Sunday, April 14, 2013

Experience! Do you chose how you experience life or let life chose your experiences?

Experience.  Enjoy.  Be

What does this mean?  More specifically what does it mean for you?

Today we look at “Experience”

People have many experiences throughout life, but are they the experiences they choose.  We will spend a great deal of time planning an annual vacation, researching locations, booking hotels that fit our ideal of a relaxing week or two away.  You want that time off from work to be perfect, but how much time do you devote to planning the other 50 weeks of the year?  How can you make workweeks and weekends perfect or a better word may be “ideal”?  This doesn’t mean every week will be ideal, just as not every vacation will turn out perfect as planned.  Life gets in the way sometimes and we get sick or bad weather changes plans, or work projects take over our life, but the default should be your “ideal.”
I hate Monday mornings!  Of course a lot of people hate Monday mornings.  But I also hated the idea of starting every week on such a low note, so I endeavoured to change the experience.  I asked my husband to take the kids to day care Monday mornings, so that I wouldn’t be rushed.  I also changed my work schedule so that I start a little later Monday mornings.  Two little changes have made Monday mornings wonderful.  Now, if I want to sleep in an extra 20 or 30 minutes, I can because I don’t have to rush to get the kids ready.  My husband takes care of it.  And he likes it too, because Mondays he gets to work early so he can be better prepared for a weekly meeting he has to attend.  There’s the added benefit of my better mood.  As they say, happy wife, happy life. 
Let’s think about your lunch time.  Do you work in an office?  Do you sit at your desk eating while you work, or do you rush to a cafeteria and wait in line for food you don’t really enjoy or that doesn’t support your health goals? Do you work on the road and go to the drive through to pick up a burger and eat in your car?  How would you like to experience lunchtime?  If you work on the road, maybe you could plan to bring a wonderful home made lunch and find a park to stop at and eat in.  Or for the office worker, maybe you go to the lunch room and spend the hour laughing with friends over a myriad of silly topics.  In colder climates, maybe you spend part of your lunch hour going for a brisk walk to get the heart rate up and wake you up before heading back to your computer.  It doesn’t matter what you do, but think about the experience you want and plan that into your life.  You may have to occasionally work through lunch, but be sure that it’s only when absolutely necessary and that your ideal experience is the default plan.
Are your mornings rushed and a flurry of activity to get out the door on time?  What does your ideal morning look like?  Sit back, close your eyes and imagine how you really want to start each day.  Now write down what you can do to create that vision.  Maybe making lunches the night before or getting up earlier will help.  Maybe you can take 3-5 minutes to meditate, or take 20 minutes for physical activity.  Buy a new coffee maker that has a timer so your favourite brew can be ready when you roll out of bed.  Maybe you could even have a second coffee maker on your bedside table so you slowly wake up to the smell of brewing coffee. Why not?  In hotels, the coffee maker is right there in your room.  Try different things and see what works for you.  What makes you feel better?  What feels a little more special and luxurious?  Make that part of your day.
If evenings are a just about making dinner, chauffeuring kids to activities, or maybe catching up on work emails you didn’t get to at the office before sitting down in front of the television for a couple hours then going to sleep, ask yourself if this is how you want to spend your evening.  My perfect evening involves having a good home made meal with all the family, helping the kids with homework, maybe reading with them, sitting with my husband and having great conversations about our day, the world or maybe something new I’ve learned.  I love to sit and write for awhile and I want to minimize television watching.  As I write this, I realize that my evenings are not ideal right now.  I need to work on this a bit more, but by having the awareness that comes from visualizing the ideal evening, I know what’s missing and my brain is already working out how I can re-jig our schedule. I think I may dig out the slow cooker so I have a few more evenings where dinner is ready when I walk in the door and I might line up a pile of books to read to the kids each week so that I think about stopping to read with them.  We used to read a story every night but have gotten away from that and I miss it. 
My one piece of advice to parents who spend many evenings a week taking kids to various extra curricular activities is: STOP.  Let your children pick one or two things, but no more.  See if one can be on the weekend so that most evenings you can eat together at home.  Talk with your kids.  We have “High, Low” where each person talks about the highlight of their day, one thing that was great about their day and then talks about a low they had, something that wasn’t so great that happened.  You get to see what each family member perceives as important and good through their highs and you encourage the sharing of the lows so that you really know how your kids are dong.  With so many kids having problems at school, being bullied or any of the other problems that arise as they are growing up, you get a window into their lives.  Start as young as possible so that it is normal for them to share and they feel comfortable sharing, and listen so that you can help them experience their days in a more positive planned way, an ideal way.
In conclusion, look at each day and each part of the day and visualize your ideal day.  With a family, you may have to have some compromises in order to make everyone’s ideals blend with yours, but it’s achievable.  The days that you do take the kids to some activity, you will enjoy more because you will be more present, knowing you are helping fulfill their ideal and knowing that your ideal evening will occur tomorrow evening.  Your spouse’s ideal may be dinner out while yours is dinner in.  Split it up and love that you are giving them their ideal some days and you have yours some days.  Make this a fun exercise to explore each family member’s ideals, not a negotiation to get what you want and make the least possible concessions.  A wise man, Jack Canfield (co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul books), told me last year that “you don’t have to do everything right now.”  I keep reminding myself of this sage advice as I try to fit more into a day and realize that my ideal is disappearing.  The kids don’t need an activity every night.  You don’t need to be perfect.  Work will still be there tomorrow.  None of us knows how many days we have left on this earth.  We often hear that it’s about the journey not the destination.  Do you want your last days to be a flurry of stuff you do, or a nearly perfect day?  Do you want to wake up 20 years from now and realize you’ve spent years doing a bunch of stuff, but had very few ideal days?  I vote for ideal or as close as I can get, as often as I can.   
Now, I’m off now to find my favourite kids books to read with my children this week.  I love when they snuggle on my lap and we create ideal moments together.

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