Thursday, April 26, 2012

Don't like it? Change it.

I've been talking this past week about learning to like tasks you dislike. Some things just have to get done, despite the fact that we don't like doing them.

In those cases in my life, I try to make peace with the task. I try to learn to like what I hate.

So far we've talked about carefully examining and admitting the benefits and costs of doing the task vs. avoiding it (see here).  We've talked about creating a compelling vision for why you want to stay on top of this task (see here).  And now we're going to talk about changing the task itself in some way.

Or at least changing the way you do it. We want to find a way to do it that makes it less dread-worthy.

For example, folding laundry is probably my least favorite household chore. I'd rather scrub a toilet than fold and put away a load of clothes. And no one in my family - no one - likes matching socks when they come out of the dryer.

I have a big front-load washer. So when I do laundry I combine all the family's clothes together. Everybody's socks get mixed up. And sometimes spread out across loads. Plus, once in a while, it seems the dryer eats a sock - always just one in the pair - where do those go??

And how long do you hold onto the one left while waiting to see if the other re-surfaces? Three weeks? Two months? A year?

Recently we solved the dreaded sock problem. We bought mid-sized mesh laundry bags, one per person, and put one in each bedroom by the hampers. We now put our worn socks directly into the mesh bags. On laundry day we zip up the bags and throw them in the machine. They emerge clean and with all the matching pairs together in one place, already sorted by owner.

This was a simple, inexpensive fix that makes doing laundry quicker and easier. Plus each person can match their own bag of socks; no one is overwhelmed with a basket full to match.

So if you can't change the task (or delegate it) and it has to be done, what can you change about the way you do the task?

How can you streamline it?

Can you make it easier, or quicker somehow?

Sometimes small tweaks make a big difference in the overall experience. Do you have everything you need to do the task in one place? Do you have a good space or system for doing this task? Can you find someone who does the task well and pick up some tips from them?  Step three in learning to love what you hate is rethinking your approach to the task. What can you change to ease the toil?

Easier and/or quicker = less of a pain. And less of a pain means less reason to hate it.

I normally blog two or three times a week. If you don't want to miss any posts in this series, sign up to receive them in your email.  You can sign up by entering your email in the box in the sidebar to the right. I'd love to have you join my regular readers - they're a terrific bunch!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

See How to Love What You Hate

In my last post you and I agreed that there are some tasks we have to do - we need to do - that we don't like doing. Therefore, we avoid them. We agreed that it would be nice if we liked doing these things rather than hated them. 

OK, maybe you weren't here for the last post and we didn't agree on that, but I'm pretty sure we'd have agreed if you had read it.  So go read it now and come back. It will give you the first step to take in learning to love the things you currently avoid.

Step two in learning to love what you hate to do is to identify a reason to do the task, a reason that is bigger and more potent than your reason for avoiding it.  Hopefully the questions from step number one started you thinking along these lines.

You may already know a reason or two why you need to do the dreaded task. But it may be that those reasons are not compelling enough to you (yet).  They may be true and real but they fail to motivate you.

To continue my own example, I've always wanted a tidy house that's full of nutrition. I just haven't always wanted to do what it takes daily to have that. My vision of a clean home - just to walk through and think, "It's clean and neat" - wasn't compelling enough to move me to stop doing other things long enough to make this a regular reality.

That was eye-opening for me to realize: I needed more than that to motivate me.

Then Caleb got hurt. Life, in the form of my son's accident and healing period, afforded me a new, more compelling vision for why I wanted the house neat, clean and full of nutrition consistently.

Yes, yes, I've always wanted that - and I wasn't totally lacking it -  I just haven't always wanted it enough. Or in the necessary way to motivate me. Now, however, I wanted that more than I wanted to avoid decluttering. I wanted to ensure Caleb's comfort and healing more than I wanted to read something interesting, chat with friends on FaceBook or write a new blog post. I wanted serenity in my immediate surroundings more than I wanted to watch TV, and more than I didn't want to fold laundry. 

Life (cruelly) afforded me this motivation but the truth is we can create our own compelling vision for why we really want to do what we feel we don't want to do.

Linking the unpleasant task to a life purpose that carries a strong emotional value for you (like my son's well-being did for me) is key.

Think through your possible motivators:

  • Can your desire to entertain friends "force" you to clean? If so, go schedule a dinner party at your place every week for the next 4 weeks and use that to train yourself to keep on top of the cleaning. View the cleaning as party-prep. Or as part of your hostessing. 

  • Will posting photos of your messy office on your blog motivate you to want to quickly show some great "after" photos?  Then go get your camera. And make this a monthly feature on your blog.

  • Are you crazy, mad in love with your husband?  Create a compelling vision for how your housekeeping is a service to him - how it shows him your appreciation and love. How it will make him happy daily that he asked you to be his bride. Clean up the entry way and lay out his slippers. Tidy the bathroom and leave him a love note on the mirror.

