The tortoise and the hare children’s fable is familiar. The hare opens with a sprint and uses his speed and agility to race the tortoise believing that his unique ability will lead to sure victory. The tortoise’s abilities lie in moving through the race at the only pace he has, slow. Because the hare uses all his energy to get ahead in the beginning, it’s his required rest that ends up causing him to lose the race. The moral is “slow and steady wins the race”.
Life in the 20th century seems to need both sprint and steady
to accomplish the demands we have as couples.
Mike and I find huge value in pacing ourselves by planning the known sprints and building in the margin between them. We also plan for times of rest between sprints to rejuvenate our relationship and our souls.
FLOW OF LIFE
Our work, church and family life have a different flow each year. Mike works in his counseling practice weekly and then plans times of couple’s intensives, teaching plus continuing education he needs for his practice. I have demands in my full-time job with a financial firm, that are more date and project-driven. At the beginning of each year, we sit down with our calendars and plan at least 4 mental/physical breaks outside of the observed holidays. Most years, the Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year holiday rush feels more like a sprint and less like a holiday.
Our mental/physical breaks may be a true vacation for a week, or they can be as simple as just not planning anything for a long weekend and letting our need for extra rest and disconnect drive our schedule for those 3 days. Honestly, for me to really unplug, I need different surroundings so even going to a local hotel will help me unwind and feel free of our daily patterns.
These breaks also induce permission to just be tired. On a recent 3-day trip with good friends, an afternoon nap seemed the perfect addition for some extra rest. Mike and I always say that driving out of the county kickstarts a mind decompression and reconnection for us as a couple.
WHAT ARE YOUR SPRINTS?
During the year, we have times of known sprints that may include, helping family move, big projects at work, teaching classes and trips for educational purposes. Then there are those unexpected sprints that we all have. A broken water pipe that floods half the downstairs and requires weeks or months for insurance claims and repairs. Sudden health issues requiring multiple doctor or surgeon visits. Perhaps even hospital stays. Even the increased responsibilities of leading a small group or working with a team on an event can turn into way more than we bargained for. The list could go on forever. Just think about the last time you thought, “Wow, I had no idea this was going to be so complicated and take so much time.”
SPRINT (Webster’s) – An act or short period when you must run at full speed.
SPRINT (Dawson) – The period where you must put extra effort into planning and self-care
to make sure that you’re up to the mental/physical demands.
HOW TO FIND MARGIN FOR REJUVENATION
Life will run at full throttle if we let it. There are ways to slow the pace and live in the moment instead of anticipating all the next steps. As I mentioned, one way we do this is by planning an annual calendar and plotting times of sprint and non/sprint. I’m a visual person and if I can see a 12- month calendar and where our concentration of effort will be required, then it’s so much easier to see where we need to take breaks.
We print out a 12-month calendar and block dates. I can’t do this on my phone because I can’t see the big picture so a full year on one page is helpful. We also project out to the following year for special events and trips.
It’s so important to do this planning as a couple so you can support each other in times of planned and unplanned sprints.
Recently, we had a sprint with Mike’s health. Completely unexpected and thankfully now resolved. But our entire schedule had to shift to support the additional doctor, hospital visits and care he needed. I moved into main caretaker of the home, yard, dog, and family plus continued my usual schedule at work and serving with our church. This was an unexpected sprint for us both that lasted about two months. Not on the calendar! Plus, one of the unanticipated results of sprints like this is that those important non-negotiable tasks and projects that were planned during these two months now must be relocated into other open slots in our calendar.
FINDING UNEXPECTED MARGIN
Michael Hyatt, leadership mentor, has a great way of setting up an ideal week to discover how tasks and projects can be grouped to make execution more efficient. Great way to find some margin.
One way we create margin is by asking God what we really need to be doing now? Sometimes there are good opportunities to serve others, advance our education or begin new friendships but now may not be the time. Good opportunities don’t always mean the best opportunities. But to figure this out we must consult God through prayer and times of mediation to discern what is best.
Mike and I both have personal relationships with God. We wholeheartedly believe that taking time daily to pray and seek His will for our lives, is the most important way to find the margin needed for the best things. We all want to live an abundant life, full of love, friendships, and opportunity. God has promised this if we seek Him first.