We were fortunate enough to enjoy some much needed time with our grandson last weekend. Jackson is absolutely our greatest joy and we treasure our time with him. During our customary trip to Target on Saturday, he picked out a 1000 piece puzzle for us to do together. I always enjoyed putting puzzles together with my children when they were young, so I was excited to do this with him!
This would be his first 1000 piece puzzle, however, Jackson is no stranger to large tasks. He has completed numerous large Lego sets, including the 1250 piece Millennium Falcon. At 8 years old, he and Papaw erected it over a weekend.
Sunday afternoon we began facing all the pieces up and setting aside the framework. Papa entered the room, scratched his head and made a comment about how overwhelming the puzzle looked. Jackson, without much hesitation or a look up from his puzzle said, “That’s ok, Papa, we’ll do it one piece at a time.”
I don’t think Jackson quite grasped the gravity of his comment (or maybe he did) but his comment gave me pause for thought about something I’d like to share with you.
Our Tasks Are Not That Big
How often do we face something and immediately bemoan the task? We see the entire challenge and our very first thoughts are of fear, concern or stress. It happens in our daily lives with work, trying to lose weight, cleaning the garage, the house and even doing the laundry. We CERTAINLY do it when we have a challenging workout. This is NOT some sort of weird genetic condition that you have no control over, this is a LEARNED behavior!
Stop Letting Emotion be in Control
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “I can’t do 100 of those!” If I write a workout, similar to this:
25 Wall Ball
10 Pull Ups
10 Box Jumps
Many will see the workout and immediately think, “holy crap, that’s 100 WB and 80 Burpees, I’m going to die!” What you should say to yourself is this: “Ok, this is a tough one, if fact, a terrible one, but I’m going to tackle this challenge and do the best I can with it, ONE REP AT A TIME. I know I won’t die.”
This seems like a very simplistic approach. Guess what? It is and it’s a simple fix but you have to want to fix it and retrain your thinking.
Perceive Things Differently
“Unhelpful perceptions can invade our minds. You must train your brain to see things for what they are, do what we can, endure and bare what we must.” This is an excerpt from a book I recently listened to, The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. When we stop allowing emotion (fear) to be our first reaction, then we can stop seeing problems as problems and focus on what things really are, and typically, they’re never as bad as our emotions tell us they are. You have to train yourself to view any challenge with reason and logic. This takes practice and essentially muscle memory. You have to be willing to change your perception of things however and see things more as an opportunity and less as a problem.
To begin learning to see things differently, consider this:
Perception – see the (challenge) clearly
Action – act correctly (without emotion)
Will – endure and accept (find a way)
I don’t think we really appreciate stoicism enough. To appreciate stoicism is to learn to disregard our initial emotional reaction to things. This is a learned behavior and may come easier for some than others…but it can be learned. We, as humans, spend far too much time commiserating about our experiences and far too little time learning how to endure during our hardships, knuckle down and pursue without complaint. Spend one minute reading comments in a hotly debated topic on Facebook and that’s all you see is emotion. Rarely does one stop, see the situation clearly, and then act upon it correctly. Now, I’m not suggesting we all become stoics, but I am suggesting we try to see our challenges as more opportunity and less “problem”.
Jackson asked that I not work on the puzzle unless he is here to work on it with me. He said he wanted it to be something he and I do together. I respect, love and appreciate that very much, so my dining room table will be held hostage for awhile and that’s really ok by me. After all, often it’s really not the end result that we should be looking for, in the journey is where true experiences lie.