The point is figure out how to frame the task in such a way that it motivates you. The purpose has to be both personal and powerful. Write it out. Fully develop it. Make it a clear and compelling vision. Review it often until it's "in" you. English essayist James Allen wrote, “You will become as great as your dominant aspiration … If you cherish a vision, a lofty ideal in your heart, you will realize it.” 

This can be applied to anything.  Eliminating debt. Running a 5K. Sunday dinners at Grandma's. Losing 20 lbs. Once you fully embrace your clear, compelling vision with passion, procrastination will no longer hold you back. Your vision will drive you forward. It will give you the will to tackle what you normally avoid. And the act of completng that dreaded thing with gusto will likely afford you even more motivation.

So figure out why if you embraced this task, and it became your habit to do it without procrastination, it would lead to more happiness and success for you. Then go CREATE that vision in your life. Decide in advance to keep at it, even if you don't fall madly in love with it at first.

"In Zen they say: If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, try it for eight, sixteen, thirty-two, and so on. Eventually one discovers that it's not boring at all but very interesting."
— John Cage

I'm not a Zen follower but I think Mr. Cage is onto something there.

Change is possible, but focus is required. We'll talk more about this next week. I'm about to leave town for a speaking engagement this weekend.  Meanwhile, go create a compelling vision. What precisely is it that has the power to motivate you to do what needs doing? I'll bet there is something ...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Learn to Love What You Hate

I'd much rather be at my computer, composing something or reading something, than doing housework. I'd rather run errands, exercise or cook dinner than clean. I don't like housework.

I like a clean house; I just don't like the process that brings that result. Or do I?

No, I've never liked housework. It's tedious. It's boring. Not stimulating at all. I wish I liked it since it's so, well, daily.

A few weeks ago my son had an accident - he fell from a zip line. He stayed home 24/7 for nearly two weeks while recovering before going back to school. I still have to feed him every few hours as he is on a liquid diet (he had to have oral surgery).

As you might imagine, I had a lot of adrenalin flowing initially. As that drained it was followed by surges in whatever hormone gives a mother that strong desire to make sure her baby is safe and healing well. So I stayed home nearly 24/7 keeping busy around the house ... cooking soup for him, cleaning, fluffing his pillow, organizing, changing his sheets every two days, etc.

I wasn't on the computer much at all. I couldn't really escape into a screen or run any errands because I felt the need to be fully present in my home, for my son. And I wanted to make my home as conducive as possible to his recovery, and to my sanity.

Two weeks after immersing myself in housework with gusto daily, I decided that I don't mind housework as much as I thought I did. How can that be when I hate housework and always have?

Hold on and I'll answer that question.  But first, is there something you dislike that you really wish you loved?


Here are just a few things many of us avoid because we deem them unpleasant.

  • Eating Right
  • Living on a Budget
  • Disciplining our Children
  • Taking Risks/Trying Something New
  • Exercising
  • Honoring our Husband's Lead
  • Saving Money
  • Taming our Tongue
  • Cleaning our Home
  • Doing our Bills or Taxes
  • Staying Organized

Thing is, when we anticipate something will be unpleasant - boring, difficult or cause us some sort of pain -  we avoid it. We procrastinate. We make excuses. We spend energy dreading and avoiding it rather than doing it. In short, we hate it.

Here's what I want you to notice: Avoiding it and hating it is already causing you stress and pain!

Hating it is draining your energy and leaving it undone is costing you something. Pounds. Dollars. Peace of Mind. Influence. Happiness. Health. Something.

So you are creating unpleasantness for yourself, and possibly your family as well, by ignoring and avoiding something you know needs doing because you deem doing it unpleasant. 

I know, I've been there too. You are figuring the unpleasantness of dreading it or skipping doing it is less than the unpleasantness of doing it. But is that assumption accurate? And wouldn't you rather learn to love what you have to do but hate doing?


What can you do to help you learn to love, or at least like what it is that you hate?  That's what I'll be talking about in my next several posts. Today we'll start the process with some questions to consider.

I'm going to give you a set of four questions to ask yourself about that task that you hate. These questions come from the incredibly intelligent, mega successful and uber inspirational Dr. Ben Carson. (Read his biography here.)

Dr. Carson suggests we interview ourselves when deciding what we will do, using these questions:
  • What is the best thing that can happen if I do this?
  • What is the worst thing that can happen if I do this?
  • What is the best thing that can happen if I don’t do it?
  • What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t do it?

That is step number one to learning to like doing what you currently avoiding doing: analyze the reality of the consequences of doing it, and of not doing it.

Which outcome do you want? 

This ANALYSIS will help you deal in reality. It will help you see that in most cases procrastinating or ignoring is ultimately just as painful as doing the unpleasant task. And at times, more so. Plus we often procrastinate and dread it much longer than it would take us to just complete the task and feel pleased that it's done.

