Managing What Matters Most. . .

yellow gift with tag that reads happy birthday in all caps

Hey, it’s my birthday on Saturday (3/12/22)! If you visit me on Facebook, you’ll notice I’m raising funds for an organization called Coaching for Everyone — https://coachingforeveryone.org/.  They bring both training and support into communities of color to increase participation in coaching. If you’re feeling so inclined, please donate to celebrate my 70th birthday!

If I’ve learned anything in my 70 decades on this planet, it is that I am not in charge of everything. The whole world (and all its upheaval) is not mine to control, fix, or even pretend to manage. There are, however, some small parts of the planet that ARE my responsibility, and they are what matter most for me. What’s on that list? Here’s what I know for sure. . .

  • My house is entirely mine to manage – what happens there, how the bills are paid, how the maintenance is addressed, when things get replaced, repaired, or refurbished in that 2800 square-feet of real estate is all mine to manage.
  • My career (past & present) has been mine to manage– and that’s something I would tell any young professional starting out in their practice, “take responsibility for your career!” Don’t let other people tell you what work has to look like for you or how to use your creative energies. Let your inner wisdom guide you toward work that satisfies and nourishes you.
  • My health and wellbeing decisions are mine to manage– I’ve been given the genetic proclivities of my family, but the rest is up to me! The risks I take or decline (like smoking, using a seatbelt, and in these days, getting vaccinated) are all mine to determine. And it is my fate to live with the consequences of those choices, not blame someone else!
  • My husband’s continued care needs are mine to manage– and, since there’ no one else in his life looking after his needs, this legally and morally falls to me. To think this is someone else’s job would be folly. Sometimes, these are my toughest decisions.

Everything else is negotiable. These are, so to speak, my BIG ROCKS. Perhaps you remember the story of the pickle jar that represents one’s life. I learned it decades ago from Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey, S. R. 1991).

The parable suggests that each of us in life has our own container to fill and manage (the pickle jar) and that this is best done when we put our BIG ROCKS into the jar first – those things that matter most. In essence, it is a reminder that we must tend first, and foremost, to those things that are most important to us, the things we value and cherish.

So, I have to ask, “What are your big rocks?” And how well are you tending to them? Life may not be easy, but it is always much more difficult when we’re trying to manage the wrong things – the things that are NOT our own BIG ROCKS (and worse, they’re likely someone else’s rocks to manage!)

Life gets messy when we try to manage:

  • Other people’s lives & decisions (listen to yourself, are you “shoulding” on everyone?).
  • The motivations of business entities & corporations we don’t own.
  • The politics of other people.
  • The habits of our neighbors, acquaintances, or community members.

I’m not saying that you/we have no right to an opinion about any of these things – but they’re not ours to manage and stress over! They’re outside our control, our sphere of influence, our responsibility! And if we tend to what IS ours to manage, life goes so much more smoothly!

Self-care is every conscious action you take that feeds your soul, nourishes your body, nurtures your spirit, or replenishes your relationship with yourself!

I don’t know about you, but my plate is pretty full given the four things I listed at the start of this message – they keep me busy enough each day. They remind me that I have plenty to do, important work to tend to, an aging body-mind to look after and a spouse whose needs keep changing and require my diligent attention. I don’t have time to manage anyone else’s life & chaos.

That’s also why I coach – the decisions about my clients’ lives aren’t mine to make. I’m here to ask provocative questions, offer support, encourage healthy choices, challenge their assumptions, help them pick good strategies, celebrate successes and most of all validate their feelings when life gets oppressive or challenging. That’s what a coach does. We’re not here to prescribe, to fix, or to tinker with your life. Your life is yours – to love & to cherish, so today is about asking you again. . .

What are your BIG ROCKS? What attention do those rocks need from you? How are you doing managing the things that fall only to you for structure and direction? Are you managing well or is life sending you an abundance of challenge & overwhelm?

When life gets rocky (pun intended) it may be that running your priorities by your coach could help. Having someone who’ll listen, without judgment, and help you sort things out can get you on a path to better living – on many dimensions. Don’t neglect what Matters Most. Tend to your BIG ROCKS and be sure to let me know if I can help you sort things out.

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About Paula

I help other caregivers – both professionals and family caregivers – acknowledge their pain and learn to practice the many small skills of self-care that can sustain them through the challenges of wholeheartedly caring for others.

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