Just for fun, let’s say I’m starring in my own Jim Carrey movie and, in that movie, I must click on every happiness article that comes into my newsfeed and incorporate that advice into my daily routine. Top Six Habits of the Highly Successful, or Eight Morning Rituals That Will Change Your Life Forever.
The day might roll out like this. The voices of NPR wake me up and immediately my brain begins racing because I have to get my 30 ounces of water (clear skin, healthy body!), I have to declare my three things I’m thankful for (life of abundance), do my morning stretches (so the tendons in my knees don’t give out on me as I age). I must resist the urge to check devices too early (disturbs peace of mind). I take the dog for a meditative walk. I start my day with three ounces of protein.
And as I walk out on the deck to have my morning coffee, I do a quick Google search to make sure it’s still OK to drink caffeine today. (Must break “no devices before 8 am” rule to do so) I need to make sure it won’t give me cancer, or make me a psychopath because People Who Order Coffee Black Are More Likely To Be Psychopaths. If it’s on the Internet, it must be true.
On the way out to the deck, I spot a pile of items waiting for me on that big project that’s due next week. and all my manufactured peace crumbles away. I have that thing I have to finish. Oy.
All shattered because I dared to leave work out on the table. Habit #7 of the ultra-productive: Keep boundaries between work and meditative time. Don’t let that shit show when you’re trying to stay sane!
I blew it.
I sit down on my yoga mat with my mug of coffee that says “there’s no place like ommmmm” and I try to eradicate the peace-hating thoughts from my brain.
But I can’t seriously meditate because I’m in the green zone on said project.
If you’ve stuck with me this far, you likely relate. And so I ask: Have you ever NOT made it to the blue zone? We always make it to the blue zone. Somehow, it all works out in the end it’s just that along the way, we do a damn good job of making it harder than it has to be.
Daniel Levitin in The Organized Mind said:
“Achieving insight across a wide variety of problems – not just word problems but interpersonal conflicts, music composition (creative problems), for example, typically follows a pattern. We focus all our attention on the aspects of the problem as it is presented, or as we understand it, combing through the different possible solutions and scenarios with our left prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate. But this is merely a preparatory phase, lining up what we know about a problem. If the problem is sufficiently complex or tricky, what we already know won’t be enough. In a second phase, we need to relax, let go of the problem and let networks in the right hemisphere take over. Neurons in the right hemisphere are more broadly tuned, with longer branches and more dendritic spines – they are able to collect information from a larger area of cortical space than left hemisphere neurons, and although they are less precise, they are better connected. When the brain is searching for an insight, these are the cells most likely to produce it. The second or so preceding insight is accompanied by a burst of gamma waves, which bind together disparate neural networks, effectively binding thoughts that were seemingly unrelated into a coherent new whole. For all this to work, the relaxation phase is crucial.“
In other words, it eventually solves. Something eventually clicks.
By the way, the irony that I’m sharing from more articles on how to get more done, and live life better is not lost on me. As I’ve become an amalgamation of all the quotes and memes floating around lacking an original idea, maybe there is some truth in there somewhere – maybe we have to go through the chaos, pick two of the six habits, and three of the 10 rituals, wring hands in front of the blank slate of said project, check into Facebook 1852 times. Ditch the two habits and find another.
When you get up and go out in the woods, or go to your farmer’s market, or drive to pick the kids up from soccer, it will happen – that burst of gamma waves will connect the dots and you’ll pull it all together. And you’ll think, “that wasn’t so bad.”
An article written by Oprah caught my attention the other day. I’m not particularly a follower or fan of hers, but the title struck me and I want to leave you with this one paragraph, but you should go read it entirely:
I did an interview in the late ’80s with a mother who had watched her son die. She crawled into bed with him as he was dying. And his last words were, “Oh, it was all so simple.” And then he smiled. When she said that, I got chills. We’re going to take our last breath and say, “Why were we struggling all that time? Why were we swimming upstream? … I thought back to that quote. Ah, it was so simple. I didn’t have to fight that hard. It didn’t have to be that hard. That show, along with many others, had a powerful and calming impact on me in terms of the way I led my own life. – Oprah: The Simple, Life-Changing Question That Hardly Anyone Can Answer
Hey – I’ll see ya in the Blue Zone.
