Growing Where You Are Planted... Again (or Practice Makes Better)
by Jamie Spannhake
August 30, 2020
The end of August is usually the time that my daughter and I travel somewhere. (In the photo, we are in Costa Rica.) During a "normal" year, summer camps have ended, and there are two and a half weeks before school starts. So we usually travel. Often we visit family in Mississippi, where I grew up. But this year, we aren't flying, and we aren't traveling to any states on the "do not travel" list for COVID, which includes Mississippi right now.
For me, travel is a way to feel "unstuck" when life gets routine. It gives me the sense of freedom that I long for in a life that is full of responsibilities. Don't get me wrong, I am super grateful that I still have a routine while many others are struggling with job loss and other challenges as a result of the pandemic, and my responsibilities to my family bring me much joy and happiness.
As a person who loves novelty, I crave change -- big and little. I've leapt from one career (actress) to a totally different career (lawyer). I've moved across the country: Mississippi to Seattle to New York City, having never even visited Seattle or NYC prior to moving there. I've left Big Law and started a solo practice. I've cut 12 inches off my hair at once without batting an eye. I used to joke that I always wanted to be that person who entered the coffee shop and said "I'll have my usual," but I don't have a "usual," and every time the barista says "the usual?" to me is the exact day that I've decided to try something new!
Now, with lots changing in the world around us, but little changing in our day-to-day as we still limit contact with others and "hunker down" for everyone's safety, I am feeling particularly restless. I've been thinking about ways to obtain that sense of freedom and change I crave without making big changes in "these uncertain times." (I know, I know, how many times have you heard that phrase? At least I didn't say "these unprecedented times"!)
As I was meditating today, it occurred to me that I addressed this very issue around this time last year: in July, to be exact. In "Grow Where You Are Planted," I wrote about this same sense of feeling "stuck" and how to deal with it when big change is not desirable or possible. I wrote that even if where you are "planted" is not ideal, you can still grow there -- grow where you are planted -- and I shared these ideas:
1. Change your daily routine. Wake up at a different time. Usually go to bed at 11 pm? Try going to bed at 10 and waking up an hour earlier so that your bedtime and morning routines are both different. Do things in a different order. Always shower when you wake up and go to the gym at lunch? Mix it up and work out in the morning before your shower and go for a walk at lunch. Try alternating tasks with other family members. You do the dishes and your partner mows the lawn? Switch for a month.
2. Look closely at your surroundings. There are often lots of interesting things to do, places to go, and people to meet that we overlook. Wishing you could travel to the far reaches of the world? Try spending time in a local community very different from your neighborhood -- try the foods, listen to the music, have fun. Feeling bored with the "same old same old"? Sign up for a class or activity you've never tried before.
3. Lean in to your job. Consider all the responsibilities of your job and focus on the parts you like. Create a plan to enable you to do more of those tasks and perhaps improve them even more. Double-down on your efforts and grow your career right where you are.
I must remember to follow my own advice!
It often happens to me that I am wrestling with an issue, and I suddenly realize, usually when my brain is in Default Mode, that I have already written about the very problem, and that I should take my own advice!
For example, it happened when I was wrestling with divorce, and again when dealing with my daughter's dyslexia diagnosis, when I recalled, printed out, and posted on my desk my own article, Five Ways to Manage Difficult Transitions.
Related Freebie: Download Printables for Mental Clarity (including Five Ways to Manage Difficult Transitions).
Which brings me to another point: this is exactly why the last chapter of my book The Lawyer, the Lion, & the Laundry is titled "Practice." Even when we know things, even when we can advise others, we still forget and we still need practice. In my book, I write:
When I’m not writing, I practice law. Lawyers don’t “do” law, they “practice” it. The reason is that the rules and circumstances change. So even if a lawyer knows “everything” there is to know, as the laws and facts continue to change, the lawyer must continue to learn and adapt and change her approach. This practice is necessary. The same is true of life, which continues to change so that we must continue to learn and adapt and change.
As you approach and incorporate all the tools, tips, and techniques in this book into your daily life, remember it is all practice. You will not get to a point one day where you can say, “Now I’ve done it. I don’t need to do this stuff anymore. I’ve accomplished it.” No, rather it will be a daily practice, and what works one year may not work the next because your circumstances — or even you — will have changed. You will adapt and continue to practice.
So, I will continue to practice. And I will follow my own advice: change my routine this week, travel somewhere close by soon and soak in those surroundings, and lean into my work. I will grow where I am planted, because where I am planted is pretty good.
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