Today’s blog is excerpted from my newest book, a completely revised and updated 10th anniversary edition of Supercoach: 10 Secrets to Transform Anyone’s Life.
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A number of years ago, I had child psychologist and author Alfie Kohn as a guest on my radio show. At one point, I asked him if he had any tips on how to be a more caring and effective parent when you were in a hurry. His answer, tongue only slightly in cheek, was: ‘Don’t be in a hurry.’
While I laughed at the time, the more I thought about it, the more I realized what excellent advice that was, not only for parenting but for pretty much any area of life. When we’re in a hurry, we tend to get sloppy and things are left undone or, worse still, half done. Our best intentions often go out the window and our values shift, with ‘expediency’ and ‘getting stuff done’ leapfrogging their way up the list above such old-fashioned priorities as ‘treating people with respect,’ ‘getting things right the first time,’ and even ‘enjoying the process.’
Stress is a hurrier’s constant companion, as there’s never enough time and there’s always too much to do. When time gets short, tempers get shorter, and a frayed nerve often snaps in the face of a loved one. But when we take the pressure off ourselves to be exceptional – that is, be the exception to the rule that things take time and people aren’t always at their best – we recognize that ‘good enough’ is nearly always good enough and that if we give ourselves a bit of space and time, something new will always (yes, always) come to mind.
This doesn’t mean we have to go slowly – just that when we’re willing to slow down, we’re often able to make much quicker progress on what matters most in our life.
While you can find any number of ‘outside-in’ approaches to getting more done, truly effective time management evolves naturally out of an understanding of the sixth secret:
‘That’s insane,’ one CEO told me when I first introduced this idea. ‘I don’t know about you, but I have responsibilities. I can’t just show up and “go with the flow.”’
‘Why not?’ I responded. ‘What are you concerned might happen?’
‘If I didn’t have a clear set of priorities and action steps, I’d never get anything done!’
‘How do you know?’ I asked. ‘Have you ever actually tried it?’
When he admitted that he hadn’t, we set it up as a little coaching experiment. Every morning, he would designate one hour to just show up and respond to what showed up, trusting his real-time responsive intelligence to guide him. After the first week, he committed to a second week; by the end of the month, he had given four hours a day to his assistant for scheduling and blocked out the rest of his calendar for ‘Inspired Action.’
For myself, I have for many years used the phrase ‘the kindness of the design’ to describe how well we’re made – how beautifully and reliably our feelings guide us back to the sense of comfort and wellbeing that lets us know when we’re resting peacefully in our own true nature. I say this despite the fact that I don’t really know if there is any conscious design to our perfection, any kind of designer behind the scenes, or indeed if my personal conception of ‘kindness’ has anything to do with it. What I do know is that it seems incredibly kind to me that we come into the world with a built-in guidance system that helps us to stay in our lane and enjoy the incredible clarity, creativity, and peace of mind that make life a joy to live instead of a struggle to endure. At times this guidance system operates like an inner GPS, giving me directions and letting me know what to do when; at other times it seems to me to operate almost like a ‘homing mechanism,’ telling me exactly what I need to do to calm my restless thinking, quieten my occasionally jangly nerves, and find my way back home.
What I’ve begun to see more and more clearly is that the intelligence of the deeper mind doesn’t just guide us. It also knows how to live us. At our best, we are being lived by the higher/deeper mind. We don’t need to remember everything because reminders are built into the unfolding intelligence. When we need to send an email, it will occur to us to send an email. If our thoughts are spinning out of control, it will occur to us to take a break. And if it would be helpful to us to implement a more formal time-management system, it will occur to us to do just that.
Our wisdom is already unfolding as if by design. There’s nothing we need to remember or do, because it will always occur to us to do things at the genuinely perfect time to get them done.
But in the same way that the GPS in our car lets us know when there’s something for us to do but stays silent the rest of the time, our innate intelligence is there when we need it but can be disconcertingly quiet when there’s nothing for it to say. That in turn can lead us to doubt its existence, or at the very least its reliability. But if you reflect back through your life, you’ll start to notice all sorts of examples of that real-time responsive intelligence in action.
For the next few days, I invite you to notice where this innate intelligence is already at work in your own life – how often just the right thing occurs to you at just the right time for it to occur.
What would it be like if you began to rely on it to guide you? How much easier would your life be if you didn’t need to be in charge of keeping yourself on track from day to day and moment to moment?
Have fun, learn heaps, and happy exploring!
With all my love,