But sometimes, if the water gets too rough or she loses her footing, that very human fear of being submerged without the ability to come up for air takes over and she naturally freaks out a bit.
The interesting thing is, she's often in the shallow end when this happens. It's not that the water is too deep - she just loses sight of the fact that she can safely touch the bottom. When we help her regain her bearing and she realizes there was nothing to worry about, she usually chuckles a bit and goes about her merry way, splashing happily in the sunshine.
Seeing this happen to my little girl got me thinking about how much time modern parents can spend treading water in the shallow end. We exert a whole lot of our energy and sometimes feel like we might go under because of things that aren't actually relevant, when it comes right down to it.
Now, don't get me wrong. As parents, we're bound to worry about our children. It's part of what keeps the human race going. We've all worried at some point if our babies were eating enough (or too much), racked our brains to try to remember when they pooped last, wondered if we were spending enough (or too much) time with them, and lamented that we may not be providing everything they need to be happy, well-adjusted, thriving young people.
But in our modern world, there's so much information available to us that it's hard to filter what matters from what doesn't. The internet is brimming with people who are eager to give opinions on how to raise children (myself included), our kids have a ridiculous number of options for enriching activities (and want to do all of them), we're all trying to juggle a million different things at once, and there are limitless demands on our time and energy. By giving attention to all of it, we not only create more stress and work for ourselves than necessary but we can also become completely engulfed by it.
So, what is that magical pool floor that keeps us grounded in reality? What can we hold onto to make sure we're not spinning our wheels with needless worry and wasting our precious personal resources of time, energy, and brain space?
For me, the answer lies in a strong inner compass - an internal tool that helps me quickly zip back to true north when I start to feel myself going under. I can ask myself, "How does this relate to my big picture?" and weed out the stuff that doesn't really matter.
Here's a quick overview of how you can start honing your own inner compass:
1. Connect with you core values. The foundation of your compass is a clear understanding of your own set of core values. I'm not talking about judgment-laden morals or standards of good and evil. Your core values simply represent who you are and what you hold to be important in your life.
2. Create your unique definition of success. What do you want in your life? Not what you think you should want. Or what your mother or father or teacher or boss or friends said (or continue to say) you should want. Or what you wanted 10 years ago. What do you really want in your life, right now? Using your core values as a guide, you can strip away all the muck that builds up over time, clouds your true definition of success, and makes you bust your butt to reach goals that you may not even really want.
3. Paint the picture. Once you have a clear understanding of what you truly what, you can start to give it some texture by envisioning what your life will be like once you get there - what your days will look like, where you'll be spending your time, who will be in your life, how it will feel to be there, and all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings that will surround you. This vision of your future can serve as a powerful inspiration to keep your eye on the prize.
4. Plan it out. Unfortunately, it's not enough to simply know what you want and how your life will be when you get there. In fact, some research shows that visualizing a goal without any focus on the steps between here and there can actually impede your progress. So you've got to take some time to plan out the major steps that will get you to that beautiful life you've envisioned. Just make sure not to get so deep into planning that you get stuck in analysis paralysis - when the urge to plan for all the possible pitfalls and eliminate all the risk keeps you from ever actually getting started. Trust me...it's not pretty.
5. Re-chart your course as necessary. Although every plan needs time to work, you may also need to adjust your course from time to time, as you and your family grow, change, go through life transitions, or shift plans.
OK. So that's the gist of the process. But what about the how-to?
No worries...I've got you covered. Over the next couple of months, I'm going to focus on each of these steps in more detail, starting with Core Values in my next post. Stay tuned for some exploration, strategies, and concrete action coming your way!
Of course, if you'd like to get started on your inner compass sooner, working with a professional life coach on this process can be a fantastic way to stay on track and keep it all in perspective. And, as luck would have it, I just happen to know one who would love to talk with you. :)
Regardless of how you reach it, developing your own inner compass can help you stop treading water in the shallow end so you can save your energy for the deep end, where you really need it.
I'd love to know your thoughts on this. Please share them in the comments below.
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