Updated: May 3, 2020
I was casually chatting with a friend at the gym this week while we were on the rowing machines, and she relayed a humorous story to me.
She explained how one day in the last couple of weeks, she was talking on her cell phone, while she was in the process of preparing to leave the house. Mobile phone was cradled between her shoulder and ear, she is chatting away, grabbing her belongings around the house, eventually exiting into the garage, and opening the fridge in the garage to grab a can of seltzer water for the road. She then jumped in her car and off she went. After a couple of minutes she popped open the can and took a big swig of her seltzer, and as she swallowed it down, this question ran through her mind…”WHY DOES THIS WATER TASTE LIKE BEER?” She looked at the can and realized she had picked up a can of beer from the fridge instead of seltzer!! Now she was driving around with an open container in an area of the city who’s police officers have very little to do. Fortunately, she made it to her destination with no encounters with the law and now laughs at this moment of absentmindedness.
Stories like this are pretty funny. Our awkward moments of humanity make for great comedy. It’s what the best comedic films are made of! While I am all about not taking ourselves too seriously, and finding the humor in life’s moments, there is also a lesson in this story. It’s a lesson of walking through life multi-tasking and being so unaware of our actions that we actually violate the law inadvertently with no awareness that we are doing it until it’s already done. It’s about being distracted, trying to accomplish too many things at once, and not being focused on the here and now.
As I have written previously, this habit of trying to move through life accomplishing as much as possible in every moment can be detrimental to our relationships with people, on our work performance, on the health and safety of ourselves and our families, and the health of our brains. It’s why so many people attempt to text while driving and the government has had to pass laws related to this activity, despite common sense that tells us we should be doing nothing but focusing on operating the vehicle when we are behind the wheel.
If the story above sounds familiar in any way, in the coming week, try to observe these moments where you are attempting to do several activities at once. Take note of the situation, and observe what is influencing these actions. Take advantage of this moment to stop, assess what you should really be focusing on in that moment, determine the highest priority, and choose to focus on that one thing until that task or activity is completed. This can be a difficult habit to break. Each time you catch yourself multi-tasking, make a mental note of it, and maybe at the end of the day, consider jotting down in a notebook or journal what the circumstances were that you observed. What activities do you find you are the most likely to multi-task around? Is texting and driving something you are catching yourself doing? Or maybe it’s talking on the phone while driving? Or checking email while you’re on a conference call? By observing where you might have some habitual behaviors that are unhealthy, and noticing the when, how, and why around those habits, you can develop a strategy to start making baby steps towards change. Maybe for a while, you need to put your phone on “do not disturb” while you are in the car, or put your phone in your purse or backpack until you arrive at your destination to keep the temptation out of reach. Maybe you keep your email application closed down until the conference call is over.
Living mindfully, and ultimately being a healthier you, requires making choices. The choice to change behaviors that are detrimental to your health is not easy, but breaking them down into small, manageable chunks where you can make progress in steps and see your accomplishments quickly can keep them from being overwhelming. Don’t try to change your entire world in one week. Just start by taking some sort of action, which includes something as simple as just observing where you might want to make some changes in your behavior. This alone is forward action to a healthier, more mindful you.
By choosing to make even some small changes in how you move about your day, you will reap benefits in small ways, and maybe avoid even larger consequences such as a car accident. And, life is short. If we walk around trying to do 5 things at once all the time, we don’t even know what we are missing.
Have a healthy & mindful week!