executive director of everybody Dance Now!

Sharing my journey. living out my passion. Persisting through struggles.

Hoping to serve as inspiration for others TO Follow where their hearts lead. 

Get to the heart of what matters

I had the pleasure of winding up in the hospital last month.  After a few days of increasingly severe abdominal pain and nausea, I gave up self-treatment and went to the hospital. A CT scan showed severe inflammation in my large intestine. The upside: no surgery. The downside: being admitted for observation and treatment. A hospital bed is not my first choice as a place to get adequate rest. Despite the inconvenience, the several days of bedrest provided time for introspection. 

As I passed the time staring at the ceiling from my hospital bed, I had a growing sense of fear. I wasn’t worried about my health. Instead, I feared falling behind on my work and life commitments. Each passing hour stirred up an increasing amount of dread that the world — and any relevant opportunities — were passing me by. The hours crept along, and I eventually came to terms with the reality of taking time off.  Soon the days of solitary bed rest and boredom gave way to clarity. 

When left to my thoughts, I began to take inventory of my life. After sorting through my tasks, I realized somewhere around 99% of my current work stress was self-imposed — a mix of internal deadlines on menial tasks; external desires to meet everyone’s needs; and obligations I didn’t have the capacity for. The busyness was crowding my mental space, keeping me from focusing on the handful of things that I really cared about.  

I might have preferred a more voluntary approach to having this epiphany. Maybe a meditation retreat or a walk in the woods could have created the same breakthrough. However, it was the unexpectedness of the circumstance that made me pay attention. I no longer cared about organizing my folders or scrolling through emails. Given space, I saw that nearly everything could wait. Meetings, reports, signatures. These duties contributed very little in the larger scheme of my goals.  

Into my third day in the hospital, I was beginning to find peace. I asked myself, what should I be doing now that I would still care about in a few years? The question eliminated a lot of busywork. I narrowed down my priorities to a handful of goals. Some aspirations were not surprising: fundraising benchmarks and leadership development. Others were: talking with my siblings and parents more often and finding ways to express love to my wife. In realizing how fragile life is, I saw want I wanted to do AND what I would regret not having done.

I couldn’t wait to be discharged — getting to sleep in my own bed, eating non-hospital food and returning to work. Once I was out, I struggled with keeping my new frame of reference. People still demanded things of me. I slipped back into my old state of reactivity and interruptions, feeling overwhelmed at the thought of reclaiming my inbox. After my first week back, I was exhausted. I thought back to the list of my top priorities. I had not spent time on a single one.

I’m back to work this week, conscious of everything pulling for my attention. I think back to my time in the hospital and revisit my goals before I start the day. As I open another email asking for my commitment, I have an unusual response. “Thanks so much for thinking of me for this opportunity. However, I can’t take this on. Wishing you the best of luck. Sincerely, Kunle.” I hesitate for a moment, fearing what the response might be. I hit send. The nervousness eases, and a sense of peace arises. It's hard not feeling as if I’m letting others down. But in pursuit of being accountable to myself, I have to sacrifice the fleeting satisfaction that accompanies doing as many things as I can for the true contentment that comes from living out my values. 

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