We need simple and practical ways to begin to change, ideas that work with our busy schedules. Despite many good things in our lives and various kinds of success, nothing seems quite right. We are stressed, tense, and fretful—about money, work, schedules, children, relationships, and the future. Daily we struggle, frantically trying to balance work and home.
When we pause for even a moment, we realize deep inside that this is not the way God intended for us to spend our precious days—nor the way we planned to live our lives.
Amazingly, here—in our craziest, busiest moments—is where we decide to live more fully. It starts with a tiny thought.
Now and then, we let ourselves wonder—sometimes for just a moment or two—if our lives could be different. Could we enjoy each day more? In our rush, we decide fairly quickly that we can't slow down. Other people might be able to change their lives, but not us. We are too busy to learn how to slow down, too worried to relax.
Be encouraged. You can change. Life can be more meaningful, less hurried and less worried, even for you. The most frenzied person can learn to slow down and find more peace and pleasure in life.
You can begin to change almost immediately—yes, even you, the person who feels like he or she does not have time to be reading this book. Quick and specific steps can help shape the life you are meant to live, not the one into which you have somehow slid.
These techniques can work in your busy, everyday world by taking one step at a time to a calmer and more enjoyable way of life. You do not have to hide under the bed or run away from home.
Using "Found Moments"
Slowing your life down can actually start on the run. It can be done by grabbing "found moments," a minute or two here and there. These can happen in the car, while you wait at the bank, in the fast-food drive-through, or on your way to work.
These found moments are not big blocks of time but are minutes you can grab to think and plan. They will become part of the road map for your journey toward an increased enjoyment of life. You will not change totally in one day—nor should you expect to. Such unrealistic expectations will only add more pressure and throw you off balance. This does not have to be yet another thing added to a to-do list. Instead, start with a few minutes where you envision the life you want.
Because you are so swamped most of the time, making your life more enjoyable may seem to increase your stress at first. This feeling will fade as you choose specific strategies that work for you.
NEXT STEP: Develop a basic idea of what you want your life to look like.
Imagining your ideal life sometimes starts with knowing what you do not want your life to look like—knowing you are tired of being tired all the time or of rushing everywhere or feeling as if you never spend enough time with your family. That can lead to thinking about what you would like for your life to be like instead.
In my life, I found this to be a bit tougher than it sounds, for a couple of reasons. We get stuck living a certain way, and it is hard to step back. Taking a fresh look to see if we should change can seem overwhelming. Maybe you feel too busy and too tired to figure out why you are so busy and so tired. Even so, many of us have a pretty good idea about what we long for in our lives.
Your ideal life may be buried fairly deep under laundry, junk mail on the kitchen table, a stack of last week's newspapers, or a year's worth of unread magazines, or maybe even shoved down under a list of regrets. But many of us have "if only" lists that pop into our minds from time to time. We know that we would like to be calmer or have more fun or be joyful or have meaningful work.
Figuring out what I wanted my life to look like took me awhile. I read, studied, talked to friends and family, prayed, wondered—in between rushing about my daily life, working long hours, trying to be a good wife, mom, sister, aunt, friend, and on and on. What I eventually came up with certainly was not as complicated as brain surgery. I simply wanted less hurry and less worry in my life and more fun times spent with people I care about. And, I wanted to do work that has meaning. Those simple sentences are distilled from thousands of words and much reflection.
When I set out, I was rushing from one thing to another without truly enjoying any of it to the fullest. I yearned to change. I surprised myself when I sat down to write some goals. The words that came forth had a different tone than I expected: "More balance in all things. Slow down and enjoy life more by balancing work and play, togetherness and aloneness, planning and spontaneity, spending and saving, fitness of body and soul." At first my thoughts came together on the run. They eventually helped me slow down to give them more attention and do some fine-tuning.
The easiest way to get started is to jot down a list of words to describe your ideal life. You might write something such as, "I want these words to describe my life ..." and list the words. This simple exercise, which takes only a few minutes, begins to help you form one-word goals that can move you along, even on the busiest days.
During this process, you are already changing. You are finding moments in your busy schedule to think differently and beginning to acknowledge that you might be able to live differently.
