Trading the Sublime for the Mundane

Today at work I had big plans to take time and strategize for 2016. I like to use the end of the year to reflect on what went well, what didn’t, and how I can best set up my team for success in the new year. Plus, the week between Christmas and New Year is almost always quiet. Almost.

Because life is funny in a way that makes for a great rom-com conceit, the universe had different plans. Not surprisingly, I spent most of my brain cells dealing with two issues that needed my undivided attention for pretty much the whole day. With sadness, I deleted the four-hour block of time on my calendar that I had foolishly set aside in advance for strategery.

Life is life, and stuff happens. And any good improviser will tell you to take the unexpected turn of events you’re given and embrace the hell out of it. That’s the only way you ensure that the resulting end product is enhanced rather than diminished by your input.

But it got me thinking about how often we acquiesce — consciously or subconsciously — to trading the sublime for the mundane. Admittedly, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to articulate a cogent and inspiring vision for my team at the end of the workday. And frankly, I wouldn’t have had a clear perspective given my heightened blood pressure.

And although the mundane is important (and imperative in many cases), I’ve decided to challenge myself to find intentional time everyday to consider the big picture. I’m eschewing the idea that we always need four hours with flip charts and lots of smelly colored markers, although those “retreats” are sometimes necessary, especially for facilitating group dynamics.

I got a glimpse of the power of intentionality on my five-minute Starbucks run this afternoon. There, dodging the traffic of downtown Miami, my brain was away from my computer screen and given freedom to think. That change of scenery allowed me to disengage from the crises I was handling and gave me brain space to ask myself bold questions, brainstorm and shoot down ideas, and imagine the possibilities for the new year. (And yes, I talk to myself in public.)

I achieved a distinct moment of clarity and immediately jotted a few quick thoughts on my notes app. I’m sure nothing I typed was Nobel Prize-worthy; they were just a few words and ideas to mull over. But even if I didn’t get a chance to get back to them today, I’d like to think that I planted seeds that would eventually take root and blossom. At the very least, my moment of zen re-energized me and allowed me to handle my work crises with a more balanced perspective.

A while back I asked Twitter founder Jack Dorsey about one thing he does everyday to keep ideas brewing. Here’s how he responded:

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Lesson learned: While we may never truly escape the mundane, a few intentional minutes on the sublime — even on a coffee break — can be transformative.

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