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Issue 33

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In this issue ~~

* Planning Ahead: A Life Map

* FREE GIFT! Time Management System

* Creative Tip

* Wise Words

* Bookshelf

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Planning Ahead: A Life Map

Many of us float through life without a plan. We kind of know what we'd like to happen, but we don't have any clear goals or a strategy for getting there. As a result, we never quite get where we want to go, or we end up taking the long way around. Imagine that you want to drive from New York to Los Angeles, but you refuse to consult a map; you just take whichever road looks good to you at the time. You might end up in California, but you also might end up in the Yukon! Maybe that's more exciting for you, but it's a risk you take.

Certainly, there are times when you want the freedom to be spontaneous and follow your heart. Maybe that even works for you as a lifestyle. But if you have specific goals you want to achieve, having a "life map" can help you get where you want to go faster and more efficiently. With a basic structure in place, you can then find a lot of freedom within the boundaries of your map and catch yourself if you stray too far from your intended path.

Creating a map can be particularly useful if you have a life goal that isn't feasible for you right now. You can decide where you want to be in, say, 5 or 10 years and plan a strategy to get you there over that time. The steps you take might include cutting back on your extravagances, or even moving to a less expensive home, to save money so you have a cushion to fall back on during an anticipated career change. It might mean acquiring or honing skills, or slowly accumulating credits toward an avanced degree. Then, when the time is right, all the pieces will be in place, and you can make your move elegantly.

As artists, it's often against our nature to create a rigid structure for ourselves. It makes us feel trapped and stifled. Or we may be afraid of setting goals because we fear we'll be disappointed if they don't happen, or not be able to live up to the demands if they do. Being right-brainers, it's our tendency to follow our muse and let the chips fall where they may. But if we wait for inspiration to show up, it often doesn't, and we never accomplish much.

The structure you create doesn't have to be a rigid one -- in fact, flexibility is crucial in withstanding the twists and turns that life throws at us -- and having an organized plan can help you achieve more with less effort. As a writer, sure, I want creative freedom, but if I don't schedule time to write and set a deadline for completing a project, I'll never do it. The distractions of life can be much more compelling than a finicky muse that doesn't want to show up without a lot of coaxing! And if you want to use your creativity in a business, planning is crucial.

~ Begin by creating a vision for yourself. Allow yourself to dream. What would you ultimately like to accomplish with your work? With your life? Make sure these are things that *you* truly want, not what someone else wants for you or what you think is expected by some societal standard, and that they're aligned with your values. Keep in mind the person you want to become; don't limit yourself by who you are now. You're going to grow!

~ Write a mission statement or do a treasure map. A mission statement includes the essence of what you want stated in words. For example, "I want to inspire young people with my music," "I want to be innovative and create new forms with my art," or "I want to live a life that embodies my values of love, compassion and beauty." (If you're not sure how to go about this, try the Mission Statement formulator at Franklin Covey.) A treasure map captures the same essence in images as well as words. Go through magazines and cut out pictures and phrases that represent your vision. Create a collage on poster board.

~ Next, pull apart the vision. What are the specific components? Is there a particular job you would like? Certain people or types of people you want to be around? Do you envision living in a specific place? What do you see yourself accomplishing? What new things do you want to learn or explore? How do you want to grow and change as a person?

Now, take each component. What do you need to do to make it happen? What do you need to change about yourself? What skills do you need to acquire? What other changes need to be made? Break it down into small, doable steps. Is there anything here that you're unwilling or unable to do? If so, go back and modify that component. Then, break down the steps again.

~ Place your steps in a timeline. You might have a detailed one-year timeline, with specific steps and goals, and a less-detailed five- or ten-year timeline for long-term goals. Place your timelines where you can check them easily, and copy the steps for the coming year into your day planner.

When you fill in your timeline, keep in mind how you're motivated. If you work best with deadlines, set specific dates by which to accomplish each step. If you work better without pressure, then set a time frame, such as, "I'll finish 3 paintings within the year." However tight or loose the deadlines, though, be sure to define clear, specific goals.

