Habits Bring Structure In An Unpredictable World
Mastering Your Domain is a Habit
It Wasn’t Always Like This
5 years ago this was not my life. There was not a sense of calm to our evenings.I made a big discovery then that inspired me to stop living “by the seat of my pants.”
Scurrying As A Way Of Life
This jolting wake-up call resulted in 60 minutes of panicked rushing and scrambling. Before going upstairs I rushed to take a quick shower, find some clothes and pack my gym bag. I’m already late to get the kids fed and out the door by the time I get upstairs. While simultaneously helping my wife make lunches, I slosh eggs into a pan and try not to burn myself (or the bacon). It’s a mess. The start to my day left me feeling harried and likely to forget critical items.
An Unexpected Insight
The shift for me came from a book I was reading for enjoyment. It was the experience of a small group of elite soldiers under siege while on patrol in Africa. In this part of the book, this elite group was on the run, fighting and evading local militias, just trying to survive until they could be rescued. They fought, ran, hid and survived for more than 30 hours.
After being rescued, the soldiers were evacuated to their remote base. I expected the soldiers to collapse for days after all this time on their own with no sleep, no food, and fearing for their lives. However, what happened next in the book was completely unexpected.
My AHA(!) Moment
What happened next was a game-changer for me. The soldiers bypassed the mess tent, their bunkhouse, and the showers.
They went directly to the supply tent. As a team they replaced the broken, lost and damaged equipment from the patrol. Then they re-armed. This was all before they ate, showered or rested.
Unpredictability Brings Clarity
Life is unpredictable. We never know what life will hand us one moment to the next. People who work in dangerous places know this rule with stark clarity. Clarity comes from being responsible for the things that you can control when facing unpredictability and letting everything else go.
Applying This Lesson to our Day to Day Experience
Time starts rushing away from us the moment we wake up. Many days are one thing after another, all day long. This experience doesn’t stop when you get home. The agenda you have for your day can change in an instant. A child who needs help with a science project (that’s dues tomorrow!), a washing machine that has leaked all over the floor or an unexpected piece of news your spouse needs to share with you will derail your plans.
There are many unpredictable things about family life. The things that are under your control are the only things you can predict.
- Gym bag needs to be emptied
- Lunch sack needs to be cleaned out
- Items I purchased today on errands need to be unloaded and put in their proper place
- I need to make my lunch for tomorrow (I frequently leave at 6:00am many days)
- Re-pack my gym bag
- The mail needs to be sorted and correspondence handled
- Electronic Devices plugged in and charged.
These are all things in my control. Everything else is not in my control.
I do my best to *handle* the things that are in my control as soon as I walk in the door. This is done without comment or interruption. 5-10 minutes is all that is required to complete most of these items before I take on anything else.
When my short list of items is complete, I am both mentally and physically available to be with my family as we prepare dinner, do homework, and share our day. I am there to have fun over family games or handle any of unpredictable things that comes up in family life.