In the manifesto I wrote about how many people have no idea what they want to get out of life. The answer to the question, “What do you really want?” tends to trip a lot of us up.
In this post I’ll help you get closer to your own answer to that question, using three different perspectives. If you’ve never done much in the way of lifestyle dezine before, right NOW is always a good time to start thinking about it.
Perspective #1: Creating Your Perfect Day
In this classic exercise, you write out your idealized, perfect day in great detail, beginning from what time you get up and what you have for breakfast all the way through what you do for each hour of the day and who you talk to or dont talk to. The more detail you can add to the plan, the better.
Then you begin to make plans to adjust your life to get closer to the perfect day you’ve designed for yourself. If you take this exercise seriously, you may begin making more conscious decisions about how you spend your time and what you focus on. Even if you don’t make a lot of changes, you’ll learn a lot about yourself based on the information you acquire.
One of my spiritual mentors tells me, “A man must reevaluate his life every Monday” – I love this, I dont think its too extreme to ask ourselves are we progressing? Are we happy? Are we moving forward or standing still?
There are a number of variations on this exercise, but one I’ve used before is from Paul Myers. You can get a free copy of his take on it here.
Perspective #2: Radical Goal-Setting
As I said, the Perfect Day exercise is a classic of the lifestyle dezine literature, and it can help you a lot if you’ve never thought much about what you really enjoy doing. There are two major weaknesses of this exercise, however, and if you don’t compensate for each of them, you can make significant improvements in your life… but you’ll still find yourself wondering, “Is that all there is?”
The first weakness is that in the end, it’s not all about you.
You have to do more than create the perfect day for yourself, because most people really don’t want to spend every day in a castle with someone bringing their perfectly-buttered toast to them in the mornings; they want to do something meaningful with their talents. I believe that is why we are here – to live to our higher selves, for our higher self… SO part of goal setting is discovering what is our higher self and what does it call for… Do I want to make the world a better place, I must find a way to help that is unique to my own abilities. Without addressing this concern, I believe, most of us will not be able to live life to the fullest.
The second weakness has to do with the goals themselves. Where are they?
The Perfect Day exercise, for the most part, doesn’t touch on goals at all. You define what kind of work you do, who you interact with, and so on, but goals are not included. Therefore, you have to add goal-setting to the plan somehow. I tend to think if something is worth doing, you might as well do it all the way – so thus I’ve added “Radical Goal-Setting” to my own unconventional life planning. I usually break it out like this:
Dont think of these as
deadlines, think of them as lifelines, you write them down because they inspire you to move, to live, to breathe, you have lifelines to accomplish!!
- 1 Year Goals (this list gets reviewed a few times a year, and I create next year’s goals on my birthday)
- 5 Year Goals (this list gets reviewed once or twice a year)
- Lifetime Goals (this list gets reviewed once a year, and make sure to include some really BIG ideas for your lifetime goals)
I divide each list into these categories: Health, Friends, Family, Writing, Business, Travel, Income, Savings, Giving, Service, Spiritual, and Personal.
(When you do this for yourself, you should probably have many of the generic categories, and at least 1-2 categories specific to your own situation.)
Perspective #3: Planning for Serendipity/Mystery/Unknown/Magic … In all places there is Magic, we must Embrace the Magic.
I frequently schedule multiple, major projects at the same time, and I am seemingly the only defender of multitasking left out there in the blogosphere.
For me, if I don’t have a lot of plates in the air, I get bored. We’ll look at how that works some other time, but the point I want to make now is that a lot of people express amazement that I can do “so much.” Well, I don’t speak for all the organized people in the world, but I’m going to let you in on a secret that pertains to many of us: we’re not as super-disciplined as you think. Really.
What many of us have done instead is create a structure around our work that allows us to improvise. We do take goal-setting seriously and do work very hard, but any discipline that comes about is usually a result of building a good structure to begin with.
Some of my most fulfilling experiences have been on days when I haven’t had a lot planned. I’ve taken off for long runs in dozens without a map or plan. I’ve watched the sunset without an agenda. Almost every time I experience something like this, I always think to myself, “Wow. Life is good. I am so thankful to be alive.”
Nor do the experiences have to be exotic to be serendipitous. I also enjoy sleeping in here and there, going out for coffee or a smoothie and deciding on a whim to do something completely different one day.
Another way to think of it is this: in the long-run, I want to be focused on the goals, my ideal world, and helping people however I can. In the short-run, I have to take steps to ensure those things are happening, but it’s not a highly regulated environment. If anything, it’s a flexible-but-purposeful environment. You don’t have to give up serendipity at all. Instead, when you work towards building your Ideal World, you’ll usually end up with more time to be spontaneous, and more energy for the “fun” things you like to do.
This mind-map illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of each approach – click to enlarge or download.
Financing Your Life
Commentaries on lifestyle dezine usually fall into one of two camps – those that pretend that money doesn’t matter, and those that act like money is everything. Naturally, both of these positions are problematic.
Of course it’s hard to buy groceries on dreams alone. I am a renegade entrepreneur who believes in creating my own freedom through self-employment and personal responsibility. This requires hard work — it does not usually just fall into place somewhere.
But yes, it is also true that money is not usually the biggest obstacle that holds people back from greatness. What holds us back, more often than money, is fear of the unknown and priorities that we have placed elsewhere. In other words, the passive decision to join the world of the unremarkably average.
Where is the balance between ignoring the reality that we need money and stressing over it to the point of obsession? I think it lies in:
a) clearly understanding how much money we need to do what we want (as precisely as possible) I promise you – we can live on less. Where are you spending your money now, that you can easily cut back from?… and then
b) making a plan to get that amount of money.
Begin Where You Are
“Well begun is half-way done” … Last and most importantly, never underestimate the power of small choices. I get emails once in a while from people who say they are too in debt to do what they want, too young, too old, or otherwise unable to create their ideal lives. I always say, start small, but START. Do something different this week that will get you a little bit closer.
Have you ever known someone who transformed a completely sedentary lifestyle into a completely active one? One year the guy is an overweight smoker who drinks and eats too much. The next year he undergoes a remarkable transformation where he quits smoking, radically improves his diet, and becomes a fitness freak.
We see people like that and think, “Amazing!” On a personal level, it is amazing. But the most amazing parts are the first steps. Somewhere along the way, momentum kicks in and never stops. Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho has a theory about why this is the case:
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
You can take that or leave it as you see fit. All I will say is that momentum is real. It carries marathon runners from Mile 24 to Mile 26.2. It can help you get whatever you want, but first you need to be very clear on what exactly that thing is.
Any thoughts please share in the comment section below or via facebook.
A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes. ~Hugh Downs