We had 1,600 feet of cinderblock fence that surrounded our Los Angeles house that desparately needed painting. I was ready to get started on what I had decided would be our epic new project. It would be the best backyard Los Angeles fence painting boot camp ever. When I told my husband about it, he was hesitant.
“Let’s just hire someone,” he suggested.
I would have none of that. This whole fence painting project would be a bonding experience for our relationship as well as an effective upper body workout. I pled my case and my husband agreed to try it my way. “Try” was the operative word.
After one hour of brushing the dark grey paint on the porous outdoor surface, we had made very little progress. I was in massive project hog heaven and began to imagine the months of hard work that would result in our new fence.
In my manual labor bliss, I didn’t notice that my husband disappeared. He returned from the house ten minutes later.
“George is on his way to drop off a paint gun.” George is our handyman who lives near downtown Los Angeles.
So much for my epic project. George was going to drive clear across all of Los Angeles to deliver us a paint gun. After a half hour, lo and behold, the paint gun arrived and my husband and I had completed one-third of the fence painting project in less than two hours.
I love a good project. Like my fence painting experience, though, I often dive in and mindlessly start grinding without first assessing the situation. I would have painted that fence for weeks without considering a more efficient option. Similarly, I regularly say yes to practically any opportunity in Los Angeles without first taking the time to really look at what they will require.
While I see this willingness to work hard as one of my positive traits, I also realize it can often get in the way of spending my time doing meaningful work.
How often do we scale mountains of Los Angeles National Forest (or any other mountain, for that matter) without first noticing that there is a valley path around the mountain that would take much less time and effort?
Working hard on a project is great for us — both mentally and physically, but working hard without first weighing your options and purposefully choosing your route is not. If I really think about it, I always want to give myself the information to choose to take the circuitous route or the shortcut. Information, in practically any situation, is helpful. I think that we all just need to be brave enough to take whatever information we can get as it comes, whether it informs our plans or it steers us toward something unexpected.
In short, I want to be purposeful about the way I spend my time in my life. My guess is that you might want this as well.
It’s highly likely that you are much more mindful than I am when you are taking on a new project or committing to something new. However, if you happen to be like me and you often say “yes” without thinking or jump into things without assessing the situation first, I encourage you to take heed of my fence painting experience.
In our Los Angeles home and in life, you can pick the paintbrush or the paint gun. Both get the job done, but the freedom comes in recognizing them both as your options from which to choose. Knowing is the price of admission. I encourage you all to allow yourself to choose either the paintbrush or the paint gun. Just choose wisely, friends.