This will also help you begin to form the second thing you will need in order to learn to love what you hate. But that's the topic of my next post. So stay tuned. Meanwhile examine your possible outcomes and tell yourself or me - in writing - which outcome you truly want.

What is one thing you often avoid that you need to learn to love?

If you are serious about changing your attitude towards this, answer the four questions about that task in the comments below or in your journal.  And come back Wednesday for step two.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Going Green (smoothies)

My son had his first follow-up with the oral surgeon today - all is progressing well. I'm so grateful for that good news.

The last several days have been a blur - literally. With Caleb on an all liquid diet, some friends of ours loaned us their Vitamixer.  I whirl up breakfast. I blend up a mid-morning snack. I puree lunch. I make a shake mid-afternoon. And then comes the question Caleb dreads, "Hey Bud, what do you want to drink for dinner?"

He wants steak. He wants cheeseburgers. He wants Chinese take-out.

Last night I made an awesome tortilla soup. I dropped the soup and the chips in the Vitamix and blended for a few seconds. I waited to see his reaction after his first bite. A big smile. (Or at least as big as he can manage right now.)  I tried his and thought it tasted tremendously good!

Meanwhile I'm becoming addicted to the green smoothie I make us every morning: green grapes, pineapple chunks, 1 organge, 1 apple, 1 large carrot, 1 banana and 2 cups of spinach. Sometimes I thin it further for Caleb with some green tea.

I actually look forward to this now.

And I love that we get the fiber as well as the juice.

Rick and I have an anniversary coming up in May. I may lobby that we get one of these Vitamix machines as our gift to each other (and Caleb). Not very romantic, but rather yummy and very energizing!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Difference a Day Makes

What a difference a day makes.

In my last post, nearly a week ago, I talked about making Spring plans.

On Tuesday, one day after posting that, my spring plans were severely interrupted.

On Tuesday evening my son fell from a friend's zip-line and smacked face-first into the steel frame of a trampoline. The impact fractured his upper palate in several places, knocked out several teeth and pushed others way out of place. He also got a cut above his eye that required 9 stitches.

Within minutes of seeing what happened to him, I passed out cold and hit my head on a hard floor - leaving two goose-egg bumps that are now bruises. To say I don't handle blood, cuts or medical trauma well is accurate an understatement.

I'd started writing my life plan, writing some devotions, and prepping for some upcoming speaking engagements last week. In addition to finishing those, I'd planned on cleaning out some closets, decluttering, and doing a little deep cleaning. Instead I've been in ER rooms, dentist's offices, oral surgeons offices and on my knees.

I am happy to say Caleb came through the oral surgery well on Friday. But we still have a long dental-treatment road ahead of us. To those of you who heard about his accident and prayed for us ... many, many thanks.

To those of you willing to pause and pray today - for continued restoration, for healthy teeth and roots, for no tooth discoloration, and for wisdom on how to proceed from here - many, many thanks.

So my new spring plans are to nurse my baby back to health as best I can. He is on an all liquid diet for the next few weeks - that alone is throwing me for a bit of a loop. (Please send your best soup recipes!)

I feel a lot stirring in me, underground. But I have no poignant points to make right now other than God is good. And the fact that sometimes our best-laid plans get interrupted. And once in a while, gut-wrenching stuff gets placed in our path.

The sun rises and the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.

Through this awful week I've clung to Jesus. Where else would I go? He has the words of Life.

And through it all I've found Him faithful and more than sufficient.

The day after the accident someone happened to quote my book in a tweet, "In God's kingdom, painful situations are catalysts for glorious transformation. #ItsNoSecret @RachelOlsen." 

I believe that.

So I guess God's plans for me and my family this spring is transformation of some sort. I'll take that.

I'm thankful that in God's design, mourning is always followed by rejoicing, and death is always followed by resurrection. I bet those gathering at Jesus' tomb some 2012 years ago were also thinking "What a difference a day makes."

Happy Easter, my friends.

May yours be transformative as well (minus the medical trauma and the passing out of course!)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring Plans

“Spring is the time of plans and projects, wrote Lea Tolstoy in Anna Karenina.

I'm inclined to agree. As the earth wakes back to vibrant life, so do we.

Warm breezes blow in renewed energy.

   Budding blooms bring forth new ideas.

Rain-kissed air stirs up fresh vision. 

I set about deep cleaning the house. I head outdoors to play and exercise. Longer days make walks after dinner with Rick ideal. The beach beckons.

I dig in the dirt. I plant and anticipate the taste of the harvest.

I sort through and revamp my wardrobe. Exchanging the deep polish shades of winter for brighter, lighter hues.

My outlook brightens as well. I dream new dreams, feeling the quiet but confident ability to accomplish something new. And somehow, it's what's happening outside my window, outside my door, that makes this feel possible.

And so I start planning.  Right now I am working my way through Michael Hyatt's e-book Creating Your Personal Life Plan. It's a free download if you want to try it. Just follow that link.

What plans are you making this spring?

Do you have any kind of a personal life plan?