I fell down and broke a rib. It was embarrassing, stupid and bloody painful.
But this was more than a stupid accident. It was a wake-up call.
It happened just a few days ago, early in the morning. I was focussed on the very indelicate task, colloquially called “picking up shit” that domestic duty all dog owners learn to tolerate in order to be, well, a dog owner.
I had bent down to do the dirty work – left hand properly slipped into the little green doggie-poo bag (nicely scented, I might add), reaching for the “gift”. At the same time, I was looking up the river bank (you, clever reader, can see where this is going) to see where my, now-freed, pooch was wandering.
In the past, at this very location, I’ve had run-ins with other dog owners (clearly their fault) – I wanted to keep an eye out to avoid ruining an otherwise sublime morning walk.
With “gift” in hand (so to speak) I stood up and swung around to see where my 80lb poop-producer had gone when I accidentally hooked my right foot under the only rock (I went back to confirm this unfortunate fact) on the entire beach.
And that, my friend, was that.
Down I went like the sack of excrement I felt like.
At the time I blamed myself for not paying attention: “There’s a rock you bloody fool!”
But, this was more than a mere simple misstep.
I was not present.
Scene of the Accident
My head was in worry-land, thinking about the day to come – feeling slightly overwhelmed and insecure. Sure, I looked confident (dog shit in hand), but I’ve been more than a little distracted by home life and new projects at work.
It’s been an emotional month—I’m not fully here. I know it.
It’s comforting to know I’m not alone. The furniture manufacturer, Steelcase did a study of 10,000 workers in 17 countries and discovered the majority found it difficult to concentrate and were distracted every 3 minutes.
It also gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling to know at least one author concludes the most intelligent – those brimming with new and exciting ideas – have the most difficulty focusing.
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience – forgetful, wondering why you walked into a room, or having so many thoughts you can’t focus on any of them.
When you break a rib (not sure I actually broke it, but “bruised rib” sounds lame) it’s patently obvious. In fact, it’s even more obvious when you choose to, oh I don’t know, breath.
It feak’n hurts.
If this sounds like you (without the rib part), I’ve got a few thoughts that can help.
1. Stop thinking
We live in a thinking world – we even reward people who think more than others. It’s hard to imagine out-selling your competition or becoming CEO by not thinking. The problem is our thinking can keep us trapped in self-doubt, the past, or indecision.
Psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (author of Flow-The Psychology of Optimal Experience) calls our natural state of thought-chatter ‘psychic entropy’ – a lack of control over our own minds.
Stop thinking could look like turning work off on your commute home or not going on Facebook for just one evening. Stop thinking means turning off the 13 thoughts running like around in your head and just focusing on boiling the water and making tea.
When you do take a breath to stop thinking, it’s time to look up.
2. Look up
There’s a bigger picture waiting for us when we take a moment to look up at the big picture. “Few things and events in our world” says Psychologist, Ron Breazeale Ph.D. “have a pervasive impact on our lives and are permanent.”
If you’re frustrated by work, look up at how your work serves your clients and supports your family. If your partner is driving you crazy with his/her demands, look up at all the great things that come with being together and let go of petty differences.
And if you’re feeling hopeless about starving children, elections, pipelines, or the guy in front of you texting while driving, look up and remind yourself it’s a big world and there’s room for all of us – even idiots.
Finally, do yourself a big favour and complete something.
3. Complete something
Some clever scientist should do a study about the effect of unfinished business on our mental state—there has to be a direct correlation between half-done projects and depression.
It doesn’t help to know nearly one-quarter of adults around the world are chronic procrastinators. My To-Do list still says “fix the ceiling.”
The trick, I’ve found, is to either remove unfinished work permanently from my list, or get the frigg’n bugger done. Sometimes all it takes is a quick phone call to book a plumber or 20 minutes to declutter a room.
A small investment of time, money or effort to enjoy the freedom of not worrying always pays off.
A well-known online blogger recently visited my site and then sent this message “I don’t know what you do.” He did add a smiley face to soften the blow.
Maybe you feel the same way. Ooops, and sorry.
Some days I don’t know what I “do” either. But when life screams out “Pay Attention!” I want to share whatever little lessons come along.
PS. When picking up dog poop, watch where you step.