Perhaps you would like to be more serene, loving, spiritual, or organized. Maybe you want your life to be more purposeful. Maybe you want to move slower each day or quit waking up worried in the night. The words you choose are not magic, but they help you start moving toward enjoying life more. The very act of writing these words down helps you make conscious, positive steps in the right direction. They can be nouns or adjectives, phrases or sentences. Do not get hung up on the form. This is your life, and this is your list.
As I started to list such words, I was surprised when the word tranquil popped into my mind. It was not a word I had thought about before, and it was the opposite of the noisy, frenzied life I tended to live. It became sort of a touchstone for me, reminding me of the quieter, more fulfilling life I craved. Other words that appealed to me included integrity, generosity, and usefulness. I offer this list to help you get started, but choose words that fit you and your dreams.
Remember, these are not words that describe your life now, but words that describe the way you would like for your life to be.
A church group I worked with in Florida listed joyful, serene, reflective, patient, fulfilling, loving, productive, spiritual, organized, and peaceful. These were words they wanted to build their lives around. A group of journalism executives gave nearly the same list, adding meaningful and fun. A small group of working women in Louisiana again chose very similar words. Most groups want these words to replace words such as anxious, tired, hurried, harried, rushed, frenzied, busy—the words they think their children, spouses, or friends would too often use to describe them.
The similarities in lists from different groups remind me that most of those I bump into day in and day out want the same things I want. At first, I found this to be sobering. How, how, how had we let our lives get so out of control? Later, I found this to be encouraging. As we try to retool our daily routines, we have comrades in our war—and oftentimes an angel or two.
As you begin, do not make a list that reflects a lot of "shoulds" for your life, words that may reflect what other people want you to do. Make a list that comes from within you— possibility words that express your thoughts and dreams. Begin to think about these words while you are driving or sitting in traffic or waiting for the carpool kids to hop into your minivan.
Consider buying a notebook or journal and using it to capture your thoughts in one place as you take steps toward achieving less hurry and worry. This notebook can become an inspiration for you as you move forward. Having a separate notebook where I jotted thoughts kept me reminded of my journey and on down the road showed me how far I had come. However, do not fret about where you write it—a tablet, napkin, scrap of paper, or the margin of this book can work, too.
Your life is fluid, and your list probably will not be static—especially at first. This process is not like filling out a tax form or a sweepstakes entry blank. Instead, it offers you plenty of freedom to quit thinking about "ought tos" and begin to think about "want tos." Some people might have a dozen words that pop into mind. They will quickly focus on these. Others might have one or two that will help shape their lives.
Some folks do well when they take out a piece of paper and begin to download their brains, jotting every word that pops up. The list can be edited later and take its life-changing shape. You might want to ask a good friend for feedback on your list. Does he or she notice something missing that you have mentioned before? This discussion with a friend or family member does not need a formal retreat setting. You can do it over lunch or while watching a children's soccer game or by e-mail. And, maybe your friend will want to make a list of his or her own and swap ideas.
Matching Your Life to Your Words
You have taken the first step to enjoying each day to the fullest by beginning to consider what you want your life to look like. Now, you can begin to consider what you might do to help your life match those words. As you go about your daily life, remember that list of words.
TRY THIS: Focus on one word each day.
Tape your list of words on your bathroom mirror or put it on your desk at work. Choose words from your list for passwords for your computer. Pray about or meditate on the words. When you consider these words, you are really considering how to transform your life.
Begin to recall those words as you make decisions in your daily life—even small decisions. Does the decision help your life look the way you want it to or does it take you down a road you would rather not travel?
Taking Baby Steps Toward Slowing Down
Begin to be aware that you can stop rushing so much and each day take baby steps toward slowing down. If you want to have more time with your family in the evenings, for example, you probably don't want to sign up for that night class right now or volunteer for a committee that has regular night meetings. If you are tired of rushing, you may want to leave home a little earlier each morning, instead of throwing that load of laundry in at the last minute or straightening all the rugs before you walk out the door. You may choose to read a book rather than watch a noisy TV show, or you may decide to walk around the block with your spouse after supper rather than spend an hour on the computer.
Diverting Negative Thoughts
These small steps help you gain momentum and slowly begin to make bigger decisions about living the way you want to each day. You may find that you turn down a new job that would require extra hours or that you set aside time to get your master's degree so you can start your own business.
