Oh, the smell of fresh paper. The feel of the rough page beneath my hand. The sense of possibilities expanding before me, as I gathered together my thoughts, put pen to paper, and wrote.
Gone are those good old days of keeping a hand-written journal. Of carrying around a diary everywhere I went, so I was never stumped if inspiration struck, or if I saw a particularly good quote that I wanted to note down forever, or just wanted to ruminate.
Gone are those days spent flicking through old journals. Looking at ticket stubs from that movie I went for on my first date. Of the restaurant bill from the last time I met up with my gang. The coffee spill that put so much more atmosphere into the story of me that I was writing.
All of that has been replaced with my iPhone. True, it’s much smaller and lighter than my diary. It’s with me everywhere I go. The chances of my forgetting it anywhere are slim. But it’s just not the same as my dear diary.
There are no pages to rifle through. No coffee spills to highlight passages of my life. No drunken scrawls that I cannot decipher the morning after. It’s too neat. Too structured. Too…cold.
Maybe its time for me to go and buy myself a new diary. A leather-bound one this time, maybe. To doodle. To write. To keep for posterity. So that years later, when I am dust scattered over the earth, someone can come across it and say “Oh, so that’s what writing looked like in those ancient days!”
What do you think? Do you miss your hand-written diary? Or are you happy recording your thoughts digitally?
Maya Angelou is probably one of the most influential poet alive. She certainly is one of my favorite. I remember watching an episode on Oprah where she interviewed Maya Angelou, and one of the things she said that day, that stayed with me throughout the years, was that she never allowed people to talk negatively in her house. She said it created disharmonious vibrations that disturbed the peace and tranquility of her living space.
Today, I share with you a short clip, where Oprah talks to Maya Angelou, recounting the most important life lessons she heard from her.
Set boldly forth, conquering your fears, overcoming them, to achieve your goals, to live your life fully. Take heart in these words from Osho:
To accept the challenge of the unknown in spite of all fears, is courage. The fears are there, but if you go on accepting the challenge again and again, slowly slowly those fears disappear. The experience of the joy that the unknown brings, the great ecstasy that starts happening with the unknown, makes you strong enough, gives you a certain integrity, makes your intelligence sharp. For the first time you start feeling that life is not just a boredom but an adventure. Then slowly slowly fears disappear; then you are always seeking and searching for some adventure. Courage is risking the known for the unknown, the familiar for the unfamiliar some unknown destination. One never knows whether one will be able to make it or not. It is gambling, but only the gamblers know what life is. – Osho
Here’s a formula to start your week on a good note:
Make peace with your past. If there is anything you’re holding on to from the past week (or even the past year or earlier), release it. Put the baggage down. Lighten your load. Allow yourself to move forward. Forgive others who you think may have slighted you. Forgive yourself too. Breathe in light, love and peace. Breathe out stress, hurt and pain. Give thanks for each moment. Welcome new experiences and joys into your life. Take a few moments and visualize your perfect week. If that’s too far ahead for you, image your perfect day. Smile.
It turns out that our capacity for self-control is surprisingly like a muscle — like a bicep or tricep. And like any muscle, self-control can vary in its strength, not only from person to person, but from moment to moment. Spend all day dealing with distractions, hassles and stressors at work, and it’s awfully hard to summon up the willpower to resist the allure of the cocktail, the cigarette or the fully-loaded nacho platter. – The Relationship Between Exercise And Self Control by Heidi Grant Halvorson
That simple paragraph was a Eureka moment for me. I’m finally in a job where I get to reach home around 6:00 pm, giving me ample time to pursue other interests. I’ve been wanting to get back to exercising, learn Italian and the tarot – and now I have more than enough time to do all of these things.
But I’ve lacked the motivation. I’ve been unable to exert any kind of willpower or self-control over my slothful ways.
I reach home and I feel exhausted, I don’t want to do anything or go anywhere – unless it’s out for dinner or drinks with friends.
Everyday I’ve been telling myself that I’m over-thinking things…that before even sitting down or doing anything else once I’m home, I should change into tracks and go for a walk. It. Does. Not. Work.
Then I figured it’s probably best that I finish my workout before I get home – which means join a gym and get in a workout on my way back from work. It took me an incalculably long time to get around to going and finding out about the membership, taking a trial session, and finally joining.
Italian and the tarot – I look at the books and download podcasts, but don’t read or listen.
So that little paragraph up there just hit me. Hard. It was the exhaustion on some days and sheer boredom on others that was translating into this total lack of will power on my part.
