Living On Purpose

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A lot has been said about “living intentionally”. Basically, you consider your choices and make the right ones for you based on how it impacts your quality of life. You don’t allow “accidents” to derail your life plans. You strive to live in the moment. There’s some other hippie-type stuff in there, but the big part of living intentionally – or what I prefer to think of as living on purpose – consists of one little word.

No.

We’re trained to think of “No” as a bad word, a negative response, a rejection of who we are or what we want. But if you are making goals, or processing grief, or just overwhelmed with life’s options, it’s sometimes easier to define what we don’t want than what we do want.

Society pressures us to say yes all the time. Yes, I’ll work late. Yes, I’ll pick up your kids…again. Yes, you can go ahead even though I’ve been waiting here for an hour and a half. Yes, I’ll buy that gadget because it’s late at night and I’m lonely and I really think I need an automatic grape peeling machine.

We have to stop thinking about Yes in terms of money or feelings or even time. Saying “Yes” costs us in something far greater – energy. It takes energy to work the extra hours, take the long way home, wait in line needlessly, talk to salesmen. And spending your energy means that you won’t have the time or will power later to do the things you need to do.

You’re used to Time being finite. We all get the same 24 hours in a day. But what about Energy? That’s finite, too. It runs out. We get tired, used up, burned out. You can always make more money. The time will reset itself tomorrow. But energy is a hard-won commodity we shouldn’t part with so easily.

Saying “No” to non-essential things frees up your mental focus for the things that matter. It puts the burden of making everybody happy on someone else. It forces you to adhere to your goals and ignore the never-ending hype of society that who we are and what we do is not enough.

No is a powerful word. “No” isn’t being mean. It’s living with intention, on purpose, with choice. It doesn’t require an explanation, although we often feel guilted into providing one.

Learn to use “No,” as a complete sentence.

SMART Goals

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I’m a list-making kind of person. Nothing warms my little heart more than a bullet list of things to do, reasons to move, what I love about Poldark… the list of lists is endless.

List-making is a facet of a larger endeavor – Goal-setting. But setting goals isn’t something I’ve given much thought to. I typically decide to do something, then do it. I don’t worry too much about the process or try to define the steps to get there.

Until recently.

As a Renaissance soul, I’m capable of following almost any whim that comes along and mastering it to boredom. Mostly, it’s a great thing to be. Except when it’s not. When it eats up time better spent elsewhere or tempts you to spend the grocery money on supplies for your new shiny pursuit, it can become a weakness.

So, the question isn’t Can I Meet That Goal. I already know I can. The question now becomes Which Goals Are Worthy of Attainment?

Turns out, all you need are SMART goals – something the business world has been throwing around for a while now. SMART is an acronym (that’s a fancy kind of list!), and it stands for:

SPECIFIC

MEASURABLE

ATTAINABLE

REALISTIC

TIMELY

(I was tempted to bullet that list for you, but I settled for block quotes.I’m learning restraint, see?)

SPECIFIC – Large, undefined goals are overwhelming. Specific, explainable goals are within reach. Sure you can have big goals, but be sure to break them down into smaller, specific tasks, or mini-goals. Write this down.

MEASURABLE – This is a huge, overlooked step that has gotten me every time. You need to know how far you’ve come so you’ll know when you’ve arrived. Be able to express the steps of your goal in terms of a budget, time invested, days required, or other quantifiable method. Take a moment to visualize what it will look like when you have reached your goal. Take a mental picture of it. Draw it or write the scene down and post it somewhere visible so you will recognize it when it comes to life.

ATTAINABLE – Be realistic so you set yourself up for success. You can’t be an astronaut if you drop out of school and never visit NASA. Now, you might be able to finish your education and go to Space Camp. That would at least get you closer to the Great Beyond. Know your strengths and the intermediate steps you can take to get you in the running for your goal.

REALISTIC – You have to be BOTH willing and able to reach your goal. I wanted to be a ballerina, but I never had dance lessons and got scoliosis. Being a ballerina isn’t going to happen for me. Dance is something I enjoy (I have the will), but a goal in that area isn’t realistic for me (I lack the ability). Don’t worry. There’s plenty more goals to shoot for.

TIMELY – They say an open-ended goal is one that is never completed – or at least takes much longer than it should have. Have a time-frame set for the various steps of your goal and a deadline for completion. If you haven’t reached your goal by the deadline, analyze what held you up, make adjustments, and keep going. It helps to have some options built in, too. If you plan to sell your house and move by the end of the year, what will you do if it doesn’t sell? Wait idly until it does? Or move anyway and rent out your old house? Or take a better job elsewhere and support a 2nd home for a time?

As my dad likes to say, “Plan your Work and Work your Plan.” Make SMART goals and know when you get there. Take time to celebrate, then make a new goal! I’m pretty sure I have a list of goals around here somewhere….

C is for Creativity

The April Blogging from A to Z Challenge continues!

Letter C

C is for CREATIVITY

  Creativity is a gift, a given, right?   So why do we need to teach it in the classroom?

In a recent article on “Cultivating Creativity in the Classroom” from Psychology Today, Michael Hogan, PhD, gathers arguments from creativity experts that inform us how students are losing their creativity through standardized testing and mandated procedures.  It’s the scientific version of a recent post here, where comic genius John Cleese speaks to adults on regaining their creative talents (it’s a great video – go ahead, click and watch it right now.  You can come back).

While I won’t get into the debate about whether, or how much, students are losing their creative gifts (you can read the research as well as I can), I will share this little tidbit from Dr. Jane Piirto.  She urges everyone to think about boosting their creativity in a very physical way – The Princess and the Pea method.

The Princess and the Pea

The Princess and the Pea

Remember how annoying that little pea was to the delicate skin of the princess?  In Piirto’s exercise, students write down five acts which constitute personal risk-taking upon which they vow to act. This paper is then folded into a ‘pea’ and placed on the person (in one’s shoe or bra) as a constant reminder to take those avowed risks.

Now, it’s your turn.  What 5 acts of risk-taking – of CREATIVITY – can you think of?  Write them down, fold the paper, and put it in a…um, uncomfortable place.  You’ll be thinking about your goals a lot more frequently, I can guarantee it!

Leave a comment for me, if you please.  Writing is a lonely business.

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