#48lessons Lesson 7 – First Meetings

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

Maya Angelou

Life is busy, and days pass by in a flash. Often, I reach the end of the day wondering what the heck happened! It is the most disorienting feeling to know that one has been not just busy, but frantically consumed by activity, and yet we are unable to account for our time and we have made no progress on our own goals.

A distracted mind is a disempowered mind

From a religious perspective, I had been raised with the advice and the practice of rising early for prayer. I somehow missed the self-reflection piece until a few years back, but this advice was always there. Leadership development training also advocated the practice of rising early. Many other paths I have crossed promotes the virtues of rising early.

But I am a night owl. I enjoy the stillness of the night. Since having kids, the stillness of the late night is one of my go-to drugs of choice. So, as a confirmed and committed night owl, I’ve always resisted the 5am Club routine. I was of the view that what could be done at 5 am could be done at 10 am. And of course, there is nothing wrong with that view in principle. It’s just that my life complies with a schedule of school-runs, meetings and meet-ups. When I rise ‘just in time’ for these, I don’t have the space to think, to prioritise, to plan, to process, to dream about ‘Future Me’, and to centre myself in the bigger picture of who I want to be, and how I want to travel through my day.

And without this space, the day has me. I do not have it. Before I know it, my mind is in a blender and I pass through it in a haze of busyness and distractedness. I become unclear of my priorities as I lurch from moment to moment and my deliberate decision making is compromised because the Big Picture has fallen by the wayside.

Feeling harried, overwhelmed and burnt-out, I’ve had to come up with a plan to get back to my groove. It took some umming and aahing, and a lot of resistance, but I gave early rising a shot. More importantly, I’ve committed to kicking off my day with what I call “My First Meeting” which is a meeting I have exclusively with Me, Myself and I. Nothing interferes with or in my first meeting, not even my phone! When my day allows it, my first meeting may not require rising early, but the process is sacrosanct. What matters is that I rise with an hour or more to spare. I will admit though that the early morning is mysterious and has magical powers that centre me and orientate me in a steadfast commitment to me. It is starting to become alluring enough to replace my late nights as my go-to fix.

In my First Meeting, I allow experimentation. Sometimes doing the same thing the same way loses its efficacy and I switch gears. With the exception of prayer and goal/priority journaling, I don’t have a very prescriptive approach to how I spend this sacred time. Sometimes, I just enjoy the stillness, and allowing my mind to drift unfettered by demands for my attention. Other times, I have a routine of reading, journaling and meditation. Always for me, it is a time of stillness. Followed by walking, I start my day off with bliss!

An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.

Henry David Thoreau

So, before I get sucked into headlines and social media, before I start yielding to the demands of the day and my chaotic inner chatter, before I run off into busyness, I use my day’s first meeting to tie myself firmly to my compass and to the ideal of how I will show up. I rope myself to myself!

So, I may have created the impression that I get this right 100% of the time. I wish. I’m up to about 80% of the time, but there are times that I let it slide way down to 50% of the time. That seems to be the threshold at which my psyche and my inner knowing pulls me back. I simply miss the benefits too much.

On the days when I have attend a first meeting with myself, there is an ease with which I move through the day. My ‘Big Picture’ is clearer and more present in the back of my mind. My ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to both myself and to others are intentional and are more aligned to my intentions. My attention is focused on the glorious activities that actually create value for me. I’ve discovered that we don’t need to be busy to get the things that matter done, we just have to be focused.

First meetings have come to my rescue, not to get more done. It’s come to my rescue to clarify what actually matters, what I need and what will make the difference that makes a difference for me.

My First Meetings have made me more present to me. It’s those precious moments in which I silence the chaos of the world and my mind and where I rise above the fray and bring into focus the benevolence that has been gifted to me.

My First Meetings is where my head, my heart, my body and soul get to hang out with one another undisturbed by the world’s distractions. It’s when they express and chat among themselves, and collude with each other to create the best day, come what may.

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