Recently, my 12-year-old niece and namesake, Allison Anne, visited for a new family tradition: Camp Allison. My niece somehow inherited my crazed addiction to crafting – give us a hot glue gun, Modge-Podge or sewing pattern, and we can go for days…and we did! Three days, to be exact. The crafting began on Friday afternoon with painted jewelry, followed by decoupage candles, followed by sewing a bath wrap, followed by handmade purses, followed by rhinestone nail art with mall shopping thrown in for good measure. It was crazy, non-stop, crafting mania for all three days. So you might be wondering, “What does this have to do with the title?”
Allison Anne is incredibly bright, catches on in a nanosecond and is completely adept at multi-tasking at least 4 projects at once. She is certainly a product of our crazy-busy environment, and quite comfortable in it. When it was time to slow down and hand stitch the straps onto our purses, she hit a wall. Initially, Allison Anne found it frustrating to only focus on one task. As her mind wandered, her needle and thread would snag or knot. As soon as she regained her focus, the sewing was once again stable.
Observing my niece in this process was fascinating. After a few minutes of single-focus concentration, she began to relax and even commented on how surprised she was to enjoy the “luxury” of only doing one thing at a time. We both found the process to be very soothing and comforting. What a profound idea – when is the last time you indulged in the luxury of only concentrating on one task or event at a time?
It occurred to me that even our family vacation or relaxation time is often crammed full with too many activities, and we come home more exhausted than when we left. Has that ever happened to you? If so, it’s time to indulge in a little CPR for the soul with “luxury time” for yourself. What do you really enjoy that you don’t feel you have the time for or deserve to do? Is it reading a good book? Watching a movie or sporting event? Working outside in the garden or garage? Taking a nap?
In my recent book, Upside – How to Zig When Life Zags!, this soul rejuvenation is crucial for developing resilience and flexibility – renewing and re-energizing your spirit is necessary, not just a “luxury.” I had powerful examples growing up: my mom read for 30 minutes every day while she had her tea. We were discouraged from interrupting her (unless bodily injury was involved!) and her role modeling gave me permission as an adult to set aside personal time as well.
These days, that “guilt-free” personal time is harder to find and even schedule, yet it is critical to our well being and reducing stress. When you find your stress escalating, temper flaring or spirit plummeting, take a few minutes and just focus on one task or action at a time for at least 5 minutes. You might be surprised how the “luxury” of slowing down can jumpstart your soul – one step at a time!
With a career spanning two decades, Allison Blankenship is the go-to person for developing and implementing new ideas, strategies and start ups. After being both downsized and laid off, overcoming cancer and qualifying for food stamps, Allison has developed survival skills that have allowed her to adapt and thrive. She uses her vast experience as well as her award-winning communication skills to teach people how to perform under pressure. She has co-authored three books on leadership, productivity and communications, plus multiple audio series.
Allison’s message of “The not-known is the new normal” is hitting a nerve. Individuals and organizations are seeking innovative ideas and flexible tools to excel in a rapidly changing, uncertain and often unstable future. What worked last year or even last month is no longer valid. People need new critical thinking skills to navigate unexpected change and create sustainable success. Her latest book is Upside: How to Zig When Life Zags (Collage Books, 2010) co-authored with Bonnie Michaels, and it’s creating a buzz both in the boardroom and on the bus.