Giving yourself and others more time, room, and grace may actually be a more efficient route to meeting goals. It sounds counter-productive, I know. Just hear me out.
Running is my outdoor classroom. Man, things become clear in that span of time. I should explain something. I'm kind of...intense. My interior dialog can sound like the commentary of a reality tv show audience. Critical, nit-picky and cruel. Everything I do begins with hard, fast goals and high expectations that I must meet or else. It is a daily practice for me to find a space between the excellence I know I am capable of, and the humbling acknowledgment of my limitations. In that space, everything grows, the quality of my work, my relationships...ME.
Today's run taught me a few things.
Giving Grace Renews Energy
My hard and fast goal is to run three miles and average between 8-9 minutes per mile. It is pretty grueling. Constantly looking at the clock for my time, calculating my distance with landmarks, and scolding myself, "You can run faster. You're already behind. Why do you want to stop? You have no endurance."
Today, I didn't feel like all that so I thought, "What does a run that is good enough look like?"
I said to myself, "Hey, let's just get some exercise today. Just run a good mile and a half, and see how you feel."
I got to running and saying hello and enjoying the whoosh of the wind in my ears and looking at how the trees form a perfect canopy and how romantic would some little twinkling lights be on this trail at night and ooh look some new businesses are coming on 11th street I wonder if we'll finally get a Madewell.
I looked up and realized I'd run three miles. I don't know my time; I did sprint the last few hundred meters out of sheer joy. Grace gave me more energy to go farther and faster than before.
Grace Creates Room For Growth
While I was running, I thought about the last time I'd received grace. I tell the stories of Houston artists who are changing the world as a writer for Arts + Culture Texas Magazine. This summer, a piece was due and I realized the deadline coincided with our drive back to Houston from Los Angeles. I freaked out. I do not like late stuff. The inability to meet a deadline is a big personal no-no. You can be late in delivering to me, oh sure. But I cannot have you waiting on me.
So, I thought through it and said, there is no way I can bring my best to this piece without more time. I took a deep breath and asked my editor, Nancy, for more time. Inwardly, I braced myself for my own inner critic to go crazy.
It's important that you pause here and think about every stereotype of a magazine editor we see in the movies. Cold, blunt, unyielding. Ok now throw out all of that. Nancy's laid-back communication style, savory feedback and gentle honesty is life-giving. Her edits make me a better writer; her approach, energy and generosity help me grow as a person.
She was more than fine with flexing the deadline. All that breathing and visualizing and email crafting was unnecessary.
And guess what? Her grace removed the stress that comes with a fastly-approaching deadline. I finished that article with plenty of time to spare, and spent the overflow making improvements that I really liked. It was better work because I asked for more time, and got it.
Grace Grows My Executive Function
Full-time entrepreneurship gives you such clear vision on how much of a luxury time is. I collaborate and interact with people who are staff members of large corporations, churches, and organizations and I am so intrigued by how slow the wheels move sometimes. When your income and your time are inextricably linked, you become very conscious of not spending too much of either. It takes a few times to over-invest and have to eat the lesson to get a good grasp on what is essential and generative.
After realizing that I was over-efforting on one of my social media platforms, I gave myself some grace. I asked myself, "What if you re-invested the time it takes to post, obsessively check, engage and scroll in something that gave you more joy?" That would be writing. Here. Now.
I learned recently that people who I haven't seen or spoken to in years are reading my posts and feel very encouraged. One person commented that a mini-practice I shared nourished her soul. That's a hell of a "like" isn't it? Grace-giving shifted my focus to a better and more enriching way to work.
One of my yoga teachers, Mallory at Big Power Yoga quotes her husband saying, "Slow is smooth and smooth is fast." Slowing down to give grace smooths out the rough patches and gets us where we deeply, truly want to be--faster.
Take a deep breath and consider the following questions:
How can I give myself a graceful break today?
Where can I give myself more time?