The Fourth of July has always been the middle of summer for me. Here’s why. Schools in the U.S. tend to let out in May. Even if they don’t do so everywhere, the weather in May tells us that summer has begun. Then there is all of June. By July 4, we are about six weeks into “emotional summer.” We are also about six weeks from the start of the new school year.

If you need confirmation, let me report that the first Washington Redskins’ pre-season game this year is August 11. Notre Dame’s first regular season game is September 4th. Somewhere between those two sacred dates, fall begins. Just as God ordained.

Now, I find these last six weeks of summer a good time to reset and prepare for the coming year. It’s a good time to clean out our physical and inner closets; a good time to give things away, start new disciplines, and send the signals to my mind, body, and spirit that it is time to re-up.

So, in the last six weeks of every summer, I take actions that force my inner life to respond. I want to share a few of these actions with you in the hope that you will do them too.

  1. Press against a physical performance barrier: Everyone of every ageshould always be striving to break a physical performance barrier. This can be as simple as how many laps you do mall-walking in 30 minutes. It can be how much you bench press or your time for a mile run or how many laps you can do in a pool. Whatever you choose, define a barrier, tell someone about it, attack it, and celebrate big when you reach it. Then, set a new barrier and destroy it.
  2. Do something every day that scares you: This was Eleanor Roosevelt’s defining maxim. This can be as simple as meeting a new person. It can be singing aloud. It can be jumping out of a plane. You can do small scary things every day or a big scary thing that takes you the remaining six weeks of summer to prepare for. The point is, defeat fear with doing.
  3. Spend a day alone. No phones. No email. No people. Sit under a tree. Sit at the library. Get perspective. Think over your life and your work. Get quiet. See what comes up.
  4. Fast: Skip a meal a week. Don’t eat a day a week. Stop drinking alcohol for a month. Whatever. Just deny yourself a bit. You’ll be surprised at what surfaces in your soul. The great religions teach this. Cutting-edge athletes recommend this. I recommend it.
  5. Clean out / Organize / Give Away: Psychologist are proving that our physical environment shapes our inner lives in surprising ways. Look around. If you haven’t used a thing in years, give it away or sell it. Declare war on hoarding and perpetual clutter. Get clean. Get simple. Make your external world as lean as you want your inner world to be

That’s it. Let’s get to it. And have a good weekend.

Stephen


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