Tag Archives: schedule

Wing It Or Plan It: How Do You Go Through Life?

“He who every morning plans the transactions of that day and follows that plan carries a thread that will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life.” –Victor Hugo

“The problem with a plan is that you fill up the blank page of a new day with a ‘to-do’ list before you get there. And if you’re not careful there’s no room for anything else.” –John C. Parkin

Hello friend,

I am caught in an existential crisis at the moment. My head is trying to convince my heart that it would be better off if I would just go against my nature for the short-term. And even though I can see the logic in it, my spirit translates that logic as clipping my wings and putting me in a cage. Thus, the spirit is railing against “the rules” of the brain with all its might, fighting for its freedom as though its very life is being choked out. I cannot be contained!

I am leading my family on a big adventure to the mountains in a few weeks, complete with camping, sightseeing, special adrenaline-rushing excursions, and lots of restorative communion with Mother Earth and The Man In The Moon. I have been looking forward to this trip for what feels like forever, and I could not be more excited to get out there under the big sky and “sound my barbaric YAWP over the rooftops of the world,” as Walt Whitman once wrote.

I say I am “leading” not just because I have been out to the mountains before and feel at home in the outdoors, but mostly because my wife has given me complete responsibility for the planning and execution of this giant trip. Argh!

Other than the implicit pressure that comes with that responsibility–basically, “Make sure we all love it!”–I was initially enjoying the job as trip coordinator. I got to pour over maps–a favorite pastime of mine– to plan a general route that would cover a mix of my favorite memories from past trips and also some fun new stuff–like zip lining in the canyons and whitewater rafting–that will make precious new memories for all of us. There was a general vision in my head, but plenty of fluidity to allow for whims and spontaneity. We have a tent, and I was busy accumulating the other camping accoutrement. And the last time I was out there–just a couple of wee decades ago–there seemed to be campsites everywhere I turned. I figured that was about all there was to the coordinator job. Planning complete! Now back to the daydreaming…

Oh, if only it were that simple.

I had to go and start talking to people about it! From my siblings and friends, I was looking for insider travel tips for the national parks, camping suggestions, hidden gems, cautionary tales, and, as always, great personal stories of how the land and the adventure have affected them.

I started with my siblings, one of whom lives out there and two who have traveled extensively in the area. We met up recently for a leisurely family vacation, and the topic of this adventure was infused into nearly all of our conversations from the beginning. Far from confirming my happy memories and fantasies of open campgrounds and quiet trails in the forests–communing with Nature in blissful solitude–all I got were horror stories of how crowded the parks have become, what a nightmare it is to find campsites anywhere that haven’t been reserved (requiring multiple back-up plans), and how exorbitant nearby hotel prices are.

Instantly, I could feel knots growing in the back of my shoulders and the pit of my stomach. Stress. Dread. Despondence. This was not at all what I was expecting from the conversations, and definitely not the feelings I wanted to associate with my beautiful fantasy of a trip. And I was on vacation when all this came up! I didn’t want the feelings then, either!

I tried to let them slide by me: “Oh, I suppose I have a bit of research ahead of me when I get back home next week. No big deal.” But inside, I could feel the awful churning and the knots. These were not going to allow themselves to be stifled. Because I know myself quite well after all of these years with my journal, and I was absolutely certain of two things that would ruin a day–or many–on my dream adventure: 1) chasing around in vain all day trying to find a place to spend the night instead of exploring the natural wonders (and even the prospect of chasing around the next day), and 2) getting stuck without a place and being forced to spend an exorbitant amount of money on a high-season tourist hotel in some town away from where I really want to be. I am not willing to accept either of those options on this trip; it means too much to me. Hence, the churning and the knots.

They kept building and building for a few days as I labored at denial. At last, they got the best of me. While my children, siblings, and extended family frolicked in the laziness of a day at the lake, I closed the door to my bedroom and bunkered down with my books, maps, phone, and tablet. I needed to make some reservations.

