“…anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you. “
David Whyte: Sweet Darkness
To live your life and not someone else’s version of who they think you should be is a worthy and rewarding endeavor. However, wishing doesn’t make it so or more people would achieve their personal life goals. How to begin this process takes effort. It does not take a carefully planned strategic campaign, mission statements or critical dates for achievements. Here is a small and user-friendly way to begin. Each action, done with intention and consistency, matters. Also, remember to have fun along the way. Find joy in your progress as well as your process.
- Get Your Priorities Straight (notice I said “Your”)
Sit down and write in as few words as possible your current life dream. Then, underneath your dream statement write the five top priority actions that must occur to move this dream forward. Fill in the blanks: In order for me to achieve (insert dream here), I must make the following actions my top priority: (list them #1, #2, etc.). Make a schedule for doing these actions this week and start now. We always make time for the things that are truly our top priority. You don’t have to have the whole plan laid out here (that’s another distraction). You just need to get started, today, now. If you continue to wait, you already know what you’re going to get…nothing, at least not today. So write it down and get going.
- Identify Personal Distractions (…over here….look over here….)
It is always interesting to me that when I commit to my dream, suddenly one or more enticing opportunities either – professional or personal – suddenly pop up, asking for my time, attention and expertise. Maybe it’s something as simple as a new book to read or seminar to attend. Perhaps, someone wants me to speak at their conference, be on a committee or it’s an exciting new art medium to explore. All justifiable, interesting and often for the “greater good.” So why say “no”? Because each takes time, precious time, my precious time. So, unless this new opportunity truly advances one of my top five dream priorities, the answer for now, must, “Thank you, but not at this time…”
- Limit the Drama (unless your an actor)
Setting boundaries and declining the go-to person role for others’ dilemmas is a worthy skill to cultivate. If you can postpone a request, people will often move on in their search for assistance as they don’t have time to wait on your response. Just because you could complete a task faster or better, doesn’t always mean you should. Perhaps it’s time for the person making the request to take fuller ownership and learn that new skill. Take your time and assess whether or not you truly need to be involved in someone else’s project. Learn to resist the ego’s siren song that you alone are the only solution. Limiting your participation in the dramatic issues of others can also decrease you stress and feelings of resentment while increasing the time you have to pursue your own dream.
- Feed Yourself Better (no extra calories added)
Of course the implication here is to eat healthier foods but step further in and feed your heart and mind, too. Consciously search out beauty all around you. Ugliness is easy to find: mediocrity even easier. Search for beauty on the smallest and grandest scales. Feast your eyes on beautiful images. Seek out daily readings that inspire and expand your curiosity. Say “no” to violence in the broadcast media and written word. We will be bombarded enough today with the traumas and tragedies of the world, most of which we are powerless to effect. Our daily diet of violent imagery can only be toxic to our souls. If something big does happen in the world, I guarantee someone will tell you about it. In the meantime, seek nourishment for your heart and uplift your mind. A calmer, centered, nourished self creates an energized force within you for doing good in the world. Tap into that power and open to wonder as often as possible.
- Pump Up the Stillness (wait not weighs)
I don’t know how to truly quiet my mind. There is always something floating through it. However, I can work on internal stillness. The stillness begins with my body, sitting, standing, Oregon lying down with as little movement beyond my breath as possible. For me, closing my eyes increases the inner stillness. Eyes open and softly focused, can also work. Next, I can notice my breath going in, then watch it turn into an outflow of air followed by the next turn of an inhale. Or, I can focus on the heartbeat of my heartbeat. Perhaps, I can let go of each thought, allowing it to float peacefully down a stream. I might be able to do this for 1, 5 or 20 minutes on any given day. Even if I can only fit in 1 minute several times a day, this is an excellent practice to cultivate. This is the path to self-centering. It is not a selfish place of indulgent avoidance. This is a place of coming back to myself, to refuel and refresh. We don’t expect our car to run without gas or our phones to work if left uncharged. To come to one’s center with stillness, kindness and respect, is an amazing act of love and self care.
- Drink Water and Walk (so easy, yet so elusive)
Your body will deeply thank you for these two simply acts. I have often thought that if we each were cultivating a stillness practice along with drinking more water and taking a daily walk, most other aspects of our lives would fall into place. Research on what bolsters creativity has shown that daily time set aside for unfocused thinking (like taking a walk) yields greater creative results. Incubation periods where thoughts intersect and flow, away from the work space, are an essential part of the creative process. These actions tone and firm our bodies and souls so that we are better prepared to live our dreams, uncover breakthrough solutions and more effectively deal with life’s challenges.
- Do One Dream Action Every Day (move it or lose it)
Each day it is imperative that you push your dream and your gifts forward in some way. This means you are truly committing to your priorities, dreams and life. The more you step into your dream the greater its pulse is felt, not only by you, but by others. People all around you will ask why you look happier, what’s going on with you and why are you radiant? Look forward to responding without pulling your punch and telling them what’s going on in your life.