How To Be A Dragonslayer

For some of us, the new year is also a new professional journey.

No one can tell you what’s ahead and that’s part of what’s exciting, but it’s also what’s scary. You wonder how you will battle the dragons ahead or handle the sea monsters that you can’t quite see, but that you know are there. Those monsters that regularly attack in the way of procrastination, inertia, and distraction.

Part of the journey is preparing for those monsters by having a plan for their attack or weapons to fight them. Every great story shows the heroes readying themselves for battle, whether it’s with a sword that turns blue for Orcs or a wooden stake to take down the Big Bad.

Taking inventory of your weapons, preparing yourself for the road ahead is a good practice. Verses that have been with me since childhood ask me to count the cost to see if I have the resources to meet whatever is ahead.

It’s hard on those around you because they want you to stay the person that you were when you left. They were comfortable with the “before the journey” you. Often, families dread and resist their children going to college because of this. Sometimes neighborhoods can conspire to “keep you in your place” by embroiling you in drama.

The illustration of crabs in a bucket is one I’ve used with my students because so many of them are the first to graduate from high school as well as being first for college. Your good fortune can threaten the status quo, so like crabs in a bucket, others may try to pull you down and hold you back.

                                             Image: Wonderlane/ CC BY 2.0

However, I often find that I’m the one pulling myself down. I give in to those dragons of inertia, distraction, and procrastination. But I’ve found that just like in fairy tales, dragons are defeated in threes. Here are three ways I’m going to prepare for the journey ahead this year:

  1. Exercise – It’s an old cliché off of Newton’s First Law of Motion, but that doesn’t make it less true: Bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. For me, this means making myself get 30 minutes of cardio that I actually will repeat without hurting myself or easy strength training in every day. I keep telling myself: Do the thing you can repeat tomorrow. What good will it do me if I hurt myself or do something so painful that I hate it and won’t ever do it again? To help me keep this promise to myself, I sweeten the deal by loading up on podcasts I can listen to while I walk – either in my neighborhood (getting in nature is good for you, according to science) or on my treadmill, or making a motivating playlist to listen to (here’s one I’m partial to).
  2. Meditate/pray – this is one of those practices that’s important, but not urgent, so I put it off. It’s not like my clothes get tight if I don’t regularly engage in a spiritual practice. But I notice my mood gets worse if I don’t. There’s tons of science behind mindfulness and gratitude practices, but for my mind, it helps quiet the anxious monkeys of mayhem who regularly howl inside my skull. There are all kinds of ways to meditate/pray/focus on gratitude, but here’s some free resources I’ve incorporated into my day:  a meditation app, an app for centering prayer, and a quick link to tools to help build a mindset of gratitude.
  3. The 20/20 – this is something I’ve adapted from several places to not only help my students manage their time and attention, but to help me do everything from get a Master’s degree to write a book. It’s pretty simple: get a timer, set it for 20 minutes. Work on something that you really need to finish, but that you’ve been dreading. You only have to do it for 20 minutes, so it’s not so bad. Most dental procedures take longer than this, so it’s really a bargain, time and suffering-wise. After the timer goes off, reset it for 20 more minutes and do something you really enjoy. But here’s the catch – when the timer goes off, you have to reset it and go back to work for 20 more minutes. Viola! You’ve done a good hour that shouldn’t feel like drudgery. On weekends, I repeat the cycle 2 or 3 times if I’m working on a project. During the weekday, I not only wake up an hour early and use it to write, but I also pack this strategy with me to get my work done in the office.

Post image: Unsplash/John Jackson

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