“What do you want to achieve in your life?” It was a question that made me uncomfortable when I was first asked as a teenager. I thought it was because I was young. Now I’m in my 50’s and I still don’t know what I want do with my life, though I have some solid ideas about how I want to live.
Goals aren’t really my thing. Or at least not goals about achieving a certain outcome – I do have goals about the process to get there, again, the how.
When I first joined a gym, the trainer asked my friend and I about our goals. We said we wanted to exercise. He asked what we were hoping to get out of doing the exercise… and we said, exercise. It was a painful conversation as he insisted we must want to get stronger, or lose weight, or have better endurance. We agreed those all sounded like lovely things, and if they happened that would be great. But if we exercised – moved our bodies in ways we enjoyed – regularly and none of those things happened, that would be fine too. He never understood.
How do you want to spend your time?
A few years ago, I made a list with my kids about our “intentions” (not sure that was the best word, but it was fun to draw it with pretty pens). Our list:
- loving people
- caring for our bodies
- being outdoors
- caring for our home
- caring for our minds
- exploring ALL THE PLACES
- making beautiful things
- changing the world
When someone says they’re bored… we go to the list. When I’m wondering if I’m spending my time in the best ways, I check in with the list. Your list will be different of course, or mean different things to you.
What isn’t on the list?
Deciding what you’re going to stop doing, or do less of, is just as important as knowing what you are going to prioritize.
For me, when I switched from thinking about “long distance running” to “caring for my body” I had the aha moment that I wasn’t really enjoying the running much anymore, and it wasn’t really great for my body. Cutting back on the time I spent running has been so incredibly freeing! I do much more walking, yoga, and weight training, not to mention all the other things I do with the extra time I have.
Pick ONE focus for the day!
Even with a short list, you can’t do it all every day. I pick one thing each day – relationships or exploring or whatever from the list. I still go to my job and make meals and chat with people of course, but I do it through the lens of my one focus. If it’s “being outdoors”, then I do walking meetings with people at work where we get out in the sunshine, and maybe the kids and I eat dinner on the porch – have a picnic – and I might cut the grass instead of sweeping the kitchen floor. I trust that my body, heart, and mind will tell me when the time is right to focus on each of the things on my list.
Enjoy your dreams for the future, and live what you can of them today
I have dreams – ooooh owning a pen and stationery store, or living by the ocean, or being a grandma – and vague plans for the future. I’m really really awful at predicting the future though (aren’t we all?) and I do love surprises, so I’m always excited about all the unexpected twists and turns life takes.
The dreams are fun ideas to play with and they give me clues to what I’m valuing in life. If one of my kids has children and lives near an oceanside stationery store that’s up for sale, well then great! But if none of those things happen, my life is no less rich. My kids are sick with colds right now, so I get to baby them. I’m travelling soon, so I’ll visit a new pen shop and maybe find a treasure or two. And I always find ways to be near ponds, rivers, lakes, and yes, the ocean. I live my dreams every day.