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Dare You to Stop.

By Tiffany Monhollon

Every day, every moment, it surrounds us. Online, in person, on our phones; groups, events, opportunities; shows, movies, magazines, literature. We live in a truly saturated world. There’s more for us to do than we could ever think to fill our lives with.

My DVR alone is a great example. Only a few weeks into the new TV season, and I already have so many unwatched shows recorded I have to delete some each day to make room for the new ones. I don’t even have room enough for all of one distraction in my life. That should probably tell me something.

But here’s the problem: it can be such great stuff. Interesting people. Cool ideas. Groundbreaking programming. Globe-crossing networking. State-of-the-art toys. Thoughtful remarks.

It’s so good, we forget sometimes. I forget. It’s easy to ignore, really. But some of it is just stuff. Stuff that nevertheless fills our lives. Keeps us going so close to 24/7 there’s a sleep crisis in our nation. Solidifies “busy” as the best summary status update for a generation. Keeps us from ever stopping long enough to really get to know ourselves along the way. Or did you never wonder where the term “quarterlife crisis” came from?

So here it is. A simple dare. Three steps you should take now, before you do anything else. Before you sign up for grad school, move, get married, get a new puppy, change jobs. Before you start a new book, plan a weekend getaway, turn on the tube. Do it now before something else distracts you.

But be warned. It could take longer than you think. Especially if you do it right.

1. Stop.
Seriously. Stop. Remove the clutter. Shut out the extra voices, distractions, obligations. Strip down to what really matters. This is no small task. It can take days, weeks, months to really tear down all the physical and mental things we put in place to occupy our time, our minds, our days. Find the really necessary things, and boil yourself down to only them. It takes courage to do this. It’s a risk. You may turn some people off. You may lose a few friends (or readers). That’s ok. It’s only for a time. But it may be the most important time of your life.

The reason it’s important to stop is that it creates a sense of silence that is rare these days. But it’s critical. It may not be a physical silence. But if it is, that’s great too. Because silence is difficult. It forces us to really think. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Listen.
First, listen to yourself. Not to the pressures, the obligations, or even the people who typically surround you. Just listen to you. Find a physically quiet place, a place you can be yourself, and talk to yourself. Out loud if you need to. Write. Meditate. Draw. Question. Listen in every way you can. Tap into your emotional core. Don’t worry, it’s still there. Even if it’s hard to hear at first.

What are your emotions trying to tell you? About work, life, friends, priorities? Spend time connecting with your real thoughts and dreams. You might realize they’ve changed but your habits and paths haven’t. Or you might realize they’re the same but you’re going through the motions, making no real progress at all.

Then, when you think you’ve heard it all, Keep listening. Don’t miss something deeper just because you’re in a hurry to get back to your obligations. Rediscover your voice if you’ve lost it. Claim your own story.  As long as it takes, listen.

Then, listen to what’s around you. First, the people. Your spouse, friends, family. Listen to their energy, their insights. Spend time talking, eating, connecting. Then, listen to the things you do, your obligations, your motions, your distractions. See them for what they are. Some will be valuable. Some won’t. Weigh them. Think. Then, you’ll be ready for the next part.

3. Move.
Daring to stop won’t do you any good if it keeps you from ever moving again. Listening won’t help if you don’t act on what you hear. So take what you heard in the silence and figure out how you want to move within your life. Become intentional about your time. Every day.

This is the most important step. Because it’s about claiming your story, your future, your passion, your now. It’s about re-engaging in the active process of living a fulfilled life and turning your back on the distracted, going-through-the-motions habits, the grass-must-be-greener mentality.
Still, so many people skip this step and miss out. Because it’s hard to change. Hard to move. Maybe even harder than it is to stop. But the work pays in dividends.

So dare to stop, and let your emotion create the motion that defines your life. Live a life that matters. Now, today. Don’t wait.

Stop simply doing. Find what moves you. Do what moves you. Repeat.

By Tiffany Monhollon | October 1, 2008

Topics: Learning, Life, Personal Development, Productivity, Success |

12 Responses to “Dare You to Stop.”

  1. Ryan Stephens Says:
    October 2nd, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    I was starting to worry about you. Evidently you hadn’t stopped long enough to blog in awhile.

    All those shows on your DVR don’t matter, but Fringe (and maybe House, Heroes, and Dexter) … trust me, you can get rid of everything else.

    The only time I seem to stop and breathe is during some meals, and then I try to ensure I either throw some weights around or go for a long run every week night. Though I’m technically moving more than usual, it’s my best time to think and re-evaluate.

    Hope all is going well Tiffany. Good to see you up and blogging!

  2. Tiffany Monhollon Says:
    October 2nd, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Hey, Ryan - I definitely have some Fringe and House to catch up on, but I actually think it’s a good sign that I am out of DVR space - it means I’ve been taking my own advice and letting go of some of the extra things that don’t really matter, slowly but surely.

    As far as my long blogging hiatus, it wasn’t about not stopping long enough to blog. It was stopping everything, all the extras, so I could find a place without the noise so I could re-focus and listen to myself. Not to my blog. Not to my readers. Not to any distraction, even outside of blogging. To examine why I am doing all the extra things I am, what potential they have (or if they have any - most TV shows, no, blogging, definitely) so I can align my actions with what I really want instead of just doing out of obligation.

