― Zac Ochsenbine
I admit it. I am goal-oriented. I am ever-working toward achievement. I am focused sometimes to a fault. I am in good company as many people who are successful in rigorous environments are wired this way. And while it serves us well to be task-oriented, we must be intentional about not missing the moments in life that happen in between the big accomplishments.
The other day, one of my daughters asked me to help her with an art project. At the moment she asked me, I was feeling extremely overwhelmed. My “to do” list runneth over. I had some research I needed to do for work. I had an upcoming speaking engagement for which I still had not gathered my thoughts. I had two parent board meetings for my daughters’ respective schools for which I needed to prepare. I was behind in my team manager duties for my younger two daughters’ soccer teams. And I still wanted to get a workout in that day. I had too much going on. I didn’t have time to color.
As I fixed my mouth to say, “No,” something gave me pause: her face. Her expectant, hopeful face made me stop and think. I had prayed for motherhood and the prayer had been answered; and unlike many of my accomplishments, this blessing was not a box to be checked. Parenting was not a task that was accomplished once and for all at one finite moment in time. It was an ongoing, moment to moment, day by day endeavor.
Yes, my “to do” list was important, but my daughter was more important. I decided to focus on the opportunity that I had in that moment: to put the “to do” list on pause and turn my attention to my young daughter who would be overjoyed to spend an hour on a Saturday coloring with her mommy.
As I told my daughter that I would indeed color with her, a feeling of peace came over me. I knew I was making the right choice. I was choosing to enjoy life with my daughter. This was a precious, sweet moment in her childhood that we would both remember.
Life is precious and it is short. It is imperative that we do not forget to embrace each of life’s moments as we strive toward our goals.
I don’t want to look back on my life and feel like I missed a moment of it.
― Nannie Helen Burroughs
I often hear well-meaning people intimating that people of certain socioeconomic positions, ethnic/racial groups and/or those who have not attained certain levels of education should not be expected to persevere, achieve or overcome. The words may not be spelled out that plainly, but that is the crux of the sentiment.
I think people believe that we do others a favor when we lower society’s expectations for them as a whole. We do not.
Nannie Helen Burroughs knew that. At a time when African Americans were not permitted to freely and openly access education in this country, Ms. Burroughs not only dedicated her life to educating African Americans, she specifically focused on educating African-American women--perhaps the most marginalized, disenfranchised and underserved group in the country at the time.
However, Ms. Burroughs didn’t educate these women from a place of sympathy, pity or lowered expectations. She was quite clear in her expectation that all of her students would achieve. The school’s motto read: “Work. Support thyself. To thine own powers appeal.” Ms. Burroughs believed that her students did not need to wait to be saved or to be helped by those better situated. She taught them that they were organically and naturally capable.
We can learn a lot from Ms. Nannie Burroughs. Women, particularly women of color, still face hurdles in professional and educational environments that others do not. However, we know that we cannot be defined by what others think about us. We cannot be limited by what they say, do, or believe. We should not look for or expect external validation. Nannie Burroughs never got mainstream validation and yet she persevered. And had she not, generations of Black women would not have received an education.
Notwithstanding what anyone thinks about who you are, or what you can achieve, know that you descend from greatness. You can do anything you put your mind to. You do not need the help or validation of others.
Power is in your DNA.
― Kimberley Baker Guillemet
I’ve been going through an analysis lately of determining my point of maximum efficiency and productivity. I believe that a person should go hard, that they should run with perseverance the race set before them. If we’ve been assigned a task, we should see it through to completion and we should do it exceedingly well. On the other hand, when we go too hard, there is indeed a point of diminishing returns. It is imperative to find the appropriate balance.
Continuing with the analogy of a race, let’s envision ourselves as runners. Track and Field athletes are quite intentional about their training regimen, as well as the timing and the level of effort they expend at various points during any given race. Depending on the type of race, there are points during the race when they give maximum effort and points at which they do not. Both the periods of maximum effort and reduced effort are key to optimal performance during the race; and after the race is over, adequate rest and recovery are imperative to ensure overall health.
How do we apply this to our lives? How do we find that balance? How do we find the sweet spot that produces maximum efficiency? On one hand, it’s important to fully exert ourselves at times--to do things with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength, but on the other, it’s important to rest and recover. Here I must acknowledge that I have not been very successful at engaging in rest and recovery. It has been a lifelong challenge for me, partially because I legitimately have difficulty finding time to rest and partially because I have difficulty giving myself permission to rest.
I tell myself that I will try to rest, but when I am short on time and I start prioritizing, time for rest is the first to get cut. This is the worst thing to do because I find myself exhausted and frustrated and by no means ready to start the next cycle of work all over again.
What it has taken me a long time to learn is this: Rest must be non-negotiable.
In that vein, I have decided that I will take a cue from one of my daughters’ favorite characters, Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.” My goal is no longer to try to rest, it is to rest. Full stop.
To you, dear readers, I challenge you with the same instruction: find rest.