Our SUV is a tight fit in our garage. I consider myself a competent, confident driver (an excellent parallel parker, if I may be so bold), but every now and then, I get what Mr. Magpie and I refer to as “a case of the yips” when pulling the car in. “A case of the yips” is sports jargon capturing the situation in which a seasoned athlete suddenly appears to lose his or her bearings, and — for a time, perhaps brought on by stress or overthinking or exhaustion — pitches wildly, or misses the turns on the slope, or whiffs at the tee. In my car-garage application, “yips” is when I panic and find myself virtually incapable of pulling the car in straight, despite the fact that I accomplish this feat close to daily with no problem.
The last time I came down with a case of the garage yips, I noticed that the easiest way through was to focus on how far my left side-view mirror was from the frame of the garage door. If there’s a 3-5″ clearance, we’re gold. Much wider or much narrower suggests I’m misaligned. But truly, the only thing that matters is ensuring that measurement, and the rest follows. The car is not going to magically side-swipe something or crash if I’m within that range of distance from the left side of the garage.
It occurred to me, as I polished this insight, how broadly applicable it was in realms far beyond parking my car. I can see the benefit of applying the principle to any big or unwieldy undertaking — a new project at work, moving houses or cities, a high-stakes presentation, and even more nebulous behemoths like parenting, challenging relationships, spirituality!
The point is this: in a moment of panic or self-doubt or windmilling, I need to find a small, meaningful guide post and forget the rest. Or, rather, trust that the rest will follow.
For big presentations, for example — thinking too much about the audience, or about how I’m going to survive 30 minutes of slides will bind me up in knots. Instead, I focus only on getting through the first sentence very slowly (excruciatingly slowly) and then taking a full, three-second pause. It’s all about controlling my pace and breath in those opening moments. If I can get through the opener with good measure, I know I’ll be rock solid for the rest. The first sentence — delivered slowly, with an intentional caesura at the period — is the guide post. The rest flows out fluidly after.
In moving, on the other hand, it’s more about sticking to the checklist we’ve pre-arranged and sorted by due date. I force myself to forget about everything else looming ahead and think only of the items on my tick-list for today. The completion of only today’s to-do’s is the guide post. The rest will follow, get done, and eventually lead to us sitting in our new home.
Analogously, in parenting, I can find myself in a tailspin if I reflect too long on how I’m faring or what I could be doing better or what I’ve forgotten to keep up with. Instead, I remind myself to return to my favorite, most resonant “guide post”: “Did my child feel loved today?” The prompt gives me an immediate focus: go, find your baby, and hug her. Go, find your son, and tell him you’re proud of him and his choices. Fold them up in your arms. The rest, I believe, follows.
It bears noting that your guide posts on any of these undertakings may be wildly different from mine. Perhaps your public speaking guide post is about getting through the first five slides, or making eye contact with two people in the audience, and your parenting guide post is whether or not you raised your voice today, or “Did my child experience more encouragement or correction today?” Or something entirely different!
Regardless of what your specific guide posts are, I love the way this approach dovetails with a couple of different mentalities that I love and have written roundly about in prior posts:
First, the notion of beginning as you mean to continue, in the sense that a healthy dose of opening momentum usually leads to sound follow-through;
Second, the advice that we should “make whatever we’re doing the most important thing,” in the sense that bringing care and focus to the small elements in front of us usually leads to winning results; and
Third, the insight that miles are made of inches, and that any movement, no matter how small and seemingly trivial, can take us further than we think.
Reflecting on this today — what other areas of my life could benefit from clearly-defined guide posts?
+Love the pattern on this Madewell dress.
+A clever activity/habit log to help with commitment/follow-through. I would imagine good for things like fitness, getting into a writing or prayer practice, etc.
+This romantic white top is SO up my alley. Pair with jeans for the easiest, chicest evening look.
+I have been living in this white half-zip sweatshirt — it’s the perfect spring/summer layer over fitness, jeans, etc when it’s still a tad chilly, and obviously, it goes with everything without looking too wintry. This Addison Bay one is super similar and I’ve heard multiple people rave about this style in particular.
+This Jenni Kayne dress looks like a dream.
+Apparently Cam Wimberley has been raving about this drugstore shampoo — it’s apparently excellent! I just ordered some for my daughter, actually, as we head towards a chlorine-filled summer.
+This $128 dress reminds me so much of Agua Bendita.
+Perfect under-$100 woven clutch to wear all summer long.
+The kind of flat you can wear with absolutely everything in your closet.
+Cute everyday dress for a little lady.
+I pulled these mesh running shorts out the other day and they’ve really grown on me. These, along with my Beyond Yoga stride shorts, are my current top two favorite running shorts. Think I will buy another pair of each for the long summer of running ahead!
+This company has such a clever offering: you buy a “busy bag” for your child full of interesting, screen-free activities, and you can also purchase a subscription where they send refill pouches with new activities every few months. Clever for travel/church/restaurants/etc.
+Cute and inexpensive jellie sandals for a little love.
+My daughter is OBSESSED with these athletic shorts. She wants to wear them every day! They do come in cute colors and have a short inseam that actually fits nicely / not too baggy.
+A La Double J statement on sale.