Building a life where every day feels like the first day of school.
The cars are jockeying for position, filled with their busy moms and dads on a mission to drop off their kids at the school across the street from our house. It’s the first day of school and the neighborhood children march up the sloping sidewalk towards the school entrance, shoulders carrying brand new backpacks filled with writing utensils, notebooks, and in my neighborhood, likely an iPad. All the instruments of learning these days in a cool nylon sack with straps and zippers. It brings me back to my first days of school and how I loved those the smell of new pencils and the gadgets we had way back when. Pencil boxes, plastic eraser bags, 3-ringed binders filled with all that blank paper that we’d fill up with new ideas. How I couldn’t sleep the night before and woke up super early, eager to get going.
There’s something special about the first day of school. We get to go back and see our friends and meet our new teachers in new clothes (or gently worn clothes in my case but new to me). Everything is fresh and exciting for well, at least the first week. Then it becomes routine and you start sleeping in as late as you can so you can still make it before the bell rings. You start counting the days until the next holiday and three-day weekend. Exciting becomes mundane. Mundane becomes drudgery as the learning that you were excited about starts to become work.
It happens with new jobs, new relationships, new work out routines, new pets, new friends, etc. There’s always the honeymoon stage where it’s like the first day of school. Until we get handed our homework and it becomes a chore. So we’re always going on to the next “new” thing or experience. Looking for that rush of endorphins that “new” brings to us. Like most of our behaviors, it must be part of our survival instincts to crave “new.”
Those of us who try to understand who we are and what we habitually move towards in order to leverage our instincts, abilities, and talents, examine our desire for “new” as a tool to get “under the hood” of our behaviors. Do we really want that new job because we need a change? Or are we trying to run away from our feelings about our performance and contributions. Do we really move to another city to make a fresh start or are we trying to fix whatever internal messes we are coping with? Someone said that even when we move, we take ourselves with us so any problems that we have can’t be fixed by just changing locations. Or even just going on vacations.
I used to spend way too much time looking for cool vacations so I had something to look forward to. It was when I realized that I was trying to vacation myself out of being “stuck” that I took a hard look at what I was really trying to do with taking time off. It was a way to escape the situation I had created (myself) around the work I was doing. That’s when I decided that I wanted to enjoy every minute of my life instead of looking forward to 4 weeks out of 52. To do that, I had to change my thinking and my habits. To understand how and where I work best and how to build systems (See Sam Carpenter’s “Work the System”) to support where I struggle or find some help doing these tasks. So I could spend more time in my sweet spot where I have the most impact.
To figure this out, I had to pay attention to what I was thinking and doing every day. What an eye opener to see what my attention and time was really spent on! Mostly on distracting myself from the things that I didn’t want to do. And it was all centered on my thinking NOT my doing. I was actually thinking myself OUT of doing.
These days I’m working on keeping focused and managing my thoughts. Keeping my mind out of the shit pile that distracts and paralyzes me. Keeping my mind on what I want and the bigger picture. How do I do that? As Simon Sinek says, start with why.
I don’t know about you but I want to think about building a life where every day feels like the first day of school. That’s my “why.”
Whatever your “why” is, we can do this.