Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it’s a physical thing. Sometimes it’s mental.
Case in point:
Last year, my gorgeous Uncle Roch was quite sick. For awhile there, no doctor or specialist could work out exactly what was wrong with him. This was scary and depressing enough in itself. But to make his situation worse, the one thing he kept being told by people in the medical field was that he needed to stop taking all of his herbal supplements. Their theory was that his daily herbal routine might have been impacting on the results of testing they were doing.
Now giving up one’s herbs might sound quite easy. But Uncle Roch is a Pharmacist, Medical Herbalist, Nutritionalist and Homeopathy practitioner. So telling him to give up the more natural side of his daily regime would be the equivalent of telling the Pope to stop praying for awhile.
One afternoon, we were visiting Uncle R is hospital and he was telling us about how he’d been really down right up until the night before. But then he said that a movie had come on that had completely changed his perspective about the whole situation. Apparently the movie was about a guy whose wife left him for his best friend and then to make matters worse, his house burnt down. Uncle Roch went on to say that there was a scene where the guy got a talking to from his best friend. And the best friend said something along the lines of ‘you have to find the real you, deep within yourself, and deal with the situation in a better way’.
At which point, Uncle Roch decided that he was going to make a comeback. He was no longer going to feel down, but instead find the strength of character that led to him being nicknamed Rocky. So after a good five minutes of ‘Rocky’s back’ cheers all round, I asked what the name of the movie was. It sounded so inspiring that I wanted to watch it to.
And Uncle Roch said ‘It was called You, Me & Dupree’.
After recovering from the revelation that an Owen Wilson movie had inspired anyone, I realised that for him, that movie was simply played on exactly the right Saturday night in his life. Mentally, he was receptive to a message in the movie that he may not have cared for at any other time. And actually after telling Ian’s Mum this story, it turns out she was watching the same movie on the same night and she almost turned it off, such was her disinterest with it.
For me, being in the right place at the right mental time was when I did the ‘7 habits of highly effective people’ course. It was through work and I have to confess that I am usually skeptical of wanky management courses. Books like ‘Who moved my cheese’ make me roll my eyes so hard that my head almost falls off. Plus at that point, I already considered myself a highly effective person so I felt like I could run the course, not participate in it. And the accompanying book by Stephen Covey bored me to tears.
But the delivery of the course was fantastic because we had a trainer who gave us a lot of freedom and time to reflect. And over the three days I did this course, my perspective on a lot of things in life changed.
I guess everyone takes different things away from courses like this. At the time I did it, I was feeling stretched. I was always busy and therefore always tired. For me, what really resonated was that I wasn’t spending my time doing the things I wanted to do with the people that I love.
We literally had to make a list of all the people in our world and we ordered them from the person that’s the most important to us, right down to the person that’s the least important. Which was really hard to do. At the time if felt like I was picking my second, third and fourth best friends, primary school style. As soon as I finished the course, I quickly alphabetised the list in case anyone ever found it and felt hurt.
But what I realised was that I was trying to pack too many people into my life and as a result, I wasn’t really spending quality time with anyone. I would also always take on the responsibility for organising social events. My calendar was so full, that I was barely enjoying myself. I would spend almost every catch up with friends trying to work out how I’d have energy for everything else I had planned in the following few days.
And when I talked to the trainer about that, she just looked at me and asked ‘Why do you take all that on and do things that you don’t want to do?’ Very good question. Why indeed.
I did it because I would get major cases of social guilt. The kind that in my head would sound like this: ‘Oh goodness, I haven’t seen X for a few weeks, I better organise something, oh and, Y said that we should all go and do this, so I better organise that too’. And ‘I don’t really want to go to this get together but I’ll feel bad if I don’t’.
I also felt that if I ever showed interest in something that someone suggested, I’d have to follow through on it and make it happen. But what I’ve realised now that I’ve given that up, is that most people aren’t all that good at follow through. So even if people suggest doing a whole bunch of stuff, they never really get around to actually doing something about it.
Since I finished the 7 habits course last year, I’ve done things a bit differently:
- If someone says ‘Hey, we should go do this or that together’. I say ‘Sure, sounds great’. And I wait for them to get back to me rather than taking it on myself.
- I don’t actually say I’ll do something or agree to something if I don’t want to do it. For example, almost as soon as I finished the course, I pulled out of a book club I was going to because I realised I didn’t have fun there. I started my own instead. And when that got too hard to coordinate, I just let it go.
- I don’t take on any guilt. When people try to call Ian and can’t get him and then ring me and whinge about it, I just say ‘I’ll let him know you called’. And I don’t stress about it. Why should he have to call people back if he doesn’t really want to talk to them? The old me would have forced him to ring them back.
- I spend way more time by myself because Neen time is important!
- I see less of my friends, which does make me feel sad at times but I’ve realised that I need and want time by myself and time with Ian. So some weekends I don’t want to make plans to be with anyone else. And I no longer agree to more than one social event per day.
- I do make an effort though to organise semi regular dates and catch ups with the people I love most.
It’s no Owen Wilson movie, but those 7 habits came along exactly when I needed to learn them.