My confession: I am not good at "Down Time."
There are many things that are frustrating about illness, but a major frustration for me is the sense of anxiety I have that 'nothing will get done while I am sick.' What does not get done is not just business or making a dollar, other things suffer: Relationships suffer because I am isolated, my sense of satisfaction that I get from doing work-worthily is lost because I am not working, the exhaustion that accompanies acute pain dulls my critical thinking and leaves me confused. Early in my illness, I found myself very frustrated at night, having not accomplished near enough, swearing to do better the next day and then failing the next day because my basic capability to work was unchanged. It was a very bad loop down with no real sense of how to get out, except by working harder, something I could not do.
Asking myself a question relieved me of a lot of anxiety and also has helped me to be much more effective in the midst of this difficulty. I ask myself at the beginning of every day, "What do I want at the end of this day?"
This question is so powerful that Kathi, my wife, has started asking me this in the morning too. As I answer her out loud, I find my thinking about what is important to me. I think about what will really make me happy, what will get me closer to my big goals and what is enough. My thinking gets clearer and a lot of unnecessary daily activities that would normally be assumed as needing to be done, simply get ruled out of the day.
Thought Experiment: Ask yourself the question: "What do I want at the end of this day?" Now as you ponder the question, consider what your priorities should be, what activities should you drop, what are you doing that is unnecessary, what are you really capable of doing in terms of time and energy?
In my own case, I found that when I first asked the question, I had 11 hours of priorities and activities. However, as a person who was fighting with a serious health issue, I had only 3 hours of energy to work in a day. So then I would ask myself, "What does a '3 Hour Kurt' do in order to get what he wants at the end of the day?" More often than not, I have found that I can achieve many of my goals with much less work than I previously imagined and the sense of accomplishing the most important things lets me put my head down on the pillow at night content, which incidentally is going to speed my recovery.
Don't wait for a serious illness to start asking this enlightening question every morning.
What do you want at the end of this day?
- A conversation with someone close to you about something important?
- To get the shopping and laundry done?
- To make a decision that you have been procrastinating on?
Forget doing everything on your list of daily "To Do's." Forget doing all the stuff you dutifully believe you must do. Tomorrow, just do the few things that are going to bring you the most satisfaction at the end of the day. What do you want at the end of the day?