As a kid, August was the trigger for getting ready to go back to school. We didn’t have much growing up, but my parents always made sure that we had some new clothes, new shoes, notebooks and pencils, and of course the infamous—new underwear. I can remember junior high and the excitement of getting my first locker. A must–have was that fancy combination lock. Lastly, I wanted the coveted of all notebooks—the TrapperKeeper.
Junior high signified an important step in my life—being able to create and discover what I liked. It was an opportunity for me to be me. I looked forward to it. It was exciting. It also signified something that I didn’t look forward to; anxiety. I was starting a new schedule and there was that unknown of junior high friendships. Everyone changes over the summer. Was I going to be made fun of, accepted, or shamed? I had a choice to focus on my excitement for the start of a new year or the anxiety of fitting in.
No matter what season of life you find yourself in—August signals the start of something. Now that summer is drawing to a close, maybe you find yourself excited for a new season, but perhaps you feel more anxious and you’re dreading it.
A New Start for This Season
Is your new start discovering the best of you or your kids? Or is it the start of anxiety? Switching seasons can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be that way. What makes life stressful is our tendency to focus more on the tasks, when the key to enjoying life is why we do what we do.
A Pile of Bricks
I heard a story once about three men who were contracted for a job. Their job was to take a pile of bricks from one place and stack them in another place. When asked what they were doing, each man had a different reply. The first man said, “I’m just doing the work so I can get a paycheck.” The second man said, “Oh, I don’t do much. I just move these bricks from here to there.” The third man said, “I am helping to build a cathedral for the community. I know that my work will impact the lives of many in the future.”
Now who do you think enjoyed what they did the most? I think we could agree that the man building the cathedral had the most joy and fulfillment.
Let’s talk about getting back to the start—enjoying the season we’re in.
1. Figure out what matters most to you and why.
Our tendency is to respond only to this question with what matters and we forget to connect that with why it matters. Examples of this might be:
“A well–oiled schedule and system is important to me.”
“I want to make sure all my kids have everything they need to start school.”
“We need to make sure we take that last trip to the beach before it gets cold.”
Now take those answers and ask yourself, why? Why do I want these? Your answers may sound like this:
“Unexpected things will happen, but I want to do my best to remove the opportunities for stress in our schedule.”
“I want my kids to feel loved and appreciated.”
“I get re–energized when I spend time at the beach. It helps me to rest and recharge.”
Remember, when we connect the why we want to do something—we enjoy it more because our behavior then lines up with our heart. Everything is more meaningful.
2. Look for ways to turn tasks into tangible thanks.
Since our tendency is to focus most on the tasks just getting done, we often overlook how we can change the way we do things to make it more connected to our hearts.
In my first couple of years of marriage, I would make my husband’s lunch for him. To be honest, I loathed it. It was the hardest thing for me because I wanted to please him and make it just the way he wanted it. I didn’t feel like I was doing that well—at all. It took me a few years, but I started telling myself that I get to make his lunch not that I have to make it
When I focused on the fact that I was blessing him so he didn’t have to make it, it became a joy for me. I started to get more creative and surprise him by dropping in little love notes or cards. The task of making his lunch became an opportunity for me to show him I was thankful for him working hard for our family. This was a tangible way for me to show him that I loved him and appreciated him.
3. Choose to embrace flexibility so others can have fun.
Tasks need to get done, don’t get me wrong. The more pressure you feel to get it done—the more you feel the need to control. But when things have to be done your way and they don’t go your way, or don’t get done, something else shows up too; anxiety, anger, and frustration. If we understand why we are doing the tasks or what is driving the control, it gives us the opportunity to embrace flexibility and let others discover and have fun. But, it’s a choice to surrender control—to focus on why—more than the tasks.
Anxiety or excitement? Did you know, it’s a choice?
I remember a time that I joined a friend and her family on a weekend trip to their cottage. The cottage was about an hour away from the Straits of Mackinac. One day we decided to drive in to St. Ignace for the afternoon. We watched the ferries from Mackinac Island come and go into the docks and we took a leisurely stroll along main street. I’ll never forget what happened the moment we walked into a certain souvenir store.
My friend’s grandchildren quickly surrounded a display that had just about every color and flavor of rock candy you could imagine. My friend’s daughter, who had two children, let her kids pick out whatever flavor they wanted. Her daughter–in–law, who also had two children, was quick to jump in and pick out the white colored rock candy. That day we came out of the shop with two kids who had seemingly clean faces and sticky hands and two kids with purple and red stains all over their clothes and their faces lit up with the biggest smiles. Same shop. Same ages of kids. Different experiences simply because one mom chose excitement and one mom chose anxiety.