Yuck! Even that word makes me feel constrained: RESERVATIONS. Maybe it is a silly class thing: I don’t want to be associated with something fancy enough to require “reservations” for me to get in or to keep other people out. Maybe it triggers my dislike of crowds and feeling cramped: if you need “reservations,” there must be limited space (and I hate limited space). And maybe it is just my natural distaste for the tedium of research and planning: I just want to be there and flow with it.

I see as I write this that the last one is a loaded issue for me. I do not appreciate the grinding of details and numbers and other minutiae that remove me from the experience of the thing. I want to be in Montana; I don’t want to plan the budget and research and book the hotels and campgrounds and excursions and plot the exact movements of the days so I can be in Montana. I just want to be there! The details only serve to annoy me.

I chide myself for this petulance, as I know it reveals the spoiled child aspect of my personality. I want things to be easy for me. I get irritated when I have to be bogged down with the details rather than the big picture, or if I have to labor too much to get what I want. It is the same stuff that I lecture my children about. But I am a middle-aged man! My frustrations reveal the part of me that has yet to grow up. It’s a little embarrassing.

On the other hand, I am trying to become more accepting of myself and allowing space for my imperfections. I get that I am a little bit spoiled. I get that Life is a challenge and things like making ends meet and getting to do all the things you want to do is not the norm, but I still expect that for my world. I have always had people in my life that have been sympathetic to my cause and have filled in the gaps of my personality quirks, most especially my parents and my wife.

My wife–bless her heart–does all the stuff at home that my mind (well, let’s be honest: every fiber of my being) rejects. She fills out forms and deals with insurance companies. She does product reviews and full-scale research for every major (and most minor) purchase. She looks at bank statements and retirement documents. She books airline tickets and knows the password for Amazon. She even talks to the cable company! All things that make me want to shut down and hide in a cave. It is why this trip-planning experience has proven to be such an odyssey of travails for me. All of this is her element and her role in the relationship. I am completely out of my water! It is quite pathetic, actually, because of course I understand that regular people do this stuff every day. My stress and the fears that my soul will be crushed under the weight of the planning are silly, no doubt, but I still feel them. (Thank God I live with a grown-up!)

I once heard discipline defined as “freedom within the form.” That idea has always stuck with me. Freedom within the form. It seeps into my mind now as I try to make sense of my predicament. It strikes me that what I need for this trip is not so much complete freedom but rather this freedom within the form. I need discipline. The only way I can feel free to wander freely along the streams and sit by the campfire gazing peacefully at the enormous night sky is to have all these reservations in place ahead of time. The only real constraint is knowing I have to be in certain campsites or hotel rooms each night of the trip. These are the milestones. What I do in between those nights–which mountains I climb or rivers I cross or roads I travel–is left to the stirrings of my soul. When I look at it like that, it is so much more palatable. Sure, I still have to go through this torture of research and reservations and holding myself to a plan in order to gain that disciplined version of freedom, but I suppose that is the price of the ticket to this show. Sometimes you just have to pay it (or so I keep telling myself).

I am addicted to Freedom and will always desire that ability to run wild and to wander without limits. I won’t ever stop preferring to trust in the Universe to provide and simply winging it. I will always want a big, wide-open space that is safe to play in so I can just do my thing. I suppose that in grown-up life, what makes the safe playground is plenty of money, things like health coverage and a low crime rate, and some well-made plans. Unless I can get someone else to provide all of that for me–“Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?”–I better get used to earning my freedom by working to create a big enough and safe enough form to play in. I may never become a happy planner–it is probably just not in the DNA–but I hope I can find the wisdom to summon that little bit of discipline that will make me a much happier camper. Yeah, I think I’ll plan for that!

