Maintaining focus, Meditations, and the challenge of change.

The first quarter of 2016 has been chaotic, to say the least. At work, we’re dealing with a previous client who we unfortunately needed to break ties with mid-project. Despite our best efforts to facilitate a smooth transition away from our team, they’ve decided to threaten legal action against us.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have another great client whose project has gone significantly over budget. A combination of unforeseen technical debt, the complexity of working with multiple development teams, and other “grey areas” of project scope; have amounted to a fantastic site, but one which we’ve needed to eat a significant number of hours on, in the best interest of the project.

On the home-front, my wife and I have decided to relocate to Minneapolis. An exciting move we’re both eagerly awaiting, but also leaving behind our 7 year history in Chicago. Needless to say, between finding jobs, planning to buy our first home, and preparing for the move, there’s plenty of “work” happening after we both leave our respective offices each night.

Thinking introspectively, I’m not someone who handles variety very well. I’m a Type-A person, structuring my days (and life) around routines which help reduce decision fatigue and provide structure to the daily chaos we all face. However, with the transitional position I currently find myself in, it’s a challenge to maintain the productive daily schedule I’ve become accustomed to, with many routines falling by the wayside.

Realistically, these periods of transition are times everyone will face in their life. My current transition pales in comparison to those others have faced or are burdened with. Regardless, during times like these, when the time necessary for maintaining oneself needs to be sacrificed for additional transitional effort, it becomes even more critical to find focus and energy internally. Making sure the mind is clear, realistic, and focused on what’s immediately in front of us.

Over the last year and a half, I’ve read much on internal perspective. Most notably, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Meditations was my introduction to Stoicism, a philosophic school of thought, and for me, a tool to provide clarity and reason when I might be feeling overwhelmed and frantic.

I’ve found myself gravitating to a few quotes in particular.


Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.

This is a fantastic simple quote,elegantly describing how changing your perspective changes your reality.

Right now I might feel anxious and frantic, but that’s because I’m allowing myself to feel so. It’s within my power to accept, channel, and choose to not feel this way. I can move on and concern myself with the work in front of me, rather than the subjective anxious perspective I’m creating.

Nothing that can happen is unusual or unnatural, and there’s no sense in complaining. Nature does not make us endure the unendurable.

When we’re in uncertain times, it’s easy to think we’re going to be blindsided by what's unforeseen, derailing our progress, and burning all we’ve worked for to the ground. In reality, that’s not the case.

When we’re in the midst of change, unforeseen challenges do arise, and similar to previous periods of change and unforeseen challenges, we will deal with them to the best of our ability, growing and learning along the way.

There is no reason to worry about what’s unknown, when what is known is that we have the capacity to deal whatever is thrown our way.

Just as nature takes every obstacle, every impediment, and works around it — turns it to its purposes, incorporates it into itself — so, too, a rational being can turn each setback into raw material and use it to achieve its goal.

As challenges arise during times of change (or otherwise), we can repurpose our perspective, on the challenge at hand, and turn it into something we can be excited about learning from. Rather than being overwhelmed with the magnitude of what we’re facing, think about how much we will grow after working through the challenge, able to use the new skills to pursue other goals and objectives.

In my case, rather than being uncertain about moving to a new city with far less familiar faces, using the new city as a way to expand my network, meeting new friends and find fresh opportunities.

The only thing certain about uncertainty is we will all face it. Just as physical routines are important to create order and control inside the chaos of our daily effort, having a clear perspective on change, and a realistic outlook knowing we’ll be able to deal with the uncertainties thrown our way, helps us maintain focus on the task in front of us, working through a transition, and become better for it.

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