Wednesday, September 04, 2013

It's That Time of Year Again . . . .

During my time as a campus minister I taught a freshman orientation class on campus called University Experience.  This class is designed to assist first year students in making a successful transition to college and to help them establish the good habits early on that will ensure they finish their education.  My teaching strategy was one of joining them on the journey of discovery:  not to lecture them on how they should do college, but to accompany them in the discovery of what works, what doesn't, and why.

Bottom line, folks:  The stuff we learned in that classroom still applies.  Even after the diploma has been mailed.

And here it is early September.  Time for my favorite beginning of the school year activity--The Time Chart!

It is really a simple exercise.  It all begins with a simple grid:  days of the week across the top and hours of the day down the side.  Participants are then invited to label the boxes according to how that block of time is spent.  Next each activity should then be color-coded so that each segment of time can be easily and quickly recognized when it is glanced at throughout the course of the day. 

One such example here:

Fill out one of these and you never have to wonder to yourself, "where does the time go?"  You get to see it, in living color. 

When I introduced this project to my students, I brought in an empty plastic tub of butter and a bag full of toy cars and trucks of various sizes.  (Yes, my props came from my sons' play room.)  After choosing a volunteer, I instructed my "helper" to put all of the toy vehicles into the tub.  Of course they only fit if the big ones go in first.  The moral is that we only get a one size fits all week, one plastic tub of life to fill anyway we choose.  And that tub can fill up pretty quickly with insignificant small stuff, while the really big things that matter get squeezed out.  The great tub-o-life fills up, mostly when we are not looking. 

I find it helpful to open my eyes and really see what's in there.  To ask myself important questions, like: 

-What is the stuff of this life I'm living? 
-Am I spending my life on things that matter? 
-If I could wipe the slate clean and carve out the life I want to live in just the perfect way, what would perfect look like? 
-How can I fit some of this kind of perfect into what I already have to work with?

I am amazed that no matter how many times I do this activity, I always learn something new.  What I've learned this time around is that our life commitments (marriage, children, friendship, GOD!) must show up somewhere.  If they don't, something is wrong.  When they do, something is right, even if it means at the end of the day you are spent.  (Doesn't it make you feel good to know you are spending yourself on the things that really matter?)  The other thing I've learned is that even with a "golden opportunity" to follow my dreams, my time is limited.  I really don't have as much time as I think I do, and I had better use the time I do have well.

I guess at the heart of this activity is one question:  Am I living the life I am supposed to live?  Then there is the important follow up question:  If not, what can I do to change it?  Because all of us have the power to redefine at least some of our tub-o-life boxes.  We can all do something differently that will move us toward the life we really want.  The gift of this simple exercise is that it helps us discover that one step toward a better life that is within our power to do.

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