When the Thoughtfully Fit book was published last year, I gave the first two copies to my parents.
My publisher had mailed me a box of books one month before the official release date. I remember how excited I was when they arrived! After everything they’d done for me, I knew I wanted to show my parents the finished product before anyone else.
Since her eyesight had deteriorated significantly and she was in so much pain from her cancer, I must admit I thought twice about giving my mom a physical copy of the book. I offered to download Audible on her phone so she could listen to it instead.
But my mom insisted she wanted to read the book herself, and she persisted for fifteen minutes each day until she had finished the whole thing.
Every week she was reading, she called me to say how a particular section had touched her. She told me she knew she needed to Pause more, but couldn’t quite find the right words for it in the way the Thoughtfully Fit core described. She thanked me.
An unexpected insight
Upon finishing the book, mom called me again.
“Darcy,” she said. “I’m surprised. I have to say, that wasn’t the book I thought you’d write.”
“Huh, why’s that mom?” I asked curiously.
“Your whole life, you’ve always been so disciplined and motivated. As early as seventh grade, you started training for the Junior Olympics! You’ve never been the sort of person who gives up on things easily.
So I thought your book would be all about grit or resilience. And while it was about that, there was so much more. I loved how you talk about the importance of slowing down. And being intentional about how you show up in your relationships.”
The value of Stillness
Today, as I was writing this blog post, I was thinking about what my mom said. And you know what, she’s right. This hasn’t been an easy lesson for me to learn. I’m a recovering workaholic. Only recently, in the year of playfulness, have I started to take weekends off (okay, well I try to anyway). Yes, I’m still a work in progress, even in my 50s.
Over and over again, my life has shown me the importance of Stillness, whether in coaching sessions or dealing with angry protestors storming the senator’s office.
With Thoughtfully Fit, my inspiration for mental fitness comes from my lifetime of physical fitness. If you’re training for a marathon, your muscles rebuild and grow stronger on your rest days. So it doesn’t matter how intensely you train: if you don’t rest, the only thing you’ll do is injure yourself (trust me, I learned this the hard way!).
One of my go-to rituals for Stillness is cutting vegetables. I know it sounds strange, but there’s something mindful about that simple, repetitive chopping motion. It gives me time to rest and sort out my thoughts between the challenges of running my business and parenting my teenage daughters.
America’s struggles with downtime
Many people I coach have their own difficulties with Stillness. There’s something about our culture that seems to say: “You should be working all the time, otherwise you won’t make anything of yourself!” As a country, we have some of the longest hours and least vacation time in the Western world. So we’re in “action” mode all the time, and then we get frustrated when we make suboptimal decisions while exhausted and on autopilot.
If we do Pause, it’s often to regret our previous actions. Or, perhaps, to go on our phone. But that’s not the type of Stillness I’m talking about here. It’s all about Pausing preemptively so you can Think and Act more thoughtfully.
Just as you need to warm up your body before you can work out effectively, you also need to exercise your core in the right order. You Pause, you Think and then you Act.
So why don’t you give it a try?
- Pause: The next time you feel overwhelmed, take a few moments to stop and reflect. You can always afford 5 minutes!
- Think: Allow your mind to wander. Don’t look for a solution; simply observe your thoughts as they come up.
- Act: Take the next mindful step, and be sure to schedule time for Stillness on a regular basis in future.
My mom died four months after I gave her a copy of Thoughtfully Fit. In her final month, she couldn’t read at all. I’m so incredibly grateful that she was able to read the whole book before passing. And for how she continues to inspire me, even now.