Clarify: How saying “no” to the little stuff says “yes” to the big stuff
“Shit-ton” is the word that comes to mind.
The steady deluge in my inbox can keep me responding, forwarding, and archiving for several hours a day. There’s something about seeing the bold font of a new message that makes my brain say, “Oh, hey someone must really like me!” and “Now, THIS must be important!” Before you know it, my afternoon has been sucked down the vortex of google mail.
Recently I was in a time crunch and had to edit our 300-page Teacher Training Manual in three days. In order to finish this daunting task, I desperately shut down access to my beloved email in order to devote myself wholly to the project.
I was astonished by how much I was able to accomplish.
Without the “you’ve got mail” distracting me from my task, I finally made inroads into a seemingly monumental task. In fact, I was able to deliver the revised manual to our marketing department a day early. And because I had a designated structured time for answering urgent mail (answering – not just reading and postponing), I blazed through my communication obligations, too.
Getting real about distractions
Distractions – like email – keep us from getting what we really want. While email is the shiniest toy, it’s certainly not the only one. Here are some of my personal favorites:
- Facebook (ohhhhh, Facebook!)
- Unsatisfying or obligatory relationships
- Pointless flirtations
- Trashy reading
- Emotional eating. Cheddar bunnies.
- Web surfing
- Daydreaming rather than doing
We all have our seductive gremlins of comfort. And while they each have their occasional place, we have to get clear with ourselves about whether these past times are taking time and energy away from our priorities. When we learn to say “no” to these little seductions, we have the capacity to take action on the bigger projects that lay close to our heart.
Living your Vision
We each have a unique vision for our life that takes time, space, and effort to manifest. Usually we try to add on action steps for this vision to an already busy life – without first letting go of the stuff that’s getting in the way! Then we beat up ourselves for not being able to do what’s needed in a cycle of self-blame. Our distractions keep us bogged down in an “I can’t really do it” mindset. Whether our greater vision is related to work, family, travel, adventure, or health, we need to first create the time and space to commit to what is “Important” rather than what is “Urgent.”
Word of the Month: Clarify
Clarified butter is made by simmering butter and skimming off the foam and solids, leaving a warmed, golden, clear butter broth that can withstand higher cooking temperatures.
When we clarify our lives, we commit to a similar heating process of intensity and elimination. We endure the fires of discomfort and self-reflection in order to separate the pure from the impure, the distracting from the nourishing. We clarify how we are spending our energy and honestly evaluate what is serving our vision for our lives – then we firmly let go of what is not.
Warning: this process of purification may cause feelings of emptiness, loneliness, discomfort, fear. We may long to fly back into the arms of distraction rather than face the void that is created. (At this very moment, I would much rather eat the nearby loaf Banana Bread than finish writing this post.) While this journey takes immense courage, the resulting nourishment of your soul will ultimately satisfy you much more deeply than any short-term distraction can.
This month, consider:
- Where do you spend most of your time?
- What activities don’t increase your sense of well-being?
- Which relationships are nourishing to you?
- What can you let go of that isn’t serving you?
- What does creating space look like?
- Can you create more space by increasing your efficiency or creating boundaries?
- Are there foods, substances that you are taking in that don’t take care of your body?
- What habits are you holding onto that no longer serve you?
This month, rather than slathering on new obligations or to-do’s, engage in a practice of questioning and culling. Prepare the ground for your greatest vision by opening the space for possibility.
How to make clarified butter
Unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1. Heat the unsalted butter in a heavy-duty saucepan over very low heat, until it’s melted. Let simmer gently until the foam rises to the top of the melted butter. The butter may splatter a bit, so be careful.
2. Once the butter stops spluttering, and no more foam seems to be rising to the surface, remove from heat and skim off the foam with a spoon. (It can be saved and added to soups, bread doughs, polenta, pilaf, or a bowl of warm oatmeal.)
Don’t worry about getting every last bit; you can remove the rest when straining it.
3. Line a mesh strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth or gauze (in France, I use étamine, which is cotton muslin) and set the strainer over a heatproof container.
4. Carefully pour the warm butter through the cheesecloth-lined strainer into the container, leaving behind any solids from the bottom of the pan.