We can all cite in great detail the tragic and negative side of this worldwide pandemic. It’s been a game changer in many respects -one that has taken lives, physical and mental health, jobs, money, security, normalcy, close social interaction, and yes, convenience - but have you taken the time to really reflect about what positive things have come from it as it relates to you and the way you go about living your days?
We have been given a reset button through this shut down of everything we considered commonplace or “normal life”. After months of our “new normal”. or the aftermath of COVID19, we have a much more simplified routine of staying home, having lots of additional time on our hands, and seeking out creative ways to function and engage with people. Have you considered the reality of ramping back up into a hurried pace of life, with places to go, people to see, and things to do? What does your FOMO (fear of missing out) look like from before this pandemic happened, to the height of the shutdown, to now transitioning back to an “open” state of mind? Have you thought about that? How do you make meaningful choices about how to spend your time now that we move into a new phase of life?
When we talk about Living a Life with Meaning, we are referring to being purposeful and thoughtful about how you live the life you have been given. Time is a gift that you want to use wisely and intentionally – you want it to be worthwhile. We have a limited amount of time on this earth and how you spend it matters. It matters to you, to your loved ones, to people whom you can potentially impact in a life changing way (whether you know them or not), and to God. It is crucial as you get back to a new pace of life that you are thoughtful about this gift of a reset button.
As Valerie Burton writes in her book Choosing the Meaningful Over the Urgent, “We must choose what is meaningful now. In this very moment. What is meaningful today will also be meaningful tomorrow or next year or even decades from now. Meaningful is timeless. It transcends the moment.”
So the question is, how will you do things differently as a multitude of choices are given back to you about how you spend your time? Will you fall back into habits of the busyness of life, the hurried pace of getting it all done, letting FOMO rule your down time so that you have no down time at all?
In order to have a meaningful life, you need to be thoughtful and plan ahead to live in a deliberate, measured but relaxed way. Think about your values and priorities long term - what is important to you, what is the impact you want to make and the legacy you want to leave. Then let those things rule how you make decisions about time on a day to day basis. There will always be a false sense of urgency in front of us that can demand all of our time if we let it. A sense of urgency can be a positive motivator, but a false urgency can be toxic as it is driven by pressures to perform and stay busy that can actually create anxiety and fear. And that constant changing of gears can just flat wear us out. How many of us have tried focusing on a project only to be constantly interrupted by an incoming call, email, text, social media ding and feeling like we need to shift gears and respond immediately? What would it look like if you created a sacred space for yourself to think, to create, to be fully present and carry out your objective in a meaningful way? What do you need to say “no” to, on both a broad scale and on a moment by moment basis?
Burton also states, “Take a moment to clarify what is most meaningful to you about a particular decision. This will help you make better, more efficient decisions with less chance of regret. The truth is, it’s okay to miss out. In fact, with the right perspective we can even find joy in missing out when we see our choices as a sign of personal growth. We must put our stake in the ground and decide what will give us the meaning and joy that God wants us to experience in life.”
We have to be mindful about how to spend the limited hours in our day, especially now that life as we know it is ramping up again. Mindfulness is the opposite of busyness. It helps you avoid stress and burnout by acknowledging your feelings, paying attention to your thoughts, being positive with yourself, being aware of your limitations and recognizing when you need a change. It’s actually engaging in the process of choosing how we move forward and not getting lost in our activities. It is stopping and taking stock of the situation at hand, calming your mind, being in the moment.
This mindset helps you determine what you do next ... do you pursue that false urgency or stay focused on what is really important and meaningful. Do you plow through your list of to-dos at the expense of missing an opportunity to have a meaningful connection with someone who needs it? Do you choose being diverted to the next seemingly pressing situation over taking that time to encourage another or teach a life lesson or show grace or extend a kindness? Being mindful allows us to pause before reacting and actually see those opportunities for meaningfulness that are being placed in front of us. It takes practice. It takes being intentional. It makes all the difference in having peace and contentment and joy in your life.
Tracey McLarney is founder/owner of Style With Meaning and “Live a Life With Meaning®” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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