How to decide what’s important

I’ve been asked many times, in many different ways, when will I find what I’m looking for? I’m asked this because I’ve jumped from job to job, picking up gigs along the way. I’ve traveled overseas and down south. I’ve acquired a couple of degrees (along with some debt), and I’m still looking at getting my Ph.D.

I have a half-dozen or so irons in the fire, so to speak. There’s a radio program I put together; some film & video work I still do; this blog; three gigs right now, which I’ll have reduced to one for the summer; and a couple of creative projects in the pipeline.

And I know it’s too much.

In one of the Weekly Roundups, I mentioned this blog post on working Smarter, Not Harder. I’ve taken some of the advice I gleaned from the posting, including trying to flesh out my goals. These are have proven enormously elusive to me, at least over the past four years.

I’ve seen what can happen when you have a singular focus and move methodically towards the goal. I’ve experienced it, and I know it works. Only when it happened, it wasn’t how I’d imagined it, and I now select goals with a bit more reluctance.

So as I take my time to list out my goals, for the short-term and the long-term, I think it’s important to (as I often say) be mindful and honest about what it is you’re searching for – what it is you want in life.

Once that’s done, the next step will be pulling the top three to focus on, which may yet be more of a challenge.

Attempting an upgrade

If nothing you’re doing seems to be working in the fight to regain your energy, maybe it’s time to take extreme measures.

I’ve tried several over the years. Once when I was fighting a severe bought of depression, I quit my job, moved out of my house, and was planning a move far away. I wasn’t sure where, but anywhere would have sufficed. For a month or two, I stayed with a friend on an air mattress. He didn’t mind, though his wife might have. Anyway, good friends will stick with you when shit hits the fan.

My upcoming trip to Alaska is another opportunity to upgrade, even if only for the summer. But I foresee the time away allowing me to dissect my life in a way that I haven’t been able to do in Florida. Honest observations on what’s working and what’s not.

So it seems that upgrades are decisions that can either succeed or fail, whereby you remove yourself from one or more aspects of your life that are constantly draining energy. It’s why people seek better jobs, better housing, better communities. The hunt for better is about trying to upgrade ourselves.

But we must make sure that we’re doing it conscientiously, and not just throwing money at a problem or, worse, going into debt to be seen as “keeping up with the Joneses”.

An assessment

Now in the new year, it’s important to take an accurate look at your situation. Review things like your finances (also a good time since tax season is right around the corner), your schedule, work/life balance, etc. An honest evaluation will give you the opportunity to make changes getting you closer to your goals.

I had hoped that 2019 would have me moving forward in Success and Harmony. But I hadn’t painted a clear enough picture for myself at the beginning of the year. So this year I wanted to ensure that I had the foundation laid for progress.

What this looks like:

  • Financial Breakdown: I’ve used Mint to gather all of my financial information into one place. This includes bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and investments. I’m sure that there are other options, but I’ve had Mint for a while now, though in the last half of 2019 I let some of the information slide.
  • Work/Life Balance: This has been a bit tricky, as I’ve been working a lot during the past month. After three months with very few jobs, suddenly I was seeing a full calendar. Now, in January, I must admit that I’m pretty tired trying to keep up with the gigs and the holiday expectations. I wrote about hustling as an actor, and I feel like that’s what I’ve been doing over the past month. Hustling. I’m prepared to pull back, and starting in March I should have just one contract to focus on for the summer. That will free up the rest of my time for living.
  • Relationships: This could be lumped into Work/Life, but there are some relationships that should be cultivated that I’m not currently nurturing, and some relationships that should be looked at to see if they are still providing a healthy framework. All in all, I don’t spend too much time with toxic friendships. However, at this point I do want to review every one of my relationships to make sure that I’m being present and attentive (not toxic myself), and that they are doing the same.
  • Health: Another of my problematic areas. Having been diagnosed with RA nearly a decade ago now, I no longer take medication for it. I’ve found that the key to my health is sleeping adequately, physical activity, and eating properly. I don’t always commit to this lifestyle, but it helps when I do.
  • Goals: Finally, what are my goals? Yes, I have my focus words for 2020. But was are my goals, both short-term and long-term? There are a couple of ways to think about these. I think right now, it’s important to ask, “Are these SMART?” (Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Relevant. Time-based.) If not, then reevaluate.

2020 Goals

Bravery and adventure.

These are words I’ve been thinking of recently, and what I want to spend my year working on. So, each day I’ll attempt to do one thing that scares me.

And throughout the year, I’ll look for opportunities for adventure – more trying of new things and explorations.

Live Bravely

“If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down, we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.” – Jack Gilbert

In Light the Dark, Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Big Magic) wrote about finding the work of poet Jack Gilbert (no relation). Shortly after reading this over the past few days I came across a quote by Benjamin Franklin which stated, “Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.” And the two seemed to complement each other.

Elizabeth writes, “Live bravely when you’re young, we say. And maybe again when you retire, if you play your cards right. Jack Gilbert refused that argument: No, I’m just going to live that way every single day of my life, thanks.”

What would that look like? To live bravely throughout our days? For Jack Gilbert, who worked at steel mills before becoming a poet, that looked like a Pulitzer nomination for his first book. Then, accepting relative obscurity, he went to live and travel in Europe and Asia. He published five collections in five decades, and two novels. But he stayed away from mainstream literature and academia.

But he lived truthfully, to himself, and to others. He experienced life and sampled all it had to offer. Fellow poet and lover Linda Gregg said of him, “”All Jack ever wanted to know was that he was awake—that the trees in bloom were almond trees—and to walk down the road to get breakfast. He never cared if he was poor or had to sleep on a park bench.”

Life is different for all of us, but bravely living it will leave a mark on those around us regardless of who we are or where we come from.

In other words, do something worth writing.

 

 

Thoughts on goal-setting

What do you do when you’ve lost sight of the peak? You reorient. That means asking questions about what is in your life. Everything. Yes, it helps if the goal is in place so that you can compare where you are to where you want to be.

But what if you don’t really have one? Or, it’s a more simplistic, immediate goal? Let’s say you can’t quite make yourself set a five- or ten-year plan.

So start small.

You want to get out of debt? Before you make that purchase, ask yourself, “Will this bring me closer to that goal?”

Unless it’s a business purchase to increase revenue or start a new venture, or some financial investment to increase returns, it’s a hard no. We know this. That’s why this goal in particular can be so difficult. You’d never buy anything!

(Obviously this won’t apply to monthly bills, or things like groceries. But make sure you have a budget and stick to it.)

One other issue that arises is when two goals seem to contradict each other. For instance, debt reduction vs. buying a new house. But if you remain focused on the steps, you can reduce your revolving debt – which will lead to a better rate on your mortgage.

And that’s all it is. A goal is a road-map. Stick to the map, achieve the goal. Then set a new one.

Commitment

Much like I committed to a post a day on this blog, I’ve committed now to maintaining my morning pages for the duration of my new notebook. That should be a little over two months, if I’ve done my math right.

This last notebook I missed more days than I care to count. But when I started in November of 2015, I know that some miraculous things started to happen in my life. I’m curious to see what will come of it now.

And that’s what commitment can reveal. Stick to it, whether it’s new healthy habits, or creative endeavors, or just giving a little bit more – to family, at work, or wherever. You get out what you put in.

If you really commit to it, it seems you get more out than what you’re putting in.