Progress is not always made by pushing through—by going forward. Often, we will need and will actually desire to go backwards in order to be able to move forward. When we are always moving forward and always moving fast, we simply cannot keep up. The constant momentum to keep moving; keep improving even keep transforming is incredibly exhausting. We are tired mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually and all of these arenas live us feeling “spent” spiritually.There is a remedy to our dilemma of always feeling the need for the next thing; the next break through; the next big thing. It is this: go backwards. Sometimes, we need to go back to have the new found energy to go on. I'm finding this even right now in writing this. I chose to go back and not forward by giving myself a 48 hour solo retreat. I needed time to think. I needed space to access the trajectory of my life. I needed time off to be back on--which I knew was going to happen anyway. So I chose to take this retreat in the midst of so many demands and meetings and needs. I walked away from my staff. I left projects needing my attention on the desks. I went away in order to come back better.Here are 5 areas to challenge you to move backwards in order to move forward in your life.
- Go backwards with technology. I have a friend who is ditching his iphone. It has become way too much for him. He has told me that his iphone is ruining his life. He finds himself always checking; always on and always available. He lamented to me last week that "Texting has become THE primary way we communicate--sometimes even in our house" There was no smile on his face when he shared this with me. He has made the heroic choice to go back to a flip-phone. It’s unthinkable isn’t it? To go back 20 years in technology is to go back to the dark ages—we think—we actually believe. But the value of a flip phone is incredible progressive. It can give you your life back. You can’t text as much. You can’t always be on. You will not always be available. IT may be the step backwards to help you move forward. Choose one day a week that you literally unplug! Take a sabbath from all wired gadgets. Lift your head up and live untethered for just one day a week and see what can happen. Most of us can simply confess this one thing: we are way too tied down by our wired world--even despite the benfits.....If you can't go back to a flip phone--try fasting from technology for one day. Go back to go forward.
- Get Quiet—not Get Loud. We live in a noisy world and the noise outwardly and inwardly is making life absurd. Did you know that the Latin word for “deafness” is rooted in the word meaning ‘absurdity’? When we can’t listen--- so much of life and relationships—even our faith can feel absurd. One mega church I work with adopted a series for their entire congregation titled, “Get Loud!” It was a way of inviting their congregation to get loud; get big and involved; perhaps do great things for God. But where is the sermon series or emphasis on “Let’s get quiet?” While writing this, I am on a private retreat. I am doing a solo retreat of 48 hours of quiet. Yesterday as I took a long hike in the Rocky Mountains, I was disturbed by the constant buzzing of helicopters circling around. Their loud and buzzing rotating blades invaded my much sought after tranquility of mountain streams and eagles flying nearby. I was annoyed. Loud things can annoy us and the only remedy there is to notice is quiet. Quietness is the great antidote to our stress. As the buzzing of the choppers keep disturbing me on my hike, I used that outer noise to help me assuage my inner noise which we’re saying, “You could be so much more productive if you were back at the office actually doing something!” That is a voice that needs to be suspect. That is a voice I need to shun. That is a voice that does not bring me life.
- Do Less not more. No book has affected me more this past year than the book by Greg McKeown titled, “Essentialism.” I have thoroughly enjoyed and been challenged to align my life and work with what is essential; what I find to be absolutely essential in life. Putting meetings, people and invitations to help into a grid which asks me this one question: Is this really necessary and will it help me stay in the pursuit of less—not more. Am I investing in the right/essential activities? How can I live focused and not so distracted by all the chances; all the ways; all the people? When we feel too stretched; too much like we are skating on thin ice, we need to check the trajectory of our lives and see if where we are headed is actually where we want to go.
- Reflect more and react less. By learning to practice the lost art of reflection, we can have the time to think our own thoughts; feel our own feelings and find our own center of our own soul. Thus we can live our own lives—not live the life designed by someone else—someone who may not actually have the best intentions for my life. In this age of constant availability and constant news, we are over-saturated; over-stimulated and over-committed. We are robbed from the simple times of a stroll; a lingering conversation and following the thread of our own thoughts and feelings to find out our own passions and feelings. We simply must have time to reflect. Reflection is the great art of being human. My dog Laz cannot reflect. The humming birds busy buzzing around at the feeder cannot reflect. Only humans can reflect—and to be human; to remain human and to live a fully non-machine like life, we will need to go back and learn the great art of reflection. As we learn to reflect, we will find ourselves less prone to react; less ready to fly off the handle and tap into our reserves of anger and rage that always seem so ready at our disposal. Walk away when the tension gets heated. Take a time out. Sit with what just happened....that email that just came in that triggered you into writing back a angry email in response.
- Go slow—not fast. Slowing our lives down is the antidote to our time sickness. One year gets blurred with the next and the last. Birthdays come so quickly. Everything good in life is not fast. By slowing—by actually practicing slowing, we can savor the richness of the wine of our lives. We can lift up the chalice of our lives and toast---and celebrate—and enjoy the goodness of life—even in an age of terror and violence. Time-sickness has greatly contributed to the constant state of exhaustion that so very many of us experience. The antidote is slow. When someone has burned out, the only remedy is dis-engagement.
As you consider going backwards, take a look at my list and add your own areas and suggestions and possibilities and let’s encourage each other to go backwards in order to move forward. Go ahead, leave your comments! Let's get a good discussion going!
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