This weekend, my family and I went to the gym. We belong to a club call Life Time Fitness. Huge place, great equipment, layout, services, etc. My son loves it, we take him all the time. Instilling fitness into children from an early age is important. It helps them embrace a healthy habits for life.
Anyway, we were heading into the gym and I was setting my intentions:
- I am at the gym to improve myself.
- I will not be distracted.
- I will focus on myself.
But as we are walking into the club, my son starts to throw a fit. He’s in the throes of a sugar crash, having had a donut an hour or so earlier. He’s whining, not wanting to go to the kid’s area. It’s interrupting my preparation for lifting weights. Annoying.
Finally we get him to the kid’s area. He’s still upset and my wife asks him if he want’s a snack. He does, but my wife tells me to go ahead and she’ll handle it. Awesome. I head upstairs to warm up. The gym is pretty busy, fortunately one of the elliptical bikes I prefer to use is free I get one, set the program, and get one minute into it before my phones buzzes with a text.
My wife: “left my wallet in the car, I need the keys.” Interrupted, again.
Downstairs to the cafe. She takes the keys, I sit with our son. We chat for a minute, he’s doing better, knowing that he is going to get a snack. My wife gets back.
We’re all good, so I head back to towards the gym…only to run into a friend I haven’t seen in a couple months. Not someone I can just give a head nod to. So I stop, again. Interrupted, again. We chat for about five minutes.
Finally, free from interruptions, I head back to the gym floor. I get up the stairs, walk over to the cardio area…
…and all of the bikes I wanted to ride on are occupied by other people.
Back when I wrote for Above The Law, I once wrote about an exercise in frustration I had with Home Depot:
I’m far from being a handyman, but if anything only needs a hammer, screwdriver, and a drill, I can probably handle it. Hanging a door falls into that category, so off I go. I remove the old door and door frame. Unpack the new door, read through the instructions. Read through the instructions again (“Measure twice, cut once”). Assemble the door. Go to hang it up…it doesn’t fit. No matter how I adjust it, it won’t fit. There is always a gap a the top or bottom. I go back to the instructions, make sure I followed every step. Become frustrated.
Finally, I get out a tape measure and measure my old door again. 80″ on the dot. Look at the door I bought, it’s labeled 80″ as well. Measure the new door…it’s 78″. Two inches off. No matter what I do, or how I adjust the door, it will never, ever fit. Despite that the new door fits 99% of the way, it useless to me. It doesn’t work. Two inches is all the difference in the world when what I need is a door that fits my house.
In both situations, as I hit peak levels of interruption and frustration – I began to laugh.
Just shaking my head, laughing at myself and what had happened. In my experience, schedules and intentions are interrupted at a regular occurrence. The universe frequently intrudes upon well laid plans and reminds you of your complete and utter lack of control.
Power over places, things, objects, and other people is largely an illusion. Really we only have power over ourselves. So in an effort to project this control of ourselves onto the world, we develop plans. We set intentions, make checklists, and organize our day.
But even this type of control is a type of illusion. It’s been said many ways. “The best laid plans of mice and men…” or “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” But let’s go with Tyson:
What we do have control over is our attitude. Our approach to the world. Our frame. Our mindset.
A plan is just an extension of that mindset. But plans get knocked off course (or knocked out). You need to control your mindset even when knocked off course. The alternative is to cede control of yourself to outside forces. At some point, everyone has said variations of the following to themselves:
- I planned to workout, but people kept interrupting me.
- I planned to hang a door, but it was a crap product.
- I planned to lose weight, but someone brought cake to work today.
- I planned to follow up with a potential new client, but I had a meeting.
- I planned to learn a second language, but that rerun of Seinfeld I like came on.
- I planned to write a blog post. but then I got on Twitter.
- I planned to X, but then Y happened.
Again and again, obstacles come between to you and your goal. So when these obstacles arise, do you become agitated? Frustrated? Give up? Or do you reset yourself?
Interrupting Well Laid Plans
There are plenty of ways to handle interruptions, but I usually choose laughter. I suppose anger is an alternative. It’s one that you see often. But I find laughter works better. I laugh at my attachment to what was and not focusing what is. Why am I concerned about what I was planning to do, when I find myself where I am right now?
Much better to laugh, reset myself, and say “now what?” Not that it happens every time. There are certainly time where I get annoyed with situations or interruptions in my day. But part of systematically improving yourself is developing the ability to return to your center and original intent.
Otherwise, it’s unlikely that you will get anywhere.
If you are going to go somewhere, may I suggest LawyerSmack?