The other day I saw a dog at the dog park who had black dirt all over his front paws and his nose. His owner explained that her dog loved to dig, and that when given a dog biscuit, he would dig a ridiculously big hole in the back yard to bury the small treat.
“It’s really crazy!” the woman said “How Max’s treat is smaller than an egg but he digs a hole big enough to bury a cow!”
I laughed as I pictured the dog frantically digging, throwing dirt out behind him without paying attention to when his task had been accomplished.
But as I drove home I had a sobering thought: Am I like Max, the frantically digging dog?”
I confess to putting my own head down and not looking up for long periods of time, working away without any planned way to measure my progress. I don’t throw dirt behind me, but I probably work more than I need to. I wonder what would happen if I took a break occasionally and enjoyed my progress instead of just putting my nose to the grindstone and not looking up until the end of the day.
I pondered this idea for the next few days, and concluded that my tendency to work voraciously for long periods of time is something that I justify by thinking that I’m good at delayed gratification. But is that really what I’m doing? Or am I just plowing through most of my day in order to get to the few parts that I think will be fun? And what am I missing along the way by just “getting it all done”?
While these thoughts were percolating in me, my youngest son Justin and I were in the kitchen making dinner. He asked, “Mom, do you remember the last year that you drove Joey and I to school, before we got our own cars? I was just thinking about how we were grumpy sometimes in the morning and so you made a CD of happy, current pop songs and played it on the way to school each day. That really helped; I liked starting my day that way.”
Without knowing it, Justin had helped me get clarity on this idea of enjoying the moment versus plowing through it.
The mornings prior to me making that CD were pretty miserable. My oldest is decidedly not a morning person and many school days began with frustration and impatience – mine and the boys’! I realized that I was trying to quickly get them in the car and dropped off at school to get that unpleasant job done. But the 7 minute car ride was becoming torturous as I had to be the referee while they bickered and grumbled. I noticed that in anticipation of the bickering I was getting in the car prepared to be miserable. I made the CD in order to keep myself cheerful so that I could help them shift into a positive place before they started their school day.
Surprise – that one simple change made the car ride enjoyable! Now the 7 minute ride was something to enjoy in and of itself, not just a means to an end. We actually had some great conversations in those brief car rides, and it turns out that my son has positive memories of his last year of being driven to school!
So today I’m grabbing on to this new awareness and stopping several times each day to see if I’m just plowing through a task, rushing through an activity that could actually be enjoyable.
And I’m stopping when I notice that I’m frantically digging away at something that is actually finished. It doesn’t have to always be perfect – sometimes just getting it finished is good enough.