I spend a lot of my life living in the day to day habits of life. I wake, shower, dress, get the kids ready for school, eat, take them to school, go to work, pick them up from school, cook dinner, put them to bed, collapse on the couch, sleep. Oh, and somewhere in there, build a meaningful relationship with my wife and manage the conflicting expectations of 6 other people and myself. To a large degree, these structural markers for each day are requirements rather than options. If I tried to skip any of these, someone is going to suffer … most likely me!
Habits (or perhaps you feel more comfortable calling them “Routines” or “Structures”) are an important trellis on which the vine of my life needs to hang. Vines that lay along the ground will likely grow, but if you want lots of grapes, the vine needs to be held off the ground (on a trellis). Vines on a trellis have greater access to sunlight and air and will be vastly more fruitful.
I could not imagine how much more difficult it would be to manage such a busy life and family if we woke up in the morning with no plan and just decided on a whim what to do for the day! My kids (and my wife and I) desperately need structure to be able just to make sure all of the “musts” are accomplished most of the time to a somewhat reasonable standard.
These habits of life grow over time and we have refined them as much as we can to maximise the amount of living we can do with limited resources (time, money, emotional energy etc).
This structured busyness of life is important and I don’t want to diminish it … however … sometimes when I’ve been rushing down life’s river for a while, I start to feel a little nagging in the back of my find that something is amiss. Do you ever feel like that? You’re going along your way, managing all the things in life but deep down … you’re just flat. I think what is happening when I feel this way is that I have been so busy managing the chaos that I’ve forgotten to look up and make sure that the Structure we’ve built is still taking us to the right destination.THE DIVINE DISCONTENT
I’ve heard this little nagging voice referred to as “Divine Discontent”. My soul knows something is wrong but because of the ongoing sound of the rushing water, I pretty much don’t hear it. I say “pretty much” because it’s very difficult for it to be completely drowned out. It’s there, I feel off somehow, but I just keep on rushing down the river. I wonder if this is why so many people struggle in midlife. We’ve spent the early years of our adulthood making lots of big decisions about work and beliefs and relationships and then we get into the rushing river of the life we’ve chosen only to find 10 years later that we’ve forgotten who we are and what our core values are.
I think our careers and businesses follow a similar path. We start off so excited about learning all the things and pursuing our goals … and then, over time, we get so busy “doing” our career or business and maintaining and managing and succeeding … that if we’re not careful, we lose the joy of what we are doing and the “Divine Discontent” starts to rumble in us.
At this point of life or career or business, often what we need is to take a step back and pause and re-examine why we’re doing what we’re doing. It’s a great time to come alongside someone with the skill and insight to be able to ask good questions and challenge our habitual ideas. Maybe it’s time to make some changes to the “every day” so that we have the mental and emotional space to rediscover who we are.
The key here, I believe, is to make the time to get to know ourselves again. The re-alignment of our life with who we truly are is not a quick process. If we don’t listen to the quiet nudges and take action, we could find ourselves another 10 years further down the track and have made no real progress.
Maybe it’s time we paused long enough to hear the quiet voice of our soul calling us home.