Look at the time! I haven’t gotten anything done today!
– Me, five minutes ago
Do you ever say that to yourself? What impulse is it that causes us to focus on what we lack instead of on what we have, on what’s undone instead of on what’s accomplished?
While I’m not sure why we do this, I am sure it’s possible to shift our focus and that it’s a worthwhile effort. To do so is kind, it’s a good model for your child, and it actually will make you more productive. This post will show you how to shift your focus using a process called the Work, which was originated by a woman called Byron Katie.
The next time you catch yourself thinking, “I haven’t gotten anything done”:
1. Ask yourself, “Is it true?”
Go ahead, inventory your day right now. I’ll wait.
So, it really is not true, is it?
For the record, this was my day before I said it to myself: Up at 5. Empty dishwasher. Prepare lunch for husband and children – peel veggies, cut fruit, make sandwiches, package snacks, fill water bottles. Prepare breakfast for all of us – more veg and fruit for fresh juice and frozen smoothies, heat sausages. Wake children. Fold laundry so children have clean uniforms. Wake children again. Set out breakfast, eat, tidy up kitchen. Get self dressed and us out the door by 7, take trash out on way to car, pick up carpool passenger, drive children to school (1:15 hour round trip). Walk dog, feed dog. Coaching call. Work out at gym. Shower. Lunch.
Would you say it to me? Be as kind to yourself as you would be to me.
If you ask the question and the answer was, “Yes, it’s true.” Then ask yourself, “Are you certain it’s true?” This causes you to look a little deeper and perhaps acknowledge that you don’t know everything there is to know.
2. Ask yourself, “How do I react when I believe it’s true?”
In other words, what does that thought cause you to feel and notice? In my case, I feel heavy in my body. I slouch. I feel stuck, unsure which way to turn. I also notice that this belief, that I haven’t gotten anything done, also spawns other, equally painful thoughts: What’s wrong with you? You waste so much time. You’ll never make anything of yourself. My future looks bleak.
Then I notice that this thought, which I’ve already noticed is not really true, is paralyzing me. When I believe it, I’m so stuck in bleakness that I actually don’t get anything done! It is not helpful or motivational. It is self-fulfilling!
3. Ask yourself, “Who would I be without this thought?”
In other words, what would be different about this moment if you did not believe the thought that you had gotten nothing done? Take a deep breath before you answer this one. Breathing deeply facilitates creative thinking, which helps with this question.
It also helps if you have a young child in the house, because young children are not burdened with self-judgment! It’s one of reasons they are so magnetic. Your child does not believe the thought that she hasn’t gotten anything done today; what does that look like in her? Does it make her less productive?
She also does not judge you. Look at yourself with your child’s eyes. What does she see?
In my case, I notice that without the thought I smile. I relax. My shoulders drop back so that I stand taller. Like my children, I simply think, “What would feel good to do now?” An image of writing comes to mind, so I move to my laptop and sit in a comfortable spot with a good view. Why not? I feel I deserve it.
4. Turn the thought around to its opposite. Find three ways that this “turned around” thought could be just as true, if not truer, than the original thought.
“I have gotten things done” is the turnaround.
What is the proof? The inventory of my morning! I helped my family, helped another family through the carpool, exercised my body – even employed a fitness instructor – and I’ve coached. It’s possible that even when I wasn’t “working” something I said or the way I treated someone was influencing them for good.
As my mind looks for proof, I cement the new belief. The mind is always searching for proof of what it already believes, and in this way you make it work for you, not against you.
Now that I’ve shifted my perspective, how I feel has also changed. Where I had felt heavy and stuck, I am now relaxed and open. Ideas flow more freely and I am much more productive than I was when I was stuck in the thought that I was unproductive. I also am more patient with my children, who are now home from school. I am willing to be interrupted by them, willing to help them with homework, and I have the mental space to listen with interest to stories of their days.
So you see how this kindness to yourself is so much more. It positively impacts everyone in your world. It is a model that you would be delighted to see your children copy. It also facilitates productivity.
The Work will not stop you from having thoughts that cause you pain, such as “I haven’t gotten anything done.” But it will help you start to notice your thoughts. You’ll notice them because you’ll become more aware of how you feel in your body. A frown, a feeling of heaviness or tension or recoiling, these all are signals that you are thinking a painful thought. Notice the body, then notice the thought, then question it. Freedom, creativity and productivity await you on the other side.
If you are interested in learning more about the Work, I’m giving Katie’s book Loving What Is away this week! If you are already subscribed to the newsletter, please enter a comment on this blog below. If you are not already subscribed, subscribe to the newsletter on this website.
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