woman-journaling-iStock_000015527481XSmallOur 16yo daughter is, and always has been, a self-starter.

She’ll probably make us famous some day with her knowledge of the Classics.

She knows Shakespeare really well, she currently teaches a mythology class for local students, and she reports to me from time to time the progress of the several books she’s writing.

But earlier this year she seemed to be in sort of a slump.

She was still taking the personal time to study, but she seemed sort of unanimated–maybe frustrated with life, or something.

Then I got a call from a gentleman in our neighborhood encouraging me to enroll her in a certain class.

I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to make it happen for our family; we’re booked right about to my comfort level.

But the thought kept nagging me and I proposed it to her.

To my surprise, she readily accepted the offer, and made the necessary adjustments to her schedule in order to make it happen.

It’s like I have my old Sara back!

She’s got the spring back in her step, she volunteers with the littler ones when she sees a need, she steps in to do what she sees needs done around the house without being asked…. YAY!

It made me think of another conversation I had this week with a TJEd mom who is a community leader, mentor, writer, teacher, etc.

She had been feeling out of sorts herself, and was trying to figure out what she should be letting go in her life and drawing a blank. She felt right about everything, but still felt out of sync.

She called me to say that after the couple of overwhelmed emails she had sent, she had figured out what was needed: She was supposed to start writing more.

She had interpreted her malaise to having too full a plate, and was really surprised to find it all fitting together when she actually added something to her roster.

I think these are an example of what Oliver calls “Key Actions.”

My key action lately is to play around in the kitchen for the first couple of hours of the day (before the family is really up and at it), experimenting and inventing with fresh foods.

When I do this, I manage my time better, I make better choices for my health, I’m not too engrossed in my writing or emails or what-have-you when the kids awake to put the day on course and attend to their interests and needs, and I feel a real lift from doing something I enjoy.

Sort of a funny Key Action, but its working for me.

The thing is, Key Actions can be sort of tricky.

I have yet to find someone whose Key Action is actually the single most important thing on their list–like, say, studying from their Core book or praying.

It’s absolutely true that my life is more peaceful, richer and more inspired when these things are prioritized.

But it’s also true that simply doing them doesn’t necessarily seem to get the ball rolling so that everything else falls into place.

It may be that your Key Action intricately related to these habits, or not at all; and neither case is a reflection on what we value.

For people who tend to be materialistic in their pursuits, a spiritual- or interpersonal-type Key Action can help them to channel their energies into a good balance, and provide grounding and meaning for their focused efforts.

For many TJEd’ers, I’ve found that a Key Action is often something a little more mundane.

In fact, for many, mundane is precisely the point.

As a demographic, TJEd’ers are often passionate and mission-driven.

This can translate to a level of selflessness that can encroach on being neglectful of ourselves.

Our energies can tend to be other-oriented, and don’t lack much for spiritual connectedness.

The fact is, your Key Action is likely something that doesn’t regularly appear on the Top 5 of your to-do list.

You likely either do it intuitively, or feel the urge to do it and brush it off as less important than the other things on your list.

Some Key Actions that I’ve heard of:

  • Drink 2 quarts of water before 4pm
  • Stop whatever I’m doing once an hour and ask myself, “What is needed?”; then stop and fill the need (call so-and-so; put my feet up for five minutes; start the crock pot; put away what I’m working on for another day; go to the bathroom
    [moms put this off so often as to jeopardize their health!])
  • Go to bed by 10:15pm
  • Fix my daughter’s hair when she dresses in the morning
  • Polish the kitchen sink after each meal
  • Plan tomorrow the night before
  • Put on sneakers when I dress in the morning
  • Play the piano for 30 minutes each day

The Key Action, whatever it may be, tends to put everything into balance, or create a positive momentum, or bring peace and a sense of well-being.

It’s not, strictly speaking, the thing we value highest or most deeply but it is the key to our serenity, productivity and clarity.

Again: of all the things we do or don’t, the top priority isn’t always the most Key thing; it’s the Key Action that makes everything else fall into place.

What’s your key action? Do you put it off? Do you get it done?