When I embarked on my Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal last year, I knew it would throw my life out of balance.
Last year, my life was in balance.
Quite full, but still in balance.
I have three little kids. I’m a wife. I’m a full-time professor at a community college, which means my base teaching load is five classes per semester. I’m a card-carrying member of three 12-step programs. I go to meetings. I sponsor women. I eat impeccably and feed a family of five, which means I do a lot of shopping, chopping, and cooking. I meditate every morning. I exercise.
There isn’t much room for more.
But then, last year, I added something to my life that’s so big, it was like chucking an elephant into an already-crowded hot tub.
But whaddya know?
The elephant likes the hot tub.
The elephant is going to stay in the hot tub.
So now we gotta deal.
It’s a whole new world with the elephant in the hot tub.
And I’m figuring out how to get comfortable with it.
My initial strategy was simple: I just kept my eyes down and focused on all the things that needed to get done.
It was a lot of things.
Before long, my vision got blurry from so much intense focus.
My head felt like it was stuffed with cotton balls and my eyes couldn’t see straight.
Just as I was starting to spin out from the blur, I got the reprieve of a trip.
A trip to my favorite place on Earth.
I’m back in Rochester now.
Back from an eleven-day trip to attend two weekend-long business conferences, the first in San Jose and the second in Monterey.
While I was there, I got to unwind a bit during the week between the conferences.
While I was unwinding, I started a process of reframing how I relate to my workload.
I thought a lot.
I napped a lot.
I laid out in the sun.
And I tried on some new glasses, to see what the view looks like.
This new view is gorgeous.
I pledge that I won’t lose sight of it.
I pledge that it will be my compass as I chart the next leg of my life’s journey.
Because here’s the thing.
At some point over the past month or two, it dawned on me that I was damaging the Bright Line Eating™ movement.
Maybe not badly, and hopefully not permanently, but damaging it nonetheless.
I also realized that if I didn’t change course, the damage would be bad. And permanent.
The mistake I was making was simple, and obvious: I was working myself to a nub.
Pushing too hard.
Grinding myself down.
And the people in my tribe were noticing. I was getting little messages here and there from folks hoping I was “getting some sleep” or “taking some time off.” People frequently prefaced messages to me with comments like, “I know you’re super busy but…”
I tried to take steps to correct it.
I eliminated the words “busy,” “stressed,” and “overwhelmed” from my vocabulary, to reframe the narrative of my life.
So whenever anyone asked me how I was doing, I had to stop and think carefully.
I had to find some new words.
“I’m really focused on a big project that holds a lot of meaning for me, and it’s taking a whole lot of my time.”
Isn’t that just saying “I’m super busy” in eight times as many words?
No, the lexical swap was helpful, but it didn’t go far enough.
What I really needed to do was force myself to carve out time to recharge.
This was new territory for me.
I’ve never had to force myself to take time off before.
I’ve never, ever, ever had any leanings towards being … ugh … I hate to even say the word … a workaholic.
Workaholics Anonymous is NOT one of my 12-step programs.
I like to relax.
I like to leave the office and go home to be with my family for the evening.
I enjoy taking a trip and leaving work behind.
At least, I used to.
But the honest truth is that I’ve never had work like this before.
Don’t get me wrong, I have loved being a professor.
I’ll say that again, because I so mean it.
I have loved being a professor.
It’s been the perfect career for me.
More than a career.
But Bright Line Eating™ has come along, and this is more, even, than that.
This is the call of my calling.
The voice of my vocation.
The highest purpose of my every aspiration.
This is the thing that makes everything that’s ever happened to me in my life, everything I’ve suffered through, everything I’ve ever done or accomplished, make sense.
Bright Line Eating™ is the work I must do, before I die, or my life will be incomplete.
What I hear now, in my quiet, private moments, is the call of millions of people who don’t have a way out of their hopeless battle with food and weight.
Their pain affects me.
I feel the intensity of their prayers.
Bright Line Eating™ may not be the solution for all of them, but I feel certain that it’s the solution for some of them.
Thousands, perhaps millions of people.
People who have gifts to bring to the world.
People who are, right now, whether they even realize it or not, stuck, trapped, completely immobilized by the endless treadmill of trying to lose weight and get their food on track.
Three steps forward, three steps back.
Over, and over, and over again.
Like I was.
For all those years.
I know that pain.
And I know there’s a way out.
