Please, Interrupt Me [Slow Down Challenge: Day 4]

Note: This week, I'm writing a series of challenges to help you (and me) slow down and savor the good parts of life. Find out more about it here, and make sure you're signed up for email updates so you don't miss a thing.

I don't have to tell you about busyness. Chances are, if you're like me, that as you read this someone or something is going to interrupt you.

Interrupt me
Photo Credit: Susan NYC via Compfight cc

Maybe it's your kid wanting breakfast or your smartphone buzzing with a new notification. Whatever it is, we all live with these everyday occurrences that call us out of the zone and into the world.

For the longest time, I thought these interruptions were bad. I thought they were keeping me from the “plan.” But now I have a different perspective:

What if the things we consider inconveniences are the very tools used to help us grow?

Every time I've waited for something BIG in my life, I've been disappointed by the outcome — or at very least, surprised.

The reason is we weren't meant to live like that, bouncing from one big thing to the next. When your journey is more about destinations than the points in between, the arrival rarely measures up to your expectations.

The lessons of interruptions

We need to learn to fall in love with the whole process of life, not just a particular event. One way to do this is by welcoming, not dreading, the interruptions.

These include flight delays, long traffic lights, and even that needy person who takes up more conversation than you had originally planned for.

Why do we need to surrender to these moments that frustrate us to no end? Because:

  • They teach us to let go of control.
  • They remind us life is not just about “me.”
  • They help us become more patient.

So the next time you wake up six times at night to a teething baby, remember to be present. The next time your colleague “just wants to talk,” listen. The next time an opportunity to hang out with a friend or spouse comes, take it (even if you're under a deadline).

No one should be too busy to spend time with the people that matter most. And nobody is too important to make a new friend.

The legacy of your life will not be judged by how many emails you responded to or how well you maximized your lunch break. It will be measured, I believe, by how interruptible you were.

How often did you let the world pull you away from yourself so you could focus on others? That's the question we need to answer.

Challenge: Let go

The antidote to restlessness

When we try to control everything, when we plan every last minute of the day, we get mad at life for throwing a wrench in our plans. When the hotwater heater breaks. When your kid gets the flu. When your boss has a “favor” to ask.

But what if we expected these interruptions? What if we counted on them, deciding ahead of time how to act in these instances? Here's your challenge:

  1. Decide what you will do and who you will be WHEN you get interrupted. You don't have to let people steal your time, but choose your response before it happens.
  2. Block out time to spend with a person who usually interrupts you. Call her just to chat; if local, ask her to lunch.
  3. When an interruption occurs, welcome it. Look for what you can learn from the experience, and don't get annoyed. Instead, embrace this as a chance to grow.

I'm not saying you should let people walk all over you or neglect everything you need to get done. But I am saying this:

We don't become who we're supposed to be by checking off one more thing on the to-do list. The path to legacy comes to those who help others, who make time for interruptions.

Those are the people we remember. And that's the kind of person I want to be.

For more about learning from interruptions, check out my new book, The In-Between, which is a call to use the lesser times more wisely (it's currently 40% off on Amazon).

What lessons do you learn when you get interrupted? What kind of person would you like to be when someone interrupts you? Share in the comments.