Does it count?

Have you ever told yourself, "Well, that doesn't count," when working toward a goal?

I’m fascinated about what we consider to "count" when we're keeping track of a goal or intention.  I hear this phrase, "that doesn't count" from clients regularly - so it might be something you're saying to yourself too.

When I was hiking the Appalachian Trail, the only miles I cared about were trail miles. I knew I had over 2000 miles to hike and I wanted to preserve every bit of my strength for hiking those miles.  During town stops, resupplying my food and doing laundry, I hated having to walk any distance further than I had to, because those miles "didn't count." I remember at the time thinking this was so silly, how my mind only saw the trail miles as worthy and valuable. If I wasn't careful, this line of thinking would keep me from taking a half mile detour to a beautiful overlook. Eventually I learned to appreciate miles that "didn't count" when there was something beneficial to me, whether it was an ice cream stand or a waterfall just off the trail. I needed to teach myself that those miles counted just as much; they were part of my journey even if I couldn't officially record them in my accumulated mileage toward my final goal.

Failing to "count" things can happen in regular life too. For example, every year I prioritize taking walks to immerse in and appreciate nature. Some days, when I'm walking short distances through beautiful New Orleans neighborhoods past blooming camellias and stately oak trees, on the way to a meeting or running an errand, I tell myself, "Well, this doesn't actually count - I didn't purposefully set out to take a walk in nature."  

Isn't that silly? Why not allow these small walks to count? Then I could marvel at all the wonders I might normally wait to notice on a longer "official" walk. I could tune into the quality of the light, the tiny ferns growing on tree trunks, the smooth texture of the crape myrtle bark, and the mosses living in cracks between the bricks. I could greet the sparrows flitting through the maple branches, the crows perched high in the water oak, and the squirrels chasing each other in the cypress tree, all in the few blocks between my car and the coffee shop. I could breathe deeply and gain the joy in the moment that I'm seeking from longer walks in nature.

What in your life are you not allowing yourself to count because it seems too insignificant? Is there a way you can give credit to pockets of quiet meditative time that might not look like "official" meditation? Or quality moments with family members that aren't formally scheduled? Or ways you move your body or care for your health that your fitbit might not be recording?

How might your internal state change if more of your daily life "counted"?  You'll find yourself doing spiritual practices in the grocery store (a great place to send lovingkindness to strangers) or stopping to see pollen-laden honeybees in the flowers, like this one in the camellia that I saw yesterday on my "unofficial" nature walk. 

 

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