How about you? Do you prefer to plan things out or fly by the seat of your pants? Open up your journal and process your preparations for some of your bigger life events and adventures. When it comes to the big stuff–trips, weddings, work events–do you like being the planner or just showing up and going with the flow? Does planning too many details or every minute of the day excite you or take the fun out of it for you? Which gives you more self-confidence: going into a situation knowing you have a plan, or coming out of a situation just fine despite entering without a plan? Do you tend to worry if you don’t know what is coming next? On a scale of 1-10, how spontaneous are you? What is the biggest thing you have ever just winged? How well did it work out? What did that teach you about yourself? What do you think about that idea of discipline as “freedom within the form”? Is that something like a middle ground between being an obsessive planner and a freewheeling floater? Does it work for you to lay down milestones–like me figuring out where we are going to sleep each night–and then give yourself freedom to do what you want between those markers? Does it give you more stress to plan hard or to be without a plan? How much can you plan for your next adventure before it becomes too planned? Where is that line for you? Are you the same way in your regular life as you are with special events? Are you good with the grind and details of things like monthly bills, insurance, taxes, retirement planning, subscriptions, and the like, or does that stuff feel like a completely different planet to you (as it does for me)? Do you feel like you need a “real adult” around to keep your life in order so that you can be “free” and wing it? Are you that adult for someone else? If so, do you hold it against them or just accept that we all have different strengths? Do life partnerships work better when there is one planner and one winger? Do you keep a real schedule that you access regularly? Do you appreciate its convenience or resent it for running your life? Whichever way you feel, do you think the plan is necessary for some degree of peace of mind? How has your planner vs. winger dynamic evolved as you have moved through life? Which way do you tend to be evolving toward in the long-term? Does that feel right to you? Leave me a reply and let me know: Do you plan your way through life or just show up and roll with it?

Gulp down every moment,

William

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P.P.S. If this way of questioning yourself invigorates you, consider buying my book Journal of YOU: Uncovering The Beauty That Is Your Truth at your favorite online retailer.

Do You Have A Busy Life Or A Full Life?

“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” –Henry David Thoreau

“Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.” –Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living

Hello friend,

I returned to my job on Monday after a wonderful, relaxing vacation. Everyone at work also had the previous week off for Spring Break, so it was a fresh start for all, back to the grind of our hectic work days and schedules full of activities, events, and errands. It was obvious from the beginning of the week that this transition from the ease of vacation–whether it was an actual “vacation” on a beach, water park, ski slope, etc. or just a bunch of days of “I don’t need to be anywhere” at home–to the hectic Normal was jarring to people of all ages. There were a lot of stunned looks in the hallways as people tried to find the groove of that very fast lane that we all seem to occupy in our usual routines.

I found it fascinating to listen to people summarize their respective weeks off, especially the ones who didn’t “go on vacation” but rather stayed home without working. There were so many comments to the effect of, “It was just SO NICE to not have to be anywhere!” or “We didn’t do much of anything, and that was just perfect!” Everyone seemed to be in agreement that having no big agenda, To-Do List, or time commitments–whether in town or out of town–was just what the doctor ordered.

I felt that way on my vacation, too. Even though I was out of town and staying at someone else’s house–in theory, not completely on my own terms–every day was very much a No Schedule/No Obligation operation. It was my desire to be at the beach for part of the day, but I wasn’t very particular about which part. I wanted to be at the pool or playing outside with my kids, too, but that could be worked out around the beach trips. I could write in my journal any time. The only things I set a clock for all week were my morning trips to the gym, which I did just to leave the rest of the day wide open for whimsy. Every day eventually became filled with fun, peace, and the people I love most.

Full. Not busy.

It made me wonder what I could do to bring a little (or a lot) more of that vacation sensation to my “real” life. I mean, I realize that I can’t just stop having commitments and obligations. I go on vacation–and get that liberated vibe–because there is no job to go to that week. There are also no piano lessons to drive to. Or basketball practices. Or band practices. Or volleyball. Or track. Or soccer. Or Girl Scouts. Or play dates. Or grocery stores. Or library. But that’s not real! I can’t just unschedule everything that we are committed to doing every week. Can I?

I have had the conversation with my kids more than once about priorities and trying to narrow down the extra-curricular activities to what is most important. But the truth is, everyone at my house struggles with this one. My kids don’t say no to any organized activity. For my part, I think of all the choices for sports and activities that they have now that I didn’t have when I was a kid, and I hate to deny them of any of these wonderful opportunities. Perhaps I am living a little bit vicariously though them, or maybe I just want to have no regrets later about how much I exposed them to and how strongly I encouraged them to engage their world. In any case, between their appetite for activities and my weakness for indulging them, they are scheduled up and thus, as their chauffeur, so am I.