The human potential that will be unleashed from the emancipation of all those people who are waiting for their life to begin when they lose the weight…the human potential that will be unleashed when every last person who is really ready to be transformed is finally Happy, Thin, and Free™…THAT HUMAN POTENTIAL WILL CHANGE THE WORLD in ways that I can hardly fathom.
THAT’S a domino effect I want to see.
This Bright Line Eating™ movement has got to be built.
And, it seems that I’m one of the minions with a hammer.
And the thing about picking up a hammer to build this movement is that we’ve got to be Happy, Thin, and Free™ ourselves, or it just simply won’t work.
We can’t give away what we haven’t got.
And that, my dears, is the crux of the issue.
So many of us push so hard in our lives, forsaking ourselves, with the twisted notion that we “have to do” all these things for others…when really, what we have to do is take care of ourselves first, or everything else comes to naught.
I know this.
I teach this.
I’ve been teaching it for decades.
When I share with a new sponsee how to break free from drug, alcohol, or food addiction, one of the first things I teach them is that their recovery must come FIRST.
First before anything.
Because if you don’t have that, you don’t have anything.
Each and every thing that you put before your recovery, you will lose.
I teach that, but I wasn’t heeding the lesson myself.
I thought I was going to get back to real self-care when things cleared up a bit. When I started the leave of absence from my job. When the boot camp ended. When…
When it became clear to me that I was damaging the nascent movement that I so love.
The principle here was perhaps best immortalized by Steven Covey in his epic book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Sharpen the Saw.
We must continually engage in renewal activities like proper sleep, nutrition, exercise, prayer, meditation, reading, and service, in order to keep our bodies, emotions, minds, and spirits sharp and on point.
I thought I was doing that, at least some, because I was still meditating for 30 minutes every morning, exercising three times a week, and eating impeccably.
But I was sleeping very little and toiling night and day to tick things off an endlessly replenishing Master To-Do List.
In the process, I was getting duller, and duller, and duller.
I needed to sharpen the saw.
Live Happy, Thin, and Free™.
Embody the principles you’re trying to spread.
And out in California, I recharged.
And I pledged to do it differently when I got home.
But this pledge left me in a quandary.
What about all this stuff I’ve got to do?
It hasn’t gone anywhere.
It still needs to get done.
There still aren’t enough hours in the day.
At least so I thought.
So I thought until I went to the second conference I attended this past week.
The one in Monterey.
This conference, the Women’s Leadership Summit, was put on by Sage Lavine to empower women entrepreneurs to “grow their tribe, lead their tribe, and change the world together.”
Sage Lavine is amazing. I loved being in the space she created for us 220 heart-based, business-building sisters.
I learned a lot of great things. But as often happens, the biggest messages are delivered in the smallest packages.
The single take-home from that weekend, from the whole trip really, was delivered by Sage in one short sentence.
Six little words.
In the middle of one of her presentations, she said:
“I work twelve days a month.”
My brain froze.
Twelve days a MONTH?
This woman has a tribe that’s six times bigger than mine. She’s serving more people, exquisitely, while working a tiny fraction of the days.
Twelve. Days. A. Month.
How on Earth?
I went up to her at the break and asked her to elaborate.
She said she works Monday through Thursday for the first three weeks of the month, and then she takes the fourth week of the month off.
That’s twelve days a month.
Her team knows it, her clients know it, and everyone is aware of when they can, and can’t, reach her.
I went back to my oceanside cabin for the evening and thought about that.
When she outlined her schedule for me, it made sense.
Until it didn’t.
What about all the emails, messages, and to-dos? How was she fitting it all in?
How, when she came back from her three-day weekend off, or, God forbid, her ten-day WEEK off, was she not faced with an avalanche of correspondence and associated action-items to deal with that she’d have to spend the next four days wading through?
And what about the PROJECTS? When was she accomplishing all the projects for her business?
So the next day, I raised my hand in one of the sessions and asked her.
And she replied with one short question that left me speechless.
She asked me:
“Who is teaching you to train your team?”
(I literally think I said that.)
“WHO is TEACHING YOU to TRAIN your TEAM?”
“Ummm…nobody,” I said. “I’m just making this up as I go along.”
I went back to my oceanside cabin that night and thought about that.
Carve out time.
Train and empower your team to stand with you, doing the heavy lifting.
Live Happy, Thin, and Free™.
But one thing still worried me.
Would I have to slow down?
I don’t mean slow myself down.
I’m happy to slow down, personally.
Take more time for myself, get more sleep, yadda, yadda, yadda.