The great news is that if you want more self-control in general, you can get more. And you get more self-control the same way you get bigger muscles: you’ve got to give it regular workouts.
So how do you do this? By making yourself do something you don’t much like doing, each and every day. Within a few weeks, not only would you have built up your will power, you’ll be much better at other tasks where you need to exert some self-control.
There’s actual science behind this.
In a study, psychologists Megan Oaten and Ken Cheng gave participants a free gym membership and individually-tailored exercise programs that included aerobics, free-weights and resistance training. After exercising regularly over the course of two months, the participants had not only increased their ability to do a variety of laboratory self-control tasks, but also reported that almost every aspect of their lives that involved using some self-control seemed to have improved dramatically.
Cool, isn’t it?
So, what are you going to work on to improve your self-control muscle?
If you’ve ever tried to learn something new, achieve a goal, set a resolution, you’ve been met with failure somewhere along the way. Hopefully it isn’t too often. Hopefully you’ve managed to pull yourself up, dust yourself off, and go on to achieve greater heights, like these individuals, who never said never.
As season 5 of Dexter draws to a close and I get Dexter withdrawal symptoms, I thought I’d pen down the 4 things I learnt from my favorite serial killer.
Plan: Dexter followed a code when it came to choosing targets for his dark passenger. Once he zeroed in on his victim, he did some thorough planning and surveillance to plan the kill.
Translated to real life: Once you’ve got a goal in mind, do some planning, and draw up some tips and strategies to ensure that you don’t get derailed. For e.g., if you decide to go on a diet, do some research on meal plans, purchase the right foods, draw up weekly menus and prepare as much as you can beforehand.
Focus: When Dexter is on the prowl, he has his eye firmly on the target. So much so that his dates are planned around stalking schedules. It’s all about focus until he has his victim on the kill table and disposes of the body.
Translated to real life:When you want to achieve something, you got to schedule time to devote to the goal each and every day. Some days may be busy, when you may be able to spend just about 10 minutes on working towards your goal. Other days you might be able to devote a couple of hours. No matter how much time you have on hand, constant steps – big or small – will help you achieve your target. For e.g., diet and exercise go hand in hand. If you can’t devote an hour to the gym everyday, try going for a 30 minute (or even two 15 minute) walk on the days you can’t hit the gym.
Image via Wikipedia
Cover all bases: Dexter had all his bases covered when he was out for a kill. A strong alibi, ensuring he got his target without being seen, cleaning up the kill room and disposing the body in the Gulf stream.
Translated to real life: No matter what our grandiose plans or how much we prepare, life happens. Be prepared to get derailed occasionally, but then get right back on to it! Again, taking the example of the diet, if you indulge in a sinful chocolate pastry one day, don’t beat yourself up or just give up. Go back to your plan the next day and keep on working on it with single-minded devotion. Better still, throw out all the foods that are not on your “allowed” list. so you don’t get tempted.
Constant check-in: Dexter’s constant companion and voice of caution was his adoptive father, Harry. Whenever he seemed to deviate from the path, his father appeared to offer words of advise and steer him back on course.
Translated to real life: Involve one or two people who are close to you and will support you in achieving your dreams. Schedule a check-in at least once a week, when you give them an update on your progress and discuss any road blocks you might be encountering. It’s always easier to go for goal when you have your very own cheerleaders encouraging you along!
Answering the questions I posed last week would have helped you identify your current “big dreams.” These aren’t the next logical steps if you continue the way you are, but are the things that make your heart sing. There is something deeply satisfying about having a dream list that is close to your heart because it helps you peel back the layers and discover what you really want in your life.
Image by Squirmelia via Flickr
Bring out your paper now and read what you wrote down. Slowly. Listen to your feelings as you reach each sentence. If you feel excited, feel your heart fluttering, you’re on the right track. The things that leave you wondering why you wrote what you wrote may not be what you really want to do, but what you think you should do. Cross those off right away.
If you’re truthful with yourself, you’ve had those things on your to-do list since a while and have gotten nowhere with them. You also use that list to beat yourself up about being an under-achiever. So, do yourself a favour and just. let. them. go. really. You’ll feel better. I promise. Unless you’ve written something like take (insert health condition here) medication on time everyday and are about to cross that off. Come on! You should know better, right?
Anyhoo! Now that you’ve got your dream list ready, here’s what you gotta do.
Image via Wikipedia
Go through each section and for each, create one or two goals that really compel and excite you when you think about them from the material you wrote.
