Monday, April 20, 2015

Release Your Gifts

This post is not about sharing your talents with the world, although that is a worthy topic.

Instead, I want to discuss the expectations we tend to attach to our gifts and the guilt that sometimes comes along with receiving gifts from others.

While helping others declutter, I often notice how reluctant people are to get rid of gifts, especially those given by relatives or that cost a lot of money.  Most of us are unsure what to do with these types of items.  Such gifts are not used and take up valuable space without adding any value to our lives.  In some cases, we cautiously re-gift or donate, hoping someone will be able to make good use of it.  But no matter the course of action, a pang of guilt usually comes along for the ride.

How do we make it go away?

Many times our guilt is self-imposed and unfounded.  We hold onto things because we want to spare the giver’s feelings and honor the resources they invested in the gift.  Sure, any giver would be delighted to know their gifts are of use.  But their goal was most likely to bless, to outwardly express their love and care.

Then there are those occasions when someone asks about the gift.  “I never see that _______ I got for you last year.  Where is it?” or “How come I never see you wear the ______ I got you?”  This scenario is one reason we are so resistant to get rid of gifts.

Maybe we should meditate on what it means to give.  

By definition, to give means 'to freely transfer the possession of something to someone.’  But do we really do this?  

True gifts do not have expectations attached to them.  True gifts are not bribes.  Once a gift is given, it is no longer attached to us and becomes the property of whom it was gifted.  The receiver now has the freedom to do whatever they wish with their gift.  No more guilt.

This is the hard part.  Especially when money, time, and energy are spent preparing a gift for someone, only to see that gift never used or go the trash can.

I do not always practice true giving.  In the past, I placed too much value on what people did with the gifts I gave them.  I equated my value with how useful or thoughtful a gift was to someone.  

And I was wrong.

I believe we need to adjust our thinking.  Yes, we do want our gifts to be meaningful and useful.  I think the trick is to find joy in the act of giving, not the result of giving.  Giving is an opportunity to share a bit of ourselves with others, willingly choosing to bless someone else instead of ourselves for a change.  If we are still concerned with what happens with our gifts, perhaps we need to reconsider what those gifts are.  Instead of physical possessions, we can focus on giving our time, sharing meals, contributing to worthy causes, and more.

Today, I am challenging myself to become a better giver.  One that has no attachments to their gifts.  One that actually believes it is the thought that counts.  I want to fully release my gifts to their recipients, with no expectations or obligations.  And I hope you do the same.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Fight to Finish

For the longest time, I thought I was a decent multi-tasker.

But recent research shows that we are incapable of multi-tasking.  At best, we are task-switching, performing each task less proficiently simultaneously than if we focused on each task individually.

Unfortunately, there is a side effect to "multi-tasking" that I still deal with today.

I forget to finish.

It starts with my to-do list.  I’m in a groove, say filing paperwork, until I get distracted.  This time it's a note reminding me to call someone.  I decide to immediately call instead of completing the paperwork.  During the phone conversation, we remember that I wanted to sign up for a new type of exercise class.  When I get off the phone, instead of going back to filing, I look up when the exercise class is offered at the gym.  But the calendar beeps about my next appointment and I do not register for the class.  By the time I return to my desk, I am stuck trying to finish all of the tasks I left undone.

Same thing happens at home.  I get home, start a load of laundry, pull out the ingredients for dinner, prepare for the next day, and so forth.  When I finally sit down to relax with a book, I realize I forgot to put the clothes in the dryer, tomorrow’s outfit isn’t ironed, and the leftovers are still out on the counter.

Maybe you understand my plight?

Yep, even organized people have habits to uproot.  Instead of leaving remnants of little projects and tasks almost complete, I should work do the task until it is done.  I have to fight to finish.  I battle to not be distracted by distractions.  I battle to stay focused when so many other things seem more urgent or more important than what I am doing at the moment.

Now, I know I was never a multi-tasker.  It costs us time and energy to go from one thing to another and back again.  Our quality of work suffers because we are not giving 100% to one thing, but 50% to a lot of things.  By halfway doing some things, we can fail to finish a lot of things.

Think back to a time when multiple people were talking to you at once.  Did you find it hard to focus?  Either you listened to one person and blocked out the others or you chose not to listen at all.  Our brains work best when focused.  If inundated with too many options, we get confused.  If we are over stimulated, we shut down.  If we are easily distracted, we leave things undone.

Remember that one of the key rules to being organized is to complete the task and put it back.  As I said then, it is so simple, yet elusive.  Starting today, I own my tendency to let distractions lead me astray and will work harder to stay focused.

How do you stay focused?  What habits or tips have helped you keep distractions at bay?  All ideas are welcome!