Trusting Our Guts
This morning was one of those mornings when I felt like I’d run a marathon before I even left the house. Jolted out of a dream at 6am by the sound of two sets of feet running full tilt into the bedroom, I went through the usual motions – brew coffee, give breakfast options, cook breakfast, start making lunches, set table, serve breakfast (my kids are still too little to make their own breakfast). As soon as two steaming bowls of oatmeal were on the table, a three-alarm tantrum began. “I don’t want oatmeal…I want eggs! I want eggs! I want eggs! I know I didn’t say it, but I want eggs. I WANT EGGGGSSSSS!” This went on for twenty solid minutes, at which point my son finally bellied up to the table and said he’d finish his (then cold) oatmeal if I’d make him some eggs once his bowl was empty. Impressed by his problem solving, I conceded, knowing that I had 25 minutes to shower, get dressed, get them dressed, finish the lunches, get my work stuff together, COOK EGGS, and get out the door. Needless to say, I’m lucky my clothes matched.
The day progressed at a similar pace – albeit with rational grown-ups, not tantrum-y kids — until my meetings ended at 2pm. My brain was tired from work and my heart was still unshakably heavy from the seemingly endless morning tantrum, and I knew I needed a re-set in order to make the rest of the day productive. So I gave myself one. I laced up my running shoes and headed out of the office for a 40-minute loop in the sunshine. Transported by Pandora’s “Dance Cardio” station, my frustration quickly faded away, opening up space for new energy and fresh thinking. After just a few minutes of running, I was able to focus on what I needed to do in the afternoon. As my stride evened out, my perspective shifted, and I returned back to my afternoon workload in a much brighter place.
I bring this up because although I write a lot about (and wholeheartedly believe in) planning and thinking ahead and optimizing and being proactive, the reality of life is that gut feelings…reactions…instincts often trump all of those things. Structure and guardrails and commitments are there to guide us and remind us of what matters most and how we want to live. They’re there to push us to do things like wake up in the dark to squeeze in a workout or clean our veggies on Sunday so we don’t eat cheese and crackers for dinner every night. But life doesn’t always go according to plan, and spontaneous decisions are sometimes the best way to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves in the moment.
Today trusting my gut meant taking a run in the middle of a busy workday when the rational side of me would have said “you don’t have time.” Other days it means ordering take-out because I would rather spend time with my kids than cook. And sometimes it means letting my kids play on their own because I need to talk to my best friend on the phone. Being able to trust our guts and act on what they’re telling us takes practice and a few “wins” to show us that it paid off. Today’s run was one of my wins.
How do you make in-the-moment trade-offs that help you take care of yourself? When have you succeeded? Have these trade-offs ever backfired?