Then, write one goal at the top of a page, with a separate page for each goal. Set a timer for two minutes and write down why you want to achieve this goal.
Once you’ve done that, create a compelling argument to yourself on why you must do achieve this goal. If you can’t create a compelling argument that makes you ache to achieve the goal, you may need to choose a different one. After all, if you can’t convince yourself in an argument, you won’t have the drive to complete the goal!
Image by angietorres via Flickr
For each goal, write down three small steps you can take now that will help you achieve your goals. Initially, these will typically be “discovery” steps that will help you get more information about how to go about achieving your goal. If one of your goals is to learn a language or photography, one of your first steps might involve identifying classes that you can enrol for. Make sure that you aren’t setting yourself a huge target, take baby steps.
The key is to commit to something that you really, really want to do. Even if you can spend just one day a month working on that goal, it will change how you think and dramatically improve your life. Promise.
Image via Wikipedia
As you finish a step, cross it off your list. Doesn’t it make you feel great? For every step you cross off, add a new one. Rinse and repeat until you (gasp!) are well on your way to achieving your goal! Crossing off and adding new to-dos helps you keep your momentum going and gives you confidence in your own ability to achieve your dreams.
But what if the number of goals you’ve set yourself has you in overwhelm mode? Prioritize. How? Look at each goal and each argument, read it out loud if you need to, with feeling, and ask yourself if not achieving any of these would leave you with a hole in your heart or filled with regrets. The ones that will are the ones that you should pick up on priority. Easy-peasy!
Another thing that can lead to a slight sense of deflation is the knowledge that it may take you years to achieve some of your goals. But it is important to understand and accept this, and to press on anyway. After all, it’s the journey that matters. And just think of how proud you’ll feel every time you work towards it, and when you finally achieve it!
Also, if possible, enlist the help of family or friends to hold you accountable, someone with whom you can check in say once a month. Your accountability group will be your personal cheer leaders, help you brainstorm if you come up against a wall, give you a little (or a big) push if you find yourself getting complacent, and will totally rock your world when you achieve your dream!
There you have it – the blueprint to (finding and) achieving your most authentic dreams.
A while back I wrote about reclaiming a dream – a small dream it was, of having flowers in the living room at home. Of saying no, I wouldn’t just let my dreams die like that. But just saying no isn’t enough. You have to know what your dreams, and which dreams you are most passionate about. Not each item on your bucket list is as important as the others. While we may not mind letting go of some goals, not achieving others would fill us with regret and sadness.
The best way to determine what’s most important for you is to undertake a goal setting activity. If you already have a process you use and love, go for it. If not, carve out some time for yourself to sit down and evaluate each area of your life – career, home, health, spirituality, finances, relationships – and determine what are the things that you’re truly passionate about.
I identified the following areas of my life that I wanted to work on:
Here are some of the questions I asked myself in each of these areas:
Image by nebbsen via Flickr
What would you like to learn to do? It has to be something that really makes you excited. How would you learn – online, sign up for a class, etc.?
Where would you like to travel? Could be places in your own city or country, or abroad?
What would you like to do more of? – read more? – redecorate the house or office? – get out of the house more?
What are your mediation goals? Every day? Every week? How much time will you set aside for it?
How can you live more soulfully – with more balance, less stress?
What do you need to do to feel that you have made a difference in your life?
Image by nimbu via Flickr
Which creative areas are you interested in – cooking, home decorating, photography, painting, etc.?
If money were no object, but you had to work, what would you be doing?
Do you have an idea or a dream you’d like to be living?
If you could live another person’s life (living or dead) who would it be, and why?
What are your weight loss goals? – How much weight do you want to lose? – How much exercise would you be willing to commit to each week? – What changes can you realistically make to your diet?
Image via Wikipedia
What are your financial goals in terms of your needs and desires. For example, you might want to have enough money to pay your rent without stress, buy or lease a new car every four years, etc.
If you feel stress about money, what could you do right now to feel more in control?
Do you have any bad money habits? Like impulsive shopping? What are your triggers? Think of ways you can stop yourself.
putting it together
Use these questions as a starting point to reflect on what you want to achieve in these areas. These don’t have to be one sentence answers. They can be as long as you need them to be. Feel free to add on or leave questions you don’t like, or to hunt online for other goal setting exercises. But do work on writing down something.
Once you’re done, keep the paper safely away. Stepping away from your answers for a while will help you to know if you really connect with what you’ve written when you see them with a fresh mind.
Come back next week, when we’ll refine our dreams if we need to and draw up an action plan to achieve them!