    When blogging became an obligation, it lost all its joy, and I needed to just let it go for a while, so I could look at it for what it is and reclaim it. Does that make any sense? That was just one area I really examined, but that’s the point. The need to stop and ask why, and is this worth it, instead of just plugging through.

    Life is better when you truly embrace all the things you do. :)

  3. Rebecca Says:
    October 2nd, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Good timing Tiffany! I needed this today :) I think I’ve been stopped, but I don’t know how to move forward because I’m not sure what I want. I agree that’s the most difficult because sometimes what you want seems so big and large…

  4. Tiffany Monhollon Says:
    October 2nd, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    @ Rebecca - It took me a while to realize that I needed to be intentional about my stopping. For a while I was so busy, sort of unplugged, on stall, by default, and that was making me feel worse.

    So, I decided to try to embrace it in the last few weeks, stop a few more things, force myself into relative silence. I kept wondering, when will I figure this out? I sat down about ten times to try to write this post, because I could sense what I was feeling, but I was still not able to tune into myself.

    Then, on Sunday, it hit me. I tapped in, finally, and heard clearly what I was trying to tell myself. It was so clear, it was almost startling, but it was refreshing, to hear my own voice again. The process of getting there took longer than I thought it would, and honestly, it’s no magic bullet - I still have to balance every day, and I’m choosing an intentional life rather than a haphazard one, so it’s a little more work mentally, but it’s worth it.

  5. Genlisae Says:
    October 3rd, 2008 at 2:45 am

    Wow! and thank you.

    This is exactly what has been going on for me, the constantly driven “keep busy no matter what” sensless routine. Only I really have no good reason for it aside from to distract myself from what really needs to be dealt with.

    It hit me late lastnight (this morning) when a nasty flu finally drug me to a screaching halt and I was awake alone in a quiet house for the first time in … forever, that all of this “make work” was getting me no where, in fact it was detrimental. I have lost touch with my 7 year old daughter. My priorities need realigning, someday should never take the place of today and a million other self depreciating thoughts that went through my mind. Only I had no idea where to start and found myself dropping right back into the “keep busy” distractions this afternoon.

    Then I read your article, and it is so simple. Just stop. The voice in my head that keeps screaming about all of the “important” things that need to be done NOW can’t possibly know what really is important until I take time to drop everything and figure out what really is important! Then it is welcome to go right back to screaming, but this time about the things that really are important.

    Thanks again. Your shockingly simple eye opener was desperately needed.

  6. Tiffany Monhollon Says:
    October 3rd, 2008 at 2:51 am

    @ Genlisae - I can’t tell you how fulfilling it is to know that what I’ve learned through these struggles also hits the mark with others. So thank you so much for sharing.

    It is interesting how sometimes, as hard as we work to keep going nonstop, life sometimes brings us to a screeching halt. I think that is really hard for us to deal with sometimes, because we’re so unaccustomed to it. We aren’t comfortable with silence or inaction. We become guilt-ridden, which only makes things worse. So I’m so thankful you are going on this journey, too.

    Thanks again for sharing.

  7. Liz Says:
    October 3rd, 2008 at 4:51 am

    Confession: A part of me really wishes you’d somehow worked your three points out to be “Stop. Collaborate. And Listen.” But we can’t have everything we want, I suppose, just know that there are not enough blog entries that make reference to Vanilla Ice, and too many blog entries that don’t make reference to Vanilla Ice.

    Otherwise, spot-on Tiffany. I was just in Guatemala and consciously didn’t watch any T.V. news if I could help it, (even though most of our hotels had CNN), avoided teh tubes almost entirely, and only checked my E-mail once during the two weeks I was there. That was seriously the best thing I could have done … I can’t even believe how calm it made me (of course, being surrounded by wonderful, warm people and gorgeous volcanoes probably didn’t hurt either!), and how coming back to bad news about my job going away was probably less horrible than it would have been had I not had those 10 chaos- and electronic noise-free days.

    And now as I find myself forcefully thrust into deciding on new directions, I realize the need to stop again, and listen, because which way I’m going to go with this thing is not entirely clear to me yet …

  8. Lauren Says:
    October 8th, 2008 at 9:58 am

    I have been following your blog for a little while, and missed it! Your pause from blogging though is something very admirable. I recently took time to follow your steps and have been enjoying myself immensely! Being more deliberate in one’s actions brings self-awareness… what is really important to you?

    Last year I realized that my previous job was not part of the what’s important, and I am now spending more time focused on exploring my interests and relationships.

    Congratulations on your “Stop” and I’m curious on what you’ve decided to continue moving with again.

  9. Tiffany Monhollon Says:
    October 8th, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    @ Liz - That cracks me up!

    It is amazing how stepping outside of our culture can help facilitate this process of reflection. Illustrates the point that our particular world is particularly distracting and saturated.

    @ Lauren - Thank you so much for your kind words. Being deliberate is wonderful, but man, it’s a lot of work! I’m still in the process of defining the moving. Many things I’ve been juggling, and I’m trying to realign myself with what I truly value. Don’t worry, this blog is on the priority list!

  10. Daniel Says:
    October 13th, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    It is too complicated, Tiffany. But I think with the help of your post I will manage to stop for thinking, listening and underlining the major things in my life that are really valuable for me and my business.

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