“The biggest mistake I made as a parent is the one that most of us make . . . I did not live in the moment. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get to the next thing – dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.”
– Anna Quindlen
I’ve been making this mistake. Yep, I sure have. I treasure getting things done. I love the feeling of checking things off my list and progressing towards goals. I love the sense of accomplishment I feel when I finish writing an article, reaching the top of a mountain, conducting a successful Power of Families Retreat, or simply cleaning out a closet or folding a load of laundry.
But maybe sometimes the “doing” IS the accomplishment.
After finding that Anna Quindlen quote, it hit me that I’ve been focusing on the “end” and plowing through the “means” when the “means” is really the most important part a lot of the time.
When I sit and read books with my kids, I realized the goal is not really to finish the book. It’s to enjoy the process of reading the book together and learning the lessons it offers. When we go on a hike as a family, it’s great to get to the summit but as I reflect back on our family hikes, I realized that the most important part of the hike was enjoying family time, noticing the beauty along the way, and often having good talks as we walk. The main goal of bedtime shouldn’t really be to get the kids in bed (although some nights that goal is paramount!). Shouldn’t it really be about snuggling with my kids, praying with them, reading to them, feeling a nice little end-of-the-day connection? And maybe the goal of cleaning up the kitchen after dinner with my kids should actually be to talk and laugh while we work together. While getting my kids to their various activities is a worthy goal, when I make a point of using car time to ask questions, really listen, and share some positive observations about what I see going on in their lives we can “get somewhere” in more ways than one..
I need to work on enjoying the “doing” and accepting the process as part of the goal. It’s the present that really counts.
My dad had us memorize this quote by the Sanscrit poet when we were growing up and I need to keep it more inthe front of my brain:
“Yesterday is but a dream. Tomorrow but a vision. But today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore to this day.”
Here are a three simple activities you can do to help you embrace and love the process as well as the result:
- Think about the things you do each day with your children. Make a list (feed them breakfast, help pack their lunch, drive them to school, pick them up from school, help with homework, encourage them to clean up their rooms…). Then next to each thing on your list, write down at least one thing you can do to make the process more meaningful and more pleasant.
- For one week, at the end of each day, write down three simple things you learned or enjoyed while accomplishing your regular routine tasks.
- Have a family meeting where you talk about how to make the processes in your home better, more fun, and more meaningful (you can use the list you made in #1).
Accomplishments are important. Progress is vital. But learning to enjoy and treasure the present and the actions involved in moving towards our goals is also very important.
I know that when I take the time to cherish the “doing” in my life, I feel more joy. And it’s an ongoing part of my personal progression to learn to enjoy the processes involved in progression more and more.
QUESTION: What are some of your favorite parts of your regular daily routines? What’s your favorite part of breakfast time? Of bedtime? Of clean-up time? How have you progressed to the point that you can really enjoy things that might have once been hard for you as a mom?
CHALLENGE: Make a point of enjoying and appreciating the things you came up with in thinking about the questions above.
* Photo by Jennie Rowen