Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sustained Effort

To my son Tommy,

Taking a small break from cleaning this morning to write to you.  You see even when the woman is away we have to maintain some semblance of order and cleanliness.  When it comes to cleaning or just "doing" about anything,  I hope you learn how from your Bwam-ma Eileen.  She has a work ethic that is unsurpassed and that all who meet her can only hope to strive for.  Here is some lessons I have garnered from watching her example.

If you see something needs doing, DO IT!  Don't talk about, don't ask someone else if they want you to do it.  Just go over and get it done.  House a mess, start straightening; Dishes in the sink, start washing; Room needs to be painted, start painting; whatever needs to be done, start doing if you know how and if you can.

If you are doing something, you don't even have to get it perfect or right.  Just do something.  Say you have a bunch of toys spread out, if I straighten them and put them in the wrong bag, drawer, bucket, or chest...oh well they are no longer out. Don't get me wrong, if you can do it right the first time take the extra time and effort to do so.  The poorest excuse is I did nothing because I wasn't sure I could do it right.  Perfectionism is said to run in the family but some use it to strive to do something perfectly, some get caught up in doing things over and over again till it is perfect, and some use it as a "get out of jail free" card for skipping work saying "If I can't do it perfect why do anything".  If you end up with the obsessive compulsive trait of perfectionism, harness it to strive for excellence (or at least better than the last time) each time you do something, not to excuse work nor to repeat the same work over and over.

If you are working on a task, don't stop till it is done.  Not done enough, not only a few task stragglers left, don't stop till it is complete.  If you take a break (like I am now) make sure you get back to it as soon as the breaks over.  The "don't stop" lesson is not to feed the OCD perfectionism, because you don't have to go till it is perfect.  Set a task goal and go till that is done.  Today for example, I looked around the living room and said "Man I need to clean" so instead of making the task clean till this room is clean, I picked an area and worked it till done and then moved on to the next area.  Consequently I have completed 6 tasks today each one working to the ultimate goal or direction.  But I need to keep going back and a new task that helps to achieve the ultimate goal.  Don't just do one area and say "I have done enough" keep going,  This is one example of sustained effort that can accomplish great things in your life.

If you did something yesterday, do it again tomorrow and the day after.  It is called routine and chores and it takes something that can pile up and become a huge job and makes it manageable.  I hope one day to bring you to see some awesome sites in nature like the Grand Canyon which was created by erosion.  This example of sustained effort is just like erosion.  You hit a hard granite rock day in and day out with a couple drops of water, you can groove a hole right into that rock.  If you take a goal and keep doing something towards it each day then you will make great strides in the ultimate goal.

Doing something is much like exercising or weight lifting or practicing a sport.  You have to keep at it because any prolonged break wipes out your previous efforts.  You have to keep challenging yourself to add a little extra, be it another minute on the run, an extra 2 pounds on the bar, or adding in cleaning the windows to the daily chore list.  As you continue it gets easier and builds upon itself.  When you start lifting weights lets say you can press 100 pounds and it is difficult. After a couple months you can lift 150 and if you go back to the 100 pounds it seems light as a feather.   As you start cleaning, it seems overwhelming just to straightening.  After doing it day after day, most of the straightening happens automatically and after a couple months you can straighten, dust, vacuum, swifter, or whatever in the same amount of time.  You get better and better at it.

The only lesson I think your grandmother doesn't excel in is enlisting others and demanding they do their fair share.  She hopes that they, like her, just realize things need doing and start doing.  Instead she should be telling us, "You do this, you do this, and you do this" and not doing it or re-doing it when we slack but demand we do it till it is right.

Back to cleaning.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

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