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Several days ago, I woke feeling refreshed. For a few moments, I let the sleep fade from my mind and reflected on my open day ahead. Ahhh! No appointments! What a great feeling. For a moment, I imagined everything I could choose to do.
Then, without meaning to, I remembered something I hadn’t had time to do the day before. My mind started running in front of me. A few other projects popped into my head. When did we need to get the new client proposal out? Did I remember to get a hotel for my trip next week? When will I have time to review the analytics from our latest Google Ad buy?
I did something I usually never do first thing in the morning: I reached for my phone. Most of the time, I don’t even allow my phone to enter my bedroom, but for some reason I had placed it next to my bed the night before. I grabbed it instinctively and opened my email.
My distraction turned to growing stress as I read messages that came in the night before. My to-do list seemed to grow as my open time seemed to shrink, right before my eyes — all before I had left my bed. I went downstairs, poured a big cup of coffee, and sat down my laptop. In my mind, my open day had become a crowded schedule of obligations and tardy tasks. I felt pressured to get at it — whatever “it” was.
I was already lost in plans when my youngest son, Danny, walked into the room holding a piece of paper. He was getting ready for his second full day of school for the year. He looked bright and fresh. He smelled like a good shower.
I was about to dismiss him with a cursory “good morning” when he literally put a piece of paper directly on my laptop keyboard. He said, “I want you to have a drawing I made yesterday.” His enthusiasm broke through my growing stress.
I looked up. “Aw, thanks champ. What is it?”
“Well,” he said in his run-on, enthusiastic way of talking, “it’s a hero pulling a sword out of a stone on a hill and behind him a monster is growing.”
I looked at our brave knight. The monster behind the hero was round, orange, and kind of fuzzy. Before I could say anything, Danny noticed my expression and said, “Well, I was trying to draw a sunrise and make the picture all heroic and stuff and it didn’t work out. So I turned the sunrise into a monster. I made it for you.”
Bang! Instant perspective. In his one drawing, Danny had found the perfect metaphor for what I was doing. I had taken a perfectly good sunrise and with only a few thoughts created an imaginary monster from it.
My morning monster was all in my head.
Through intention, practice, and work with my amazing clients and my co-leader Jennifer, I’ve learned that if I can take a half-step back from my thoughts, the monsters that seem so stressful to me are mostly imagined. The difference is found in the space — listening to my own thoughts before I necessarily believe in what I’m telling myself.
I’ve learned that a few simple daily practices can help me create that space so I start the day more optimistic, less anxious, and more open.
I looked again at the picture and then looked back at Danny. “Aw champ, it’s great. I love it.”
He beamed at me. “But,” I asked, “I’ve got one question: Why a monster? I’m a little concerned that our hero is about to get chomped!”
“I don’t think so, Dad,” Danny said. “Take a look. I mean, the monster is smiling.”
Man I love that kid! My best wishes to you. May all your mornings be bright.