“What action have you taken?”
“None,” I replied.
Being an attorney, I had the evidence in my defense prepared.
My sister was in the hospital.
I was busy grading mid-term exams.
I had a deadline on a big writing project.
That was just the start. I continued to justify how I had spent my time since my last call with my coach. How I had a board meeting for the bar association, how I took my 80 year old mother shopping, how I led a meditation for a faith community.
My coach was quiet as I carried on about my busy life.
“How important is it to you to become a masterful coach?” she asked without the slightest hint of judgment in her voice.
“Oh, it means everything to me, coach!” I proclaimed with heartfelt sincerity.
My coach was silent.
I had made promises to take specific actions by a date certain, and I had kept none of them. Despite coaching meaning “everything” to me, I had done “nothing” to act on my deeply held intention.
She asked me how much time I had invested in my other commitments. The truth was that I had put long hours into other areas of my life while wholly neglecting that which I declared so important.
My other commitments mattered to me. They were meaningful. They were enjoyable. They were a contribution. There was nothing “wrong” about me doing any of them. It was simply that there were not enough hours in my days for me to keep doing them all.
I had to make hard choices.
I had to decide what mattered most out of many things that mattered to me. Once I got clear that some things mattered more to me than others—supporting my for husband with a cancer diagnosis, for example, was non-negotiable—I could begin creating my Stop Doing List.
I did not want to give up any of the meaningful causes I had said yes to, but I was willing to give some of them up to focus on what mattered most.
Over the next several months I resigned from one board, let the law school know they would need to find a new adjunct for the next year, and mentored someone to replace me on a church team. With my load lightened, over time I was able to give my attention to what mattered most.
When I find myself breaking my promises to do what I said I would do, I know it’s time for me to make a new Stop Doing List. It’s then that my attention begins to match my intention and instead of being defensive, I celebrate my successes.
Is your plate overflowing?
Is it time to let go of something you love?
What’s most important at this time?