As you begin to consider retooling your life—even with one small thought or a simple list of words—it may seem like an entire ugly family has moved into your brain, each with little voices trying to pull you offtrack. One voice wants you to believe you are failing because you can't do everything. Or maybe you hear a voice telling you that you must hurry all the time; that is just the way life is. Or, a voice tells you to buckle down, work harder, never exercise, eat lots of junk food, and drink too much coffee. The worst voice that many clients have mentioned to me is that middle-of-the-night voice that finds you lying awake worrying about all manner of things.
Try not to pay attention to these negative thoughts. You are creating a new way of living. Learning to relax and quiet these voices is part of moving forward. When you find yourself fretting over something you think you should have done or worrying about what is going to happen next month, divert the thoughts. Consider instead ways you might enjoy life more.
From the small seeds you have planted with these words, new ideas will begin to sprout and some amazing things may blossom. Slowly, the words begin to help you connect the dots and give you a glimpse of the Big Picture of what you want your life to look like—an inspiring, more exciting look at your life. Using the Big Picture as a foundation, you can begin to focus on your priorities.
Slowly, you will find that you have more time to spend on making fundamental changes in your perspective and actions. This process is somewhat like keeping the checkbook balanced or staying in shape. It will take attention, but it will work. You will begin to sense ways to slow down and be more effective in your work and at home.
Not a One-size-fits-all Fix
Choosing strategies to live more meaningfully is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. You will custom design strategies to fit your life and your hopes for the future. The demands on us, while similar, are also oddly individual. We are all called to live our unique lives to the fullest.
After you capture words for your life on paper, you might begin to write about those words to see what bubbles to the top. Again, you do not have to have hours to do this. Simply take your paper out while you are waiting somewhere and let your thoughts flow. Most of us do not want to give up sleep for anything, but you might consider getting up 15 to 30 minutes earlier or staying up later as this process unfolds—making a short-term sacrifice for long-term change.
The important part of moving toward change is not how much time you put into it, but that you begin to move forward—one small step at a time.
A TIP: This is a good time to think about people you know or have known who have lived their lives in ways you admire.
What did they do that you would like to emulate? How did they make it work? My Aunt Jean had a strong sense of family and home, was kind and funny, loved to go and do, but also had a serenity about her. The sewing-and-cooking wife of a soybean farmer, she married as a teenager and raised her family in the Mississippi Delta. In thinking about her, I realized it was not her day-to-day life that I wanted to copy—it was her spirit, her manner. She possessed qualities that I wanted to permeate my personal life and my work. As I became aware of those, I found myself trying to exhibit more of them.
ANOTHER STRATEGY: Write down your ideal work week. Since most of us work outside the home these days, we must learn how to blend our home and work lives.
In my own life and in working with hundreds of people, I have found that being able to balance work and home does not happen without awareness. Most people I talk to work hard each day. Some days it feels as though someone has walked on our brains with cleats by the time we head home. Too often we are left without much energy or enthusiasm for the family and the evening ahead.
My ideal work week includes planning to prevent rushing, allowing time to get where I'm going without my heart rate and my speedometer going too high. It includes setting time for projects that need to be done, so they don't wind up attacking me at week's end. It means staying a step ahead, instead of procrastinating and falling a step behind.
No matter what kind of work you do—management, clerical, medical, the endless list of possibilities—consider some specifics of an ideal week and begin to use them as the scaffolding for building a life you enjoy more each day. I have led many businesspeople through this exercise, watching them realize ways they can do their jobs better, get home earlier, and take the strain out of mundane chores.
Many of us enjoyed our work until we got so busy. This step helps rekindle some of that pleasure from work.
We are impatient. We are used to drive-through food, drive-through banks, drive-through pharmacies. We honk when the car in front of us does not make a jackrabbit start the instant the light changes. We try to tell our spouse the quicker route to wherever we happen to be going. Students in classes I have taught on this topic admit to an addiction to hurry—even when they might not have to hurry. This addiction does not have to be permanent. We can learn to schedule fewer things, plan fewer activities, do more of the "coulds" and fewer of the "shoulds."
Excerpted from Hurry Less, Worry Less by Judy Pace Christie. Copyright © 2005 Judy Pace Christie. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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