Minimal Monday

I have been thinking a bit about how good it is to develop a mostly internal locus of control, and also about what a challenge that is to human beings. From a very young age, as soon as we are affected by the responses of the adults in our lives, we are being trained to focus outward. We gain or lose approval, validation, and receive rewards or punishment, based on how others react to us.

If we are fortunate, our caregivers taught us to pay attention to our own sensibilities, curiosities, and feelings, while simultaneously guiding and socializing us to grow into decent, productive, adults. I think it so easy to focus too heavily on the latter job, as it has a much clearer set of “rules”.  Be polite, get good grades, join the team, do the things that get you accolades or acceptance or a better resume. And that is all good! But nothing trumps an inner drive, and personal satisfaction, and no one can tell us exactly what that looks like; it is different for everyone.  

One day, way back in high school, our teacher assigned us an essay to write in class. I forget what the topic was but he collected them well before the class ended. I actually opted to take a lower grade by keeping my paper a little longer to finish it. In that moment, an incomplete story felt all wrong to me. I really wanted to finish the essay, so I accepted the lowered grade. Foolish? Perhaps. But in that instance, my own satisfaction meant more to me than a grade, and I accepted the consequence.  

We want kids to do what is expected of them by their parents, school, society. In many ways, it will serve them well. But hopefully we want them to follow their internal compass even more. Often the two-external and internal focus-are at odds.

What does this look like? Maybe a teen decides that getting an A on an assignment is less important than getting a full night’s rest, or taking some time to work on his own project. So, he accepts the B- and is able to feel confident about his choice. He is figuring out that life is about much more than external accolades. And yet who do we praise? We praise the kid who came to school sick, stayed up late to go above and beyond, resisted his own interests, and got the A. Hard work is admirable. But so is self-care, independence, and creativity. We each choose our own values.

Life is a series of choices, and each one has some consequence, however small. We can’t tell another human being which outcome has the best payoff, the most desirable results for them in each circumstance. But we can remind them that they know, if they will take a moment, a lifetime, to turn inward and trust themselves.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

Sometimes doing our best means having a day in which we make great strides on a personal or work project, or help someone else out, or simply stick to our new improved routine and habits.

Other times, doing our best may mean simply prioritizing one thing, and doing that.

Today was a “one thing” day for me. After a lengthy, unpleasant morning appointment, all I wanted to do was go home and rest for the remainder of the day. And I did rest. But at some point, I started to feel like I would regret doing absolutely nothing for the rest of the day. Doing just one thing felt doable and sensible.

So I brought my laptop to the couch where I’d been having my do nothing day. I organized some book edits. That felt good, productive, painless. It was just one thing. But it led to another. And another. Now here I am writing this blog post, because it’s Monday after all.

When we feel like doing nothing, sometimes that is what we need. And having too many things to do can be overwhelming. But I find if I pick just one thing, and do that, it starts a momentum, and other things follow.

Everyone can do just one thing, even on a bad day.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

*Note: About three weeks ago, I mistakenly included a post about a new site with book information. That note was meant for readers of my old site. This blog which is part of is indeed my current site and it will include all updated book news. You are in the right place! Read on.

Most of the time, before we can take on the world, we need to deal with what is right in front of us. It is my experience that in order to meet our goals and aspirations, or to simply live by our values, it serves us well to narrow our focus.

I don’t mean to imply that we shouldn’t have big audacious goals or that we need to play small. I mean that taking the obvious, sometimes monotonous, small steps is the surest way to clear our own path.

These small steps could mean meal planning, or spending just fifteen minutes on a project, or even cleaning out a closet. It could mean resting or making a to-do list or doing the laundry. We’ve got to manage our selves and our immediate environment if we are to be any good to others.

I can think of at least three well-known creatives who called out to God in times of desperation, from their bathroom floors. Why do women tend to cry on bathroom floors? It’s kind of gross. Anyhow, the answers to their cries came as directions or powerful urges to GO TO BED, and CLEAN YOUR ROOM.

We make life more complicated than it has to be when we try to skip the next right thing; the thing that is so simple, so small, that we are tempted to dismiss it. When we do this, we miss out on the clarity, momentum, and peace that is meant for us.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

My twin granddaughters are turning five, and they requested a cheetah-rainbow cake. At first, I wasn’t sure if it would be a cake with cheetahs and rainbows on it, or a rainbow in cheetah pattern, or a cheetah in rainbow pattern. I told them I wanted to be surprised. Turns out the frosting was made in a rainbow-colored cheetah pattern. Why didn’t I think of that?

I love how these little girls know what they like and what they want. With their lives still a blank canvas, they are expressing themselves authentically; the world hasn’t had a chance to direct their paintbrush, doling out preferences or critiques that cast doubt on their own desires.

Some of us were lucky enough to reach adulthood with our own intrinsic motivation in tact, which is amazing. Many others developed self-doubt under the influences of society, rigid parenting, or other outside forces that teach a still-developing person to seek the approval of others; this path comes with a lot of cognitive dissonance, as we want or feel one thing but say or do another, for the sake of acceptance. Worse than that is when we no longer feel the dissonance because we’ve adopted others’ demands or preferences as our own.

I am not at all shunning societal norms or construction criticism or mature guidance; all of that has its proper place. It becomes a problem only when we become so outer-focused that we lose touch with our own compass. I love the wise strategy of asking children what they think of their own various projects, choices, outfits, artwork, instead of just doling out a compliment or opinion. Children growing up trusting themselves is a beautiful thing.

When it was time to cut the birthday cake, my granddaughters didn’t seem to notice or care what anyone else thought of it. They loved it. They had confidently made their choice and enjoyed every rainbow-cheetah bite.

Oh the simplicity of that. I hope they hold on to it forever.