Just beyond yourself. It’s where you need to be.
Half a step into forgetting and the rest restored by what you meet.
~ From the poem ‘Just beyond yourself’
in David Whyte’s collection of poetry, The bell and the blackbird
2019 began with an intention to be in FLOW – my word for this year. I want to move from where I am to just beyond myself, as the quote above says. One way is to give attention to my intentions, something I’ve written about previously. But to make this work, I have to take it a step further by making intentional choices.
Ralph Marston, author of the blog, The daily motivator says, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. He says that the choices you make should be driven by what will make a difference in your life.
Last year, I kept loading my plate with to-dos, projects, stuff, that had me flitting from one thing to another keeping me busy chasing my tail but not moving me forward. This year, my new approach came after reflecting on how I want my days to be and what will make a difference in my life. Professional writing goals, self-care – which includes making time for drawing, and exercise are the most important things that I feel will make a difference for now.
Even though I’ve set goals each year, I’ve never been successful at staying the distance. This year I decided to set goals for the quarter. Three months seem more manageable, close enough to keep me on my toes and to keep me moving smoothly. Following the rhythm of the seasons feels good as well. Ok, I’m not quite in alignment but being in flow means easy movement, so flexibility comes into play here.
My goals are simple, and really, I hesitate to share them. Sharing means accountability and I haven’t been accountable since I stopped being an employee a long time ago. But a little accountability goes a long way, I’ve decided. There are just three goals and I’m under no illusion about the work involved. But it’s one choice at a time, one step after another.
So here are my goals for the quarter:
- Change my website – I want a professional persona which incorporates my freelance work, my travel articles and also a journal to chronicle my path to the passionate life I seek. I’ve vacillated between setting up a new professional website, and weaving all the threads of my life together and positioning it in one place. The jury is still out on this but there is work to do, content to be written and other small decisions to be made about business cards, logo, service offerings and clients.I’d love to hear your thoughts on this if you’ve come to that fork in the road — how to integrate the personal and the professional aspects of your life and how you decided to present this publicly.
- Write and publish blog posts according to a schedule. I’ve set up the schedule, and listed the numerous ideas I want to write about, so you will be receiving more regular letters from me. I won’t overwhelm your inbox, but they will appear more often than in the recent past.
- I want to see a published article (print or online, it doesn’t matter) in a magazine with my byline. This means overcoming a number of obstacles: perfectionism — accepting that something is good enough; procrastination; and my fear of rejection. Recently, I read the book Feel the fear and do it anyway by Susan Jeffers who says I should change my vocabulary from:
- I can’t… to …I won’t
- I should… to …I could
- I hope… to …I know
- If only… to …Next time
And instead of asking, ‘What will I do?” when I meet the next challenge, saying, “I can handle it.”
Tentatively, I’m going with ‘I can handle it’ for now. With my goals in mind, I list just three things I want to accomplish each day. Intentional choices each day to help me move beyond myself. Small steps to achieve big things! Some days, I complete the three tasks I set myself, other days there are demands that take me away from my work. But there’s no dwelling on that and feeling guilty. My choice is to move gently and not feel anxious even though I want to make continuous progress.
I’m also using my diary in the way it’s meant to be used. David Allen in his book, Getting things done says that a diary should only be used to note the things you want to accomplish on specific days, and appointments and activities at specific times, instead of using it as a notebook for jotting down random things. Something I’m guilty of. This seems to be working as I’m using it every day now, and it sits open on my desk in plain view, with my three things to accomplish and the the other to-dos for the day. It’s not forgotten in a drawer or under a pile of books.
So, there you have it. My professional goals for the quarter. I feel the anxious fluttering of butterflies in my stomach now, so I’m going to take a short break and give my attention to another intentional choice I made: to bring meditation into my life as part of my self-care…
…I’m back after a three-minute meditation which has settled me. I bought this book as a present for my son but I’ve kept it for a while so that I could work through the eight-week course of becoming more mindfully aware.
Mark Williams and Danny Penman’s book is a practical guide to meditation, set out in weekly activities and practices which only take a few minutes. Making this intentional choice is, as Ralph Marston says, another way to make a difference in my life.
I’m at week six now. It’s another way to bring FLOW into my life — to enable the gentle process of moving continuously to unfold easily, calmly, and smoothly. I’m meditating daily and although my mind is easily distracted, I think it’s been enormously beneficial. I certainly feel calmer, less stressed about the things I can’t control, and not so anxious about all the ‘Next actions’ on my Trello boards.
As part of my self-care I made the intentional choice to make time for drawing which helps with my creativity and focuses my attention in the present. I’m still at the beginning of my learning but my practice has been erratic.
For starters, I decided that for the month of February I would draw snippets from my life every day. The time I spend drawing is like an active meditation. There’s just me, my pencil on the paper, and my subject — a kind of meditation. A small drawing, I’ve discovered, doesn’t take long. The drawings aren’t fabulous — I can see a lack of perspective in some and problems with proportion, but I’ve banished the demon of perfection .
Other intentional choices, like my journal writing, which is part of my daily routine anyway, and regular exercise, apart from walking my dog, are what matter to me as well. I joined an exercise class at my local swimming pool and attend three times per week. I can’t say I love the pool (I prefer the beach) but I do enjoy being active and feeling fit). I can feel the difference in my body and it’s another way to be present. And the endorphins produced linger for quite a while afterward. So it’s a win win situation!
I know there will be days when my attention will be drawn elsewhere, such as searching for the dream house (an ongoing affair which is an overarching objective for this year and one which is going to make a huge difference to my life!). However, routine is a steadying influence for now.
My intentional choices are keeping me on the path to building that passionate life, taking me beyond myself, which is where I want to be. The rest of David’s quote — ‘Half a step into forgetting and the rest restored by what you’ll meet.’— is a good place to aim for. This means be gentle to myself, visit the beach often, walk in nature and spend time with my loves.
Have you made some intentional choices in your life that have helped you achieve life or career goals? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.