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Danny Brown says
Why does this post have no comments?? Gah!
Brilliant, Lisa, absolutely loved this, because it’s so true. We panic, we fret, we grey, we sob, we throw a hissy fit – and for what? The perception of failure in one minute area when we’ve succeeded on another 10?
We need to get off our self-worth orange box and see how much we’re actually doing by not worrying. Because, really, it is just as simple as that.
Lisa Gerber says
Thank you for fighting the Disqus vetting process and breaking the commenting seal! 🙂
I’m a huge worrier (I’m sure it’s my Jewish upbringing) so this is always a good reminder to me. I figured it would be to others as well.
Danny Brown says
Seriously, if I didn’t enjoy your musings so much, I’d never comment. Bloody Disqus is the bane of the web!!! 😉
Danny! Check it out! It’s gone!!!!! Postmatic FTW!
Danny Brown says
Oh my – this looks even better than my comment section. Damn you all to Hades, Jason!!! 🙂
(And welcome to Postmatic and Epoch, Lisa). 🙂
This is truly awesome. And Jason – you made it super easy. Appreciate that.
Corinne Rodrigues says
I’m glad that Danny Brown pointed me in the direction of your post, Lisa. There are just too many must-dos floating out there – and I think they only lead to more stress and guilt. I’m trying to reach out for the simple and hopefully echo the words of that young boy when my times comes to go.
I love this quote : What if we just acted like everything was easy? – Mary Anne Radmacher
Lisa Gerber says
Ooooo! I like that! From the exterior, others make it look so easy. They are likely struggling just as much as we are. But if we could just act like it is, like it will all work out, it does anyway…
Thanks, Corinne, I’m glad Danny sent you here too. Now i have to go look up Mary Anne Radmacher.
Gina Fiedel says
Thanks for steering me over to this post, Danny Brown.
Lisa, thank you! It’s a great thing to talk about; how we get in our own way by trying too hard-
The “problem” with creative process is so often that we have to get out of its way and we don’t know how to let things unravel on what seems like their own. We want to intercede, control and fuss over the details when what works so much better is to focus elsewhere for a bit and in doing that, let our mind/body take the reigns. We will lead ourselves in the right direction most of the time. It takes trust and patience and being okay with messy results sometimes. Those messes usually get us somewhere eventually.
My grandpa’s last words were “I had a good time”. He knew how to. That was a long time ago and I’m still trying to take his words to heart. Thanks again!
Lisa Gerber says
This made me stop and think. Somehow, we have to remind ourselves to stop and look ahead and think in hindsight, if that makes sense. When I was in my 20s and early 30s, I used to stress over the fact that I was still single, and what is wrong me. Then I finally met someone and got married and look back on those years and although I did have fun, I think I wasted a lot of it worrying. If we could just have faith that in the end, we’ll be able to say, like your grandpa, that “we had a good time,” things would be a bit different. 🙂 Thanks, Gina! Thanks Danny!!!! 🙂
I often wonder what role fear plays in our life. We say we don’t let it control us, but do we really master it or just push it out of sight so that we can stay busy and pretend we are living as we wish.
Lisa Gerber says
I think it’s all relative – our relationship with fear. I always have it. Seems to be a buddy that just wants to hang out with me. But if I look back, the things that used to scare me are nothing compared to what scares me now. So I’ve grown with it! HAHAHA. i’d love to kick it out of my life, though. How about you?
All the work while crying will be my new band name.
Ahh! It took me two days to respond to this. I’m still reeling because now I WANT THAT BAND NAME! 🙂