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Issue 55

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In this issue ~~

* What Really Matters

* Creative Tip

* Wise Words

* Bookshelf

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What Really Matters

When the world around you is going haywire, as it has been particularly in the last year and a half, it makes you think about what's really important to you. We have a tendency to put things off to a better, more convenient time. But when you have no idea what the next day will bring, there's an urgency to doing the things that really matter to you, rather than perhaps losing the chance to do them at all.

As a career coach, I've had many people come to me who want to craft a life that's meaningful to them. Some have walked out on successful, high-paying careers because they could no longer face getting up in the morning. Others have been downsized from jobs they hate and choose to use this time as an opportunity to get on a better track instead of continuing their suffering in a different place. Still others want to revive pursuits that are important to them, but that have gotten lost in the frantic pace of day-to-day life.

Many creative people, in needing to make a living, put off doing their creative work, and their souls suffer for it. I'm not saying that it's easy to work a full-time job and still find time to paint, write or sing. But what will it feel like to come to the end of your life and not have done those things? Better to give up the premium movie channels and invest the time and money on something that will matter in the long run.

Perhaps you've come to the conclusion that you do want to invest in your dreams, but you get stuck because you don't know what to do or where to begin. It helps to have a map, so let's look at how you can start to reevaluate your life and make space for what matters to you.

~ Begin by taking stock of your values. According to Hyrum W. Smith, a motivational speaker who is one of the founders of Franklin Covey and the author of What Matters Most, much of our dissatisfaction about our lives comes from a conflict between our actions and our deeply-held personal values. Once you've determined what these values are, note whether the actions you're taking and the activities you're involved in support them. Wherever they don't, begin to plan action steps to bring them in line or replace them with something that does. In some cases, these will be small adjustments. In other cases, a major life change may be in order.

~ Next, look at what situations in your life you have been meaning to change or leave, but haven't. How do you justify them? What's stopping you from moving on? What are you sacrificing by staying stuck? What actions can you take to set change in motion? If necessary, start slow – chances are you've been hesitating because of a fear or because it will cause an upheaval in your life. Take it a step at a time. Once you start taking action, one step will lead to another, and it will gain momentum. It may help to make some preparations before you act to make the transition smoother.

~ Think about why you're doing the things you're doing. Often, we start doing something for a good reason, it becomes a habit, and we keep doing it long after it's useful to us. Think about activities that you've been doing for years that are no longer fun for you. Such things can be eliminated or minimized to make room for things that are more meaningful to you now.

~ Note the things have you been putting off till "someday." In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey has us classify our activities based on "urgency" and "importance." Sadly, the things that are "important but not urgent" often slip through the cracks. It's these – the things that lead us into the future of our dreams – that we have to make priorities.

Now, here's the test. Once you've determined what's important to you, pretend you're 80 or 90 years old, and look back on your life. Pretend you've done all the things you're planning to put into place as a result of this exploration. Is there anything else you can think of that you would deeply regret not doing? Is there anything you're doing you'll be sorry for later? What changes would you make? The good news is, you're not there yet, so you can make the changes now!

In doing these exercises, think outside the dollar sign. We tend to measure our success by how much we make and how extravagantly we live. There's nothing wrong with living a comfortable life, but in using money as your gauge, you may sacrifice the things that will matter most in the long run. Go back to your values. I would bet that most, if not all of them are based on something other than material gain. Redefine success based on what truly matters to you. Write notes to yourself or draw pictures that you can keep in sight to remind you.

Once you've defined what's important to you, make time for it. Craft and shape your life to fit your goals and dreams, rather than letting it run away with you. You may feel some resistance: When something is very important to you, your doubts and fears come into play. Push through them. Once you do and you experience the exhilaration of living a life that's aligned with your passions and values, you'll wonder what took you so long.

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Creative Tip

Make a list of the activities you have in your life and the ones you want to introduce. Then, add 2 columns: "Need to Do" and "Want to Do." In the first column, give each item a rating from 1 to 10 based on how much you need to do that activity. Things like money-making activities and family duties will rate high in this column. In the second, assign a rating based on how much you want to do it. Look at the items that rate high in Want and low in Need. What can you do to give them more presence in your life?

 

Wise Words

"Why [do] I repeatedly fail to live the intentions that matter to me? I want to know how to narrow the gap between the sincerest desires of my soul and my daily actions."

~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer

"The crime which bankrupts men and nations is that of turning aside from one's main purpose to serve a job here and there."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

"We all have inconveniences of one kind or another. How you deal with them ultimately determines how successful you are."

~ Craig McFarlane (blind motivational speaker)

"Accusing the times is but excusing ourselves."

~ English proverb

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Bookshelf

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

What Matters Most: The Power of Living Your Values . . . Hyrum W. Smith, Ken Blanchard

Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters . . . Phillip C. McGraw

To Do Doing Done! . . . G. Lynne Snead, Joyce Wycoff

The Invitation . . . Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Your Heart's Prayer: Following the Thread of Desire into a Deeper Life . . . Oriah Mountain Dreamer (audio CD)

Take Time for Your Life: A Personal Coach's Seven-Step Program for Creating the Life You Want . . . Cheryl Richardson

Tuning in: Listening to the Voice of Your Soul . . . Cheryl Richardson (audio CD)

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway . . . Susan Jeffers

 

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© 2003 Sharon Good. All rights reserved.

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