With the 1st of January 2010 appearing on my calendar recently, I took some time out to have an objective look at my life. Specifically, what I’ve been doing, what I’m doing now, and what I intend to do in the future.
This is really the first time I’ve approached this in a structured way and I really wish I’d done it sooner. It’s certainly something that I’m going to try and make time for at least every 6 months.
Pausing and taking time to reflect and plan is in my opinion an essential part of Lifestyle Design. It forces you to evaluate what you’re doing in life and to look at whether or not you’re heading in the desired direction. I’m not 100% happy with my lifestyle right now, and doubt that I ever will be and the process has certainly helped me to refocus my attention on the areas of my life that need the most work.
So what exactly did I get up to last weekend? To answer this question, here’s the rough structure I followed over the 3 days.
Day 1 – The past
Unplug, recharge, relax and reflect
I turned off my mobile phone for the entire weekend, didn’t watch any TV and didn’t have any social engagements. This weekend was all about me and I made no apology for being selfish. This may take a little explaining to the people around you, but I think it’s well worth it.
I made a commitment to myself to eat healthy, exercise and sleep well and I followed this for the 3 days – avoiding caffeine and sugary foods, taking lots of walks and light exercise and sleeping without and alarm.
On the first day I went for a decent walk through some parklands and spent about an hour trying to meditate and generally clear my mind. A friend have me the advice of breathing normally and focussing on trying to feel your breath move your nose hairs. If, like me you are not proficient in mediation I found that just sitting quietly, looking at the park around me really helped to settle my mind and de-focus. After that first hour I felt relaxed and open – ready to do some light thinking.
I grabbed a notebook and wrote down everything I did in the last year. You can see the output from this in the previous post. I patiently flicked back through all my notebooks and photos from 2009 and when I got to a new topic or activity that I’d forgotten about I simply made a note of it. I’d forgotten a lot of what I’d done over the previous 365 days and I found it really enjoyable to take stock of the previous year and gave me a sense of achievement and accomplishment that I wasn’t really expecting.
Day 2 – The present
Again with my notebook in the parklands, I answered the following questions:
How do I feel?
What things are in my life now?
What are the good and bad aspects of these
‘How do I feel’ is not an easy question to answer. It seems to require a level of honesty that I’m still a little uncomfortable with. Rather than giving the simple answer of “I’m fine” or the face that you put out to the rest of the world, take your time and just scribble some words down without looking for an explanation. I think I spent about 20 minutes on this, just feeling my body and letting my mind speak without trying to force anything from it. The words I wrote down were:
Hopeful, Annoyed, Frustrated, Tired, Agitated, Disconnected, Inspired, Peaceful
When I read back over these I realised that they seem to totally contradict each other. How is it possible to feel both peaceful and agitated?
To try and connect with the part of me that was feeling this way I chose a word and tried to write down which part of me was feeling that way and about what. What aspect of my life is making me feel hopeful? What is making me feel frustrated? Amazingly this seemed to just flow and flow and I ended up with a lot of writing on the page without much effort. When I felt that I had written enough about a word – perhaps when I had done that emotion justice, I simply paused and then chose another word.
The second question of ‘What things are in my life now’ was easy, it was simply a list, much of which I’d already covered when I reviewed 2009 on the previous day. Going through and identifying the good and bad points of each was certainly much harder and I found that there were several that had a lot of bad and not much good. The more work I had to do to justify why something was a part of my life, the bigger the red flag that maybe I should look to remove or reposition this in my life.
I also undertook a small stock take of my health and financial position to see if there were any emotional triggers lurking.
Day 3 – The future
For this I opened up my bookcase and grabbed 2 or 3 good books that I find inspire me and remind me of what’s possible in this world. I like to go top-down when planning and prefer to establish a big picture and strategy that is compelling before breaking it down in to practical components.
I brought out some big sheets of paper and restated my vision – “To work profitably with passionate focussed people and help them to accomplish great things” and scribbled some sentences down about what my life will be like when I’m living this vision.
The next step I tried was to take a leaf out of the book E-Myth and decide how I will act when I have achieved this vision. Here is what I wrote:
Choose where to direct my focus in the present moment
Provide a meaningful contribution to others
Show generosity with my time and money
Improve my honesty with myself and everyone around me
Show gratitude for what I have and receive
Be open to new ideas, people and situations
Be disciplined and follow the above
The book E-Myth makes a compelling case that if you identify how you will need to act in the future when living your vision, the only way to get there is to start implementing those behaviours today. So that is what I’m going to try and do.
From there I divided up 2010 month by month and identified what area I will focus on for the first 6 months and what I will do in each month. For January my goal is to bring this website up to a visual standard that I’m happy with.
So there it is. The recipe I used for my weekend of reflection on planning. I finished the weekend feeling very positive about the upcoming year and focussed on what I need to do today.