This is my Year Of The Elephant.
I set out in January reflecting and praying over the “elephants in the room” of my life. I even blogged about what it was, why it was and how I thought it would look.
Of course, it hasn’t turned out quite like I had planned.
I think it has turned out better.
Not that it would appear that way at first glance…
I began with 66 elephants.
I now have 36.
Less than half are gone.
I need to remember, however, that probably close to a dozen more elephants were added throughout the year. And I can be grateful, of course, that as many got done as did. And there was that massive project that was initially not planned for this year but came to be and overall worked towards my greater “purge and create margin” goal. And there was unexpected oral surgery and an unusually long and severe fibro cycle. And two great trips that I’d not foreseen in January…
Still, when November 1st arrived, I freaked out.
Way too many elephants left for the few and shortening days left of the year.
So I panicked. And then I prayed. And God began to remind me of a few of the things He’d been teaching me this year…
And then He taught me some more.
Early on in the year I realized that elephants:
- Begat elephants. They multiply like rabbits. Once you have so many in your life, anything and everything else can become an elephant.
- Keep me from living in Quadrant 2 (Covey reference). Everything is screaming “urgent!” and “important!” and overwhelming me and to escape the guilt I hide out in Quadrant 4 with unimportant, non-urgent time-wasters.
- Impact my social life. I avoid going out and doing things because I feel I “don’t have the time” and then when I do go I end up arriving late, leaving early and/or being distracted. Elephants keep me from being present in the present.
- Affect my relationships. Again, I am rushed and distracted. I don’t make time to enjoy time and be present with people. I have a poor response time on communications and commitments. I am both short on time and emotional energy. I am moody and anxious.
Elephants in the “room of my life” and “taking up headspace” is a much more serious matter than I thought when I started.
Within the first few months I was also learning that:
- Not every idea that I have needs to be done now.
- Not every idea that I have needs to be done by me.
- Not every idea that I have actually needs to be done at all.
- I have a fear of “missed opportunities” and I need to be aware and proactive to not allow that to create more elephants, pressure and stress in my life.
- I have to “feed the good wolf.” There are different versions of the good dog/bad dog or good wolf/bad wolf story (here’s just one), but the point of them all is that whichever one you feed is the stronger. With every decision, small and large, you are either strengthening or weakening your will, character, etc.
- There’s a monkey living in my brain who likes instant gratification. Tim Urban wrote a post regarding procrastination on his Wait But Why blog and when I came across it (as well as the follow-up post on how to beat procrastination), I was able to make so much more sense out of how my brain has been working and how I ended up with so many elephants up there!
- It’s really all about continual progression. I’ve made note of this idea before (here and here), but I still need reminded of it quite often. Not everything is instant. It happens step by step and I must keep going forward. It’s true of defeating elephants, it’s true of of taming monkeys and not only is it true of feeding “the good wolf”, it is also how that feeding/strengthening happens.
So as my year progressed, it felt as though I had a whole analogous zoo in my head – elephants and wolves and a very ornery monkey. And when November 1st hit and I began to panic, the first thing God whispered to me was, “one day at a time.”
One day at a time.
One elephant at a time.
Every day on(ward).
In the four weeks since then, I’ve made some new discoveries…
- Getting rid of all the elephants should not be my end goal. Of course I want the elephants gone. But it’s not simply to be “free” of elephants. It is to create margin, opening up a new way of living to achieve other purposes (and prevent future elephants).
- Prayerfully creating a tangible list of why I want the elephants gone and why margin is important to me will help me to refocus and regain momentum I gradually lost in the tediousness and magnitude of my elephant-slaying tasks. I’m still working on that one…
- It’s really okay that all the elephants won’t get defeated this year.
Actually, maybe they will…
No, I don’t mean I’m going to get 36 projects done in the next month. I’m not even going to try.
But just because a task or project is yet undone doesn’t mean the elephant hasn’t been defeated.
See, as I spent time again today in prayer over these remaining elephants, reviewing and sorting them again, I realized that a half dozen of them are part of the reasons why I’m working towards margin. They aren’t really elephants anymore so much as end goals and priorities. Nearly another half dozen began as elephants because of the head and heart space and “do it now/soon!” pressure they had in my life but now I have them recorded into my tea dreams notebook and they no longer carry that urgency or weight.
The remaining elephants have been divided into three categories:
- Tasks I’d like to get done before Christmas. There are 6 of these, most of which are directly related to Christmas gifts (which are still going to be white elephant gifts this year).
- Tasks I’d like to get done before Epiphany. (I’d say the New Year, but that’s a tight squeeze and the extra days off will help.) Another half dozen, these are “clean up” tasks mostly related to all the purging I’ve been doing of my things this year and preparing for next year (like a budget for 2015, though that was never an elephant to begin with)…
- Projects to tackle this winter and with spring cleaning. 2015 may be the “Year of Completion” but I won’t think on that too much yet. The point is, I’m at a place where these elephants are looking more like simple projects again and they don’t all have to be done at once. The bulk of them (which are the oldest and most head-space weighty of my elephants) are something I can work on in the winter months and that is what I plan to do.
So it’s not really that the “Year of the Elephant” saw me valiantly defeating six dozen or more elephants.
Because I didn’t.
There’s still stuff yet to do on this path of creating margin and space to live and breathe in my life.
The Year of the Elephant hasn’t been successful because of all the work I was doing, but because of all the work which God has been doing in me.
So much more of hearing my Father’s voice.
So much more of turning to Him a little more, a little faster.
So much more of hearing Him a little more readily, a little more clearly.
So much grace.