I was recently preparing a lecture about raising successful children, and I came across a body of work done by Marcus Buckingham (a leader in the modern strengths movement) on Discovering Your Strengths. Although I find a lot of his workshops and talks interesting, there was one interview in particular that caught my attention. He spoke about a poll that was conducted with working women who perceived themselves as contented with life and having found the right dynamic between being a mother and pursuing a successful career. Now, any of you mothers (and fathers) out there, who struggle with the tremendous guilt that accompanies that mad game of tug of war between long hours at work and quality time with your children, know exactly how difficult it is to confidently state that you are "contented" with the way you handle it. As a now single mother and primary caretaker, I am seriously tired of tug of war. I don't want toplay that stupid game anymore! When at work, we feel guilty about not being able to attend all the prize giving ceremonies, assemblies, presentations that those other parents seem to never miss. When at home helping with homework or attempting the much anticipated art project, we feel guilty that we're not putting in the work necessary to stay ahead in our profession. This burden is never ending and... well I'm pretty sure that's not how life was meant to be lived. So of course I was curious as to what these mothers knew that I didn't. The difference, Marcus explained, was not that our contented mothers had found this elusive "work-home balance", but that they had mastered the art of "plugging in".
What exactly does it mean to "plug in"? Oh Let me count the ways that it has been expressed before! Live in the Now... remember that one? Same thing. But I particularly like the phrase "plug in". It appeals to the practicalities of my mind. I envision a lamp turned off - that would be me either worrying about the future I'm going to miss if I don't stop wasting time or me biting my nails at the idea of my deprived children whose mummy is off working instead of taking a ride on the homemade rocket ship. This image is so clear that it pops into mind whenever I'm "turned off" from the present moment and living in Tug of War Land. And I quickly say to myself: Plug in. Promise # 8. Just take that damn chord and plug it in! Shine your light on the present moment. Enjoy every bit of it. When with your children enjoy it! When at work, do your best and try to enjoy that too!
The same goes for any other situation where your mind buys an airplane ticket to Nowhere Land... Out on a date and wondering where this could possibly go and what you should do to set it in the right direction? Helllooo.... return ticket please! Plug in. Just enjoy the moment. It may not be there next week, but at least you had orweregreat company today.Sitting at home feeling lonely and miserable and staring off into a future of endless torture???Plug in. Pay attention to your body, the breeze, the stillness, the beauty of your breath and this absolutely amazing organism that you are! You may not even be around in the next 5 minutes. You have no way of changing the past 5 minutes. But you can plug in and let the light shine on whatever is in front of you in this very minute.
And by the way, Marcus interviewed kids too. He asked what they wanted most from their parents. It wasn't: "more time". In fact, they wanted their parents to just be happy and not so miserable all the time! Who knew?