~ Do financials. Plan for the future you envision or for retirement. (For creatives, retirement often means being able to spend *all* of your time doing what you love instead of only a small portion of it.) If your vision includes your own business, start working up a business plan so you have an idea of how much capital it will require (undercapitalization is the biggest cause of small business failure). Work with a financial planner to see how much you need to save to have the financial cushion you're going to want when it's time to make your move.

~ Deal with your fears. Define what you're really afraid of (often, it comes down to money issues or fear of losing loved ones). You may have a goal that you're not capable of achieving now, but that's perfectly doable as a ten-year plan. Prepare yourself for success. Build your courage and confidence by honing and expanding your skills and facing your fears. Remember, you don't have to do it all in one leap; you're very capable of taking one step at a time.

~ Create interim pictures. As you follow your plan, what will your life look like one year from now? In five years? Ten? Twenty? The trick is to hold both the big picture and the details at the same time. Keep your eye on the road ahead while maneuvering past the potholes that lie right in front of you. And even when your plans go awry, keep your sights on your vision. The universe works in mysterious ways, and you'll reach your goal in a much richer way than you could have orchestrated by yourself.

~ As you work with your plan, reevaluate it periodically. Cross off the steps that have been accomplished. (Some people prefer to use a yellow highlighter to show themselves how much they've accomplished.) As things change and you gain more insight, rework your timeline to keep it realistic. You may find you're moving faster or slower than you originally intended, or in a different direction. Redo your one-year timeline every 6 or 12 months. You may even want to make changes in your original vision or mission statement as your self-awareness and experience grow.

~ Keep it simple. Don't overload yourself with a lot of heavy-duty goals. Like New Year's resolutions, you'll do it for 2 months and stop. Better to define 3-5 choice goals and focus on those over the long-term. And find a way to keep yourself motivated. With long-term goals in particular, make sure you have interim gratification or rewards along the way to keep you going.

~ Put it down on paper. Even if you have a great memory, there's power in the process of writing, and seeing it in black and white makes it more real.

By taking these steps, you are creating a life map that will get you where you want to go. Little steps add up, and you may find yourself getting there faster than you thought you could. Wanting things to happen is not enough. You need to have a clear intention, and then take actions to support that intention. By being clear, you invite the universe to bring you what you need to move toward your goal.

Having a plan will help you stay focused on your goals and dreams. You'll be able to work more efficiently and avoid wasting precious time and energy worrying, trying to figure out what to do next and beating yourself up for not living up to your potential. You've got better things to do with your time than that!

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FREE GIFT! ~ ~ ~ Time Management System
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I have created a project and weekly planner system for Microsoft Word. To download the file, click here.

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Creative Tip

If you have a particular goal you want to achieve, write it 15 times a day. Write it in present tense in a positive form. For example, say, "I am now in perfect health," rather than, "I am not going to get sick anymore."

 

Wise Words

"Some people regard discipline as a chore. For me, it is a kind of order that sets me free to fly."

~ Julie Andrews

"Setting goals for significant accomplishments you want to achieve in your life, both personal and professional accomplishments, costs you nothing. Failure to set them can cost you plenty. You are smack in the middle of the only life your going to have. You can choose to succeed, or choose to drift; having goals makes the difference."

~ Alec Mackenzie, The Time Trap

"Four steps to achievement: Plan purposefully. Prepare prayerfully. Proceed positively. Pursue persistently."

~ William A. Ward

"It is more important to know where you are going than to get there quickly. Do not mistake activity for achievement."

~ Mabel Newcomber


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Bookshelf

(click on the book graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)

Energy, Peace, Purpose: A Step by Step Guide to Optimal Living . . . G. Ken Goodrick

The Practical Dreamer's Handbook: Finding the Time, Money, and Energy to Live the Life You Want to Live . . . Paul Edwards, Sarah Edwards

The Magic Lamp: Goal Setting for People Who Hate Setting Goals . . . Keith Ellis

Daily Plan-It: The Pursuit of Goals . . . Chris Mackey

Motivation and Goal Setting: How to Set and Achieve Goals and Inspire Others . . . Jim Cairo

The 15 Second Principle: Short, Simple Steps to Achieving Long-Term Goals . . . Al Secunda

Goal Setting 101: How to Set and Achieve a Goal! . . . Gary Ryan Blair

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© 2001 Sharon Good. All rights reserved.

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