Don’t sweat the ‘chisai mono’

By on October 31, 2012
In our world, August and September are usually slow from a work perspective. Many clients postpone sessions due to holidays or because they are busy ramping their families up for fall. This year was a different story.  We were blessed to have a large influx of new clients itching to get started and ramp up in July and August, rather than wanting to slow down for the summer. While we are always excited to start working with new people, it did tax our resources as we had two vacations and lots of fun summer evening and weekend activities planned with friends and family.

As August rolled on, I found my stress level rising despite all of the time off we were taking. Part of the work I do with clients in helping them to better manage their time and energy is around understanding priorities, so as soon as I realized our client load had increased beyond our expectations for the summer I began postponing non-critical items, cancelling meetings, and reducing my commitments as much as possible. What I hadn’t done, I realized, was to reduce my expectations of myself.

Despite outwardly re-prioritizing and de-committing, inwardly I was feeling a bit guilty for doing so. I felt bad for postponing meetings for the third, fourth and sometimes fifth times. I worried that I would be seen as unprofessional by other members of a networking group I belong to because I had missed the last three meetings due to being out of town. I was stressed because my regular house-cleaning routine had been neglected. (I had decided beach picnics were more of a priority than clean floors, but was still letting the dirty floors bother me.) In short, I was most definitely sweating the small stuff!

One day at the beach with our kids, a friend made the offhand comment that I seemed pretty stressed for someone who was taking so much time off. As I sat there on the gorgeous beach watching our kids frolic in the water I suddenly realized how I was really not present to that moment. I was so busy in my head thinking about all of the stuff that I was going to need to get to “sometime” that I wasn’t even enjoying the choices I had made to put all of that off in favor of enjoying the summer as much as my client workload would allow. I was reminded of a Zen parable about two monks walking through the woods. At one point, the parable goes, the monks came upon a beautiful woman in distress because she could not cross a stream without getting her kimono wet. Without a thought, the older monk picked her up and carried her across the stream. The woman went along her own path and the monks continued along theirs.

Several hours later, the younger monk, obviously stressed, berated the older monk saying, “Brother, I can’t believe that you picked up that woman and carried her across the stream. This goes against our vows of celibacy to not have any contact with the opposite sex.”

“Brother,” the older monk replied, “I only held her for a few moments as I lifted her across the stream. You have been carrying her the whole afternoon.”

From that point on, I vowed to be more aware of truly letting go of the things that I had chosen to put on the back burner so that I could be fully present to enjoy the choices I had made in the moment. I am definitely doing much better, but every once in a while I catch myself carrying a heavy load of expectations and have to take a few moments to unburden myself.

As you enter into the busy-ness of fall, I encourage all of you to look at your values, choose your priorities carefully, and above all, to let go of the things you did not choose so that you can savour the ones you did.

Andrea Jacques, founder of Kyosei Consulting International, has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of individuals and organizations worldwide. Five of these years were spent in Japan where the core philosophies of her work on the relationship between passion, performance and profits took shape.  A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work integrates leading eastern and western thought with top-tier leadership, engagement, wellness and sustainability consulting to build the capacity of people and business to thrive. Her clients represent a diverse cross-section of industries including banking, retail, government, insurance, academia and high-tech. She can be contacted through her website at www.kyoseicoaching.com

About Andrea Jacques

Andrea Jacques is the founder of Kyosei Consulting and the author of Wabi-Sabi Wisdom: Inspiration for an Authentic Life (available on Amazon.com). She has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of people and businesses worldwide, five of which were in Japan. A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work helps individuals and organizations build thriving, purpose-driven cultures where employees know their work truly matters. Learn about career and entrepreneur coaching programs (and download some free tools for meaningful work and living your purpose) at www.kyoseicoaching.com or their workplace transformation programs at www.kyoseiconsulting.com