I’m good with all that.
What I mean is will I have to slow down the MOVEMENT?
BRIGHT LINE EATING™.
Will I have to slow it down?
Because I don’t want to do that.
Like I said, I am drawn to build this thing like I have never been drawn to anything in my life.
I am convinced, more and more, that people NEED this.
Not all people, but SOME people.
And for the people who need it, it’s the breath of life itself.
People are waiting for this.
Praying for it.
I am not willing to slow this down.
I’m just not.
Which left me with another question.
How do I get BIG results from LESS time?
The answer came, funny enough, on the red-eye flight home from California.
I was walking through the Chicago O’Hare airport, teeth all fuzzy and clothes all sticky, at 6:00 a.m. on Monday morning.
I had a two-hour layover to kill.
I saw a bookstand, displaying the latest best-sellers.
Normally I wouldn’t have stopped to look.
I don’t have time to read, I’ve got to find some WiFi, power up my laptop, and work, I would have thought.
But that morning, all refreshed from my trip, I stopped to glance.
And one book grabbed me.
THE ONE THING.
That was the title.
By Gary Keller, with Jay Papasan.
I need that, I thought.
I need a surprisingly simple truth that will deliver extraordinary results.
And if it’s ONE THING, that will be even better.
I don’t have time for much, but I can make time for one thing.
So I bought the book.
And a bottle of water.
And I was on my way.
It’s two days later, and I’m exactly half-way thought the book.
(Exactly half-way. I just counted.)
The message, simple and timeless, is that the road to success consists of deciding, at each moment, what ONE THING is most important, and doing that ONE THING until it’s done.
My ONE THING, in life in general, is growing the Bright Line Eating™ Movement.
And I’m pretty darn focused on it.
I will not be derailed.
I am unstoppable.
But I had that before.
What I really need is a way to structure my time to get my ONE THING done while building in room for family, self-care, and some time off.
Here’s where the ONE THING really comes in handy. It works at the macro-level, to help you focus on your life’s purpose, but it also works at the micro-level, to help you get BIG results out of SMALL amounts of time.
Each working day, pick your ONE THING, and do it, to the exclusion of all else, until it’s done.
You may get more than your ONE THING done, or you may not, but nothing gets done until it’s accomplished.
The crucial element here is that, once you decide what your ONE THING is, your long to-do list flips around and becomes your “avoid at all cost” list.
Interestingly, this “avoid at all cost” list was the strategy that Warren Buffet taught to people who were floundering in their lives and not experiencing the success they wanted.
Now there’s a success magnate that I’m willing to emulate.
My ONE THING, right now, is writing my blog.
Yesterday my ONE THING was getting my accounts and files set up with my new bookkeeper.
The day before that my ONE THING was figuring out what the hell this awful rash is on my hands, wrists, armpits, knees, and elbows.
But there’s a lesson here. If I hadn’t had that ONE THING in my mind as I got off the plane in Rochester and I wasn’t totally focused on it, I probably wouldn’t have called the dermatologist RIGHT AWAY at 9-something in the morning from the airport as I pulled out of long-term parking, and I probably wouldn’t have gotten the last available appointment they had that day, and I wouldn’t have discovered that the rash is not a rash, it’s scabies.
And I would have gone home, hugged my kids, and infected my whole family with tiny skin-burrowing parasites.
So on Monday night, after being away for nearly two weeks, I spent the night in a hotel room.
But it was a good thing.
Considering the alternative.
Sometimes the results that the ONE THING delivers aren’t pretty, but they’re still the most important results.
Because you’ve done your ONE THING.
You’ve probably heard of Pareto’s Principle, right?
80% of the results come from 20% of the efforts?
In my old life, I could ignore this eternal truth because I lived in a world where I was used to getting 100% of everything done. I didn’t have to shoot for 80%.
I was on top of my game.
Emails were answered within a few hours.
Papers were graded by the next class.
Kids and husband were greeted with a smile and a hug and dinner was on the table at six o’clock.
That’s not my world anymore.
I can’t spend 100% of my effort and get 100% of the things done.
With the elephant in the hot tub, when I spend 100% of my effort, I only get 50% of the things done.
The water’s gotten cold.
I need a new formula.
The formula is the ONE THING.
Each day, if I put in 20% of the effort, but make it the ONE THING that will produce 80% of the results, I will get where I need to go.
I will train my team to support me with all the rest.
And I’ll get some rest.