For as long as I can remember, I’ve been racing. A constant striving to be the fastest, do things in the most efficient way – just get them done. In elementary school, I wanted to get done with the 100 facts math sheets first, to complete the exam, or raise my hand with an answer before anyone else. Myself and my other type A classmates would put our pencils down with a clack on the desk so that others would know we were finished with an answer. At home my siblings and I were constantly timing ourselves to see how fast we could complete a task. Nothing could motivate me to move faster than the words, “I’ll time you! Go!”
And still today, I find myself rushing and racing. I switch lanes in traffic to try to get a slight edge. I carry 300 bags of groceries on my arms to try to avoid extra trips from the car. I balance piles of laundry rivaling the Leaning Tower of Pisa in my arms up the stairs to the bedrooms to put away. I even brush my teeth while peeing so as not to waste the time (seriously).
It’s so hard to wait, to be still, to just be. It’s hard to watch my children plod along with their daily tasks in what sometimes seems to be the most inefficient way possible! It’s hard to just sit with them. It’s hard to stop and play when there is so much to do.
It’s hard to just notice and appreciate the small details of life – the phases and stages, to truly see the look of my children’s faces before they change to the next bigger and more grown up version – leaving a little more of the baby in those faces behind each day.
As true as this is in my daily life and work, it’s even more true in my faith. Just being with God and allowing Him to just be with me is a monumental task. To shut down the ever churning brain of mine and just be with Him in prayer and adoration. Not analyzing, not strategizing, just being. Not thinking of what’s for dinner, the grocery list, who needs a bath tonight, who I need to call, whether or not I switched that load of laundry, when the last time I mopped the kitchen floor was, when I’ll get that extra room cleaned up, or a million other things that fly through my brain moment by moment.
It’s the constant battle of Mary vs Martha! I read that story and wonder what it might be like to be able to just sit with Jesus. Not doing anything for Him, not figuring anything out, but just being with Him soaking up His grace like the warm rays of sunshine.
So what keeps us from being able to press pause, from just sitting a while, slowing down to just notice? So often, we read stories of those nearing death – with so many regrets about all the running and racing through life. Regrets about not slowing down.
I once heard the analogy of life as a ladder. We are racing to the top of the ladder, but what if that ladder is on the wrong building. It doesn’t serve us a bit if we are the fastest up the wrong ladder!
Yet still, we race.
We think “someday I’ll slow down” or “I’ll be able to slow down when. . . “ It’s easy to agree with the need to slow down but so hard to actually do it. Why is that?
Sometimes I think we’re afraid to slow down. Afraid of what we’ll see, afraid of what we’ll be asked to do, afraid of noticing the ways we need to change.
If I just keep running, I’m only racing towards my own goals for my life. If I slow down, I am forced to hear – no, not just to hear – to truly listen to what God is whispering.
Often we don’t slow down until something is loud enough to get our attention. Sometimes it’s the loss of a loved one, sometimes it’s a health scare, sometimes it’s a comment from our kids about how we never have time for them. Something gets our attention and shakes us out of our rushing habits – at least for a while.
Perhaps we can take a lesson from the road.
It doesn’t matter if you’re driving the speed limit, 5 over, or even 5 under! I’m guessing 99% of us will slow down at the sight of a police car! That one visual cue is so powerful! In fact, there’s a police car that is often parked on a side road in my town. I assume the patrolman lives at a house nearby. I know there is no one in that car, but it STILL makes me slow down every time I see it! That’s how powerful the association is conditioned in my brain!
What if we could condition ourselves to pause, to slow down, to take a breath instantly? What kind of cue can help us remember that life’s not a race when we see it? How can we put reminders in our daily lives to help us focus on the moment not a goal or task?
Here are 5 ideas for reminding yourself to slow down and focus on what matters.
1. A picture
I love inspirational quotes and what better way to stay on track than to find a beautiful picture with words that remind you about what’s most important!
2. A good ol’ sticky note
Wherever you stop to pause for a moment, place a sticky note there with a bit of inspiration. Maybe it’s where you brush your teeth. Maybe it’s on the dash of your car or on the computer screen. A little visual reminder does wonders to keep you focused.
3. A gratitude journal
Sometimes the race is a symptom of “the grass is greener” syndrome. We are always chasing something just out of our reach. By focusing on what we already have to be grateful for, we might just realize where we are today is a pretty amazing blessing instead of wishing it away for the next phase, stage, project, or goal.
Who doesn’t love a reason to buy some cute jewelry? I have recently seen so many great pieces that allow you to personalize them with a word or phrase. What might you imprint on a bracelet or necklace to keep your eyes on the true prize?
5. Phone alarms
So I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has their phone within 5 feet pretty much all waking hours. I love to use my phone to keep my priorities in mind. Throughout the day, I set alarms to sound. For each alarm, I program words/traits that I seek to embody. For me, these include giving, positive, present, virtuous, intentional, confident, and faithful! What words would you choose?
I hope you’ve found these tips useful! How do you stay focused on what matters? Share with me in the comments what your cue is to stop and smell the roses on this crazy journey called life!