Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Goat Approach

You know me, often reading Oprah magazine, more so than seeing the show - I never seem to have time to watch, but reading the mag is something I often make time for. Well, in the November 2010 issue, there's an article on page 124 in the "Feeling Good" section called "Plugging In." Catherine Price, the author, talks about how she and her husband went on a working vacation to France in which they exchanged labor for room and board on a busy farm - specifically by caring for a herd of goats. One herd. Two weeks. Sounds easy?

Well . . . . it turns out that goats are "masters of single-minded focus" while Ms. Price, the author, is a typical multi-tasking American, who reads her cell phone texts while eating breakfast, while getting dressed. You know, doing several things at once, but none of them mindfully?

She brings up an interesting point: scientists now believe that the real attraction to multi-tasking isn't because we actually get more done, but because doing so produces more dopamine, the "feel good" neurochemical in our brain. It turns out we're stimulated by the new and attention getting. Thus, the irresisibility of new emails and texts flashing onto the screen and the popularity of the very word "new" in advertising. If it's a novelty, we're sucked in instantly. Many of us are novelty junkies.

I won't summarize the whole article, but suffice it to say, this message really appealed to me because it rang SO TRUE with my current place in life. Shiny - ah, my attention shifts often whatever I am or should be doing, and instantly gets drawn into the most attention getting. Not usually the best use of my time.

This author points out that when you milk a goat, you need to be goat minded, and only do that one thing. She will sense if you aren't paying attention single mindedly, and will go to pursue her own goatly goal. So the moral of the story is, when milking goats, milk goats. When working on a report at work, work on that without checking email or voice mail. When you are having a conversation with your spouse or child, be fully immersed in that. When you are cooking a delicious meal. Cook.

By doing one thing at a time, and focusing on doing it completely and well, you may not get more done - but you may get enough done right, and with the right mindset, that you might find what are really true tasks you should be doing, and focusing on those. One. At. A. Time.

This is a lesson I need to learn right now. I'm feeling pulled in too many different directions. So I've decided that to do an experiment. For one week - that's seven days - I'm pledging to totally "plug into" whatever activity I am doing at that moment. I'll let you know next week how that works out.

So this coming week, I'm a goat.
Added note: Diane wisely pointed out that I was referring to milking goats with the male pronoun - obviously you can't milk a "him" so I edited to fix that. Thanks for catching it Diane!


Denise said...

I like that thought coming from someone with too many irons in the fire. I surmise it is why i enjoy spinning so much as it is one of those activities where you can focus on that and that only.

Elysbeth said...


Kim in Michigan said...

How interesting that is. And of course I was doing 3 things at the same time when I read it (eating, "watching" a movie, and checking my blogs). I think we should all try being goats for a week with you!

I think I'll need to link back to your post and share it in my next blog post too...thanks.

HattieMae said...

I really like this idea! Maybe I'll start doing what you are doing and stop whining about running from one place to the other and getting no where fast!
This all rang so true to my life that I'm going to find that article and read it!
So inspiring to me :) Thanks for your insight. Tammie