When you read this title you might think I am off on a tangent about logging in the northwest United States with a point on the end, but I am looking at those log jams that get in the way of moving forward toward a goal that stays just out of reach. Ever since reading the new book I recently reviewed, Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath, I have been mulling over some of the things the author wrote about.
It seems there are books, blogs, and articles in abundance on how we get out from under what it is blocking our way or holding us down in some way or another, but the lists and ideas too often leave us without much understanding of the cause. We find ourselves reviewing symptoms instead of thinking upstream and gaining enough data to dissect what we need to address. Without such data we are guessing and taking random shots that may or may not hit what we need.
The problems we wrestle with consume a lot of time and energy so to fail to collect data and keep scrambling with hunches can keep us going in circles.
One of the things all of us often complain about is that we don’t have enough time. We don’t have enough time for a nourishing quiet time. We don’t have enough time to keep a regular exercise routine. We don’t have enough time to plan and prepare healthier meals. We don’t have enough time to make time to nurture our relationships.
But how many of us collect some data to actually see what is happening with those 24 hours of every day of a week? From personal experience making a log for a week can result in more than a few surprises if I am seriously owning the problem and being honest about each of those day’s precious minutes.
Yes, I know that sounds like a pain and it can be because I have done it, but that information will help you see what you can’t see without it.
One of the terms the author of Upstream wrote about is “inattentional blindness.” That term may be new to you so let me share Dan Heath’s (the author’s) definition:
“…inattentional blindness, a phenomenon in which our careful attention to one task leads us to miss important information that’s unrelated to the task.
Inattentional blindness leads to a lack of peripheral vision.”
As a result, we can get over focused and miss those things swirling around that are affecting more than just the task at hand. Logging our time can help us discover where inattention blindness might be the logjam or at least a part of the issue.
Time a precious gift and once we spend it, we can never get it back.
We read and see reminders all the time about things to help us get healthy. Ads abound for every conceivable device to help us exercise, but too often those devices sit there gathering dust. Maybe what some of us miss is that we do better at any kind of exercise if it is done with someone else. The conversation and fellowship help the time go faster and we soon have added up several miles while walking and talking.
Upstream thinking means we make whatever we choose to do with exercise a part of our calendars just like we do any other important commitment. For me that makes a difference. Recently my husband and I made a commitment to do more physical fitness together. At the end of a week we look at our calendars for next week and find two or three times we can to this together. Sometimes it means a walk on a Saturday morning after which we stop for breakfast. Sometimes we go to a new coffee shop. That decision to put things on the calendar works for us and gets rid of a logjam.
If we want to be healthy spiritually, what upstream thinking can help? And I will give you a hint that going to church is not going to get you very far, but what can help is that week’s log I mentioned early as well as insight into whether you are more of a morning person or an evening person.
Upstream decisions would also include determining a place where you go each day that will have all the things you need already waiting for you. For me that means one of my Bibles, a resource that might give me some insight into what passages I am reading, a journal, pen, post it flags, highlighter, and a coaster for a coffee cup. (My current favorite resource is How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour by Douglas Stuart and Gordon Fee.)
Life keeps inching forward and to get the most out of it in these and any other areas means gathering hard data and making some decisions and commitments that go on a calendar (likely on our phone).
What does that mean?
Making that inventory and decision means when life happens and hands us something tough to handle, we are more equipped. It also means that in the months and years ahead each day will be better. We can do that best with upstream thinking to “solve problems before they happen.”
As J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in The Lord of the Rings:
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”