And here arises the question I often find myself hashing out in my mind: Isn’t it okay to be busy if you enjoy all the things you are doing? I use this argument constructively when I start to feel sorry for myself about not being able to fit all of my priorities into my schedule. I lament that I have stopped meditating and haven’t picked up the guitar in months because all I do outside of work is play with my kids, take my kids to their activities, and write. Then I retort to my disappointed self: “But I love writing and being with my kids!” So, how bad can it be? Is my life really so tough if my biggest problem is that I have to decide which of my most favorite activities I have to leave out of my schedule?

This dovetails with my parenting challenge and how to help organize my children’s lives. Everyone says that kids these days are being ruined by being overscheduled–“They don’t know how to JUST BE KIDS anymore!”–and that we parents would be better doing our duty if we gave them less to do and more free time to figure out how to make their own fun (“But NOT with screens!” So many rules….). But what if my kids really want to do all the things they are signed up for? What if, despite enjoying a day of lounging around in front of the TV and reading and playing Legos and having friends over and such, they love even more to have basketball practice or piano lessons or a Girl Scouts troop meeting (or all three!)? They prefer the busy life.

My life is different, though. Whereas they want to be involved in things mostly because those things involve other kids and the making of friends, with the exception of playing with my wife and kids, the things I want to do tend to be solitary pursuits. I want to fill my hours writing, walking in Nature and taking photographs, learning the guitar and the piano, meditating, and reading in my hammock. Those are the things that make me feel full.

I guess I want to be busy feeling unhurried.

I want to end each day thinking, “Wow, I was going nonstop at my favorite pursuits all day long! It was fun, enriching, fulfilling, and exhausting. And my only lament is that I didn’t have time for more of these things. I can’t wait for tomorrow!”

That kind of busy has to be good! It may be tiring and may still appreciate a slow vacation, but it is undeniably good.

What I am beginning to see as I write this is the difference one’s approach and attitude regarding this busy-ness makes. “Busy” can show up as deeply engaged and present in meaningful tasks that continue one after another, but it can also show up as rushed, strung-out, and frazzled. Both people may have a full schedule, but one moves through it in Peace, and the other does not. The first person is gaining from her experience; the second person is losing.

A life cannot be full if it is being depleted. That’s simple logic.

While I definitely think being busy can make it more difficult to feel fulfilled by one’s life, it doesn’t have to. It depends upon what is keeping you busy and how much Peace you find within your many activities. That Peace is the difference between doing many things quickly and being in a rush.

I despise being in a rush.

In some of my years as the manager of a tennis program, I was in a mad rush. After teaching my 45 enjoyable hours per week on the court, I would rush into my office and do all of the other things necessary to run the club business and take care of my personal clientele. Twenty or more rushed and ragged hours per week later, I was feeling nothing but burnt out. I had neither the time nor the energy to engage any of my passions or interests in the scant moments that remained. My life was very hectic, and while I enjoyed most of my work, there was way too much of it to feel satisfied by the entirety, and not enough of everything else to feel fulfilled. I was out of alignment, lacking Peace. Busy, not full.

In most of the years since then, I have kept very busy, but at a different mix of activities. As soon as my children entered my world, I cut out the crazy hours and most stressful aspects of my work life. Those hours were filled to overflowing with all the love and chaos that babies and toddlers provide. I was blissfully ragged. Busy, but full.

When the kids got near the end of the toddling, Journal of You began and filled every spare moment. There was still no breathing room in the day and no full nights of sleep, but I did meaningful work, spent lots of high quality time with my kids, and pursued a dream that made my heart sing. Busy? Oh yes! But very, very full.

I am mostly rolling that way now. I write to you less often now than I used to, only because I work more and couldn’t keep going on so little sleep. I find that to be a bummer–I want to write much more–but it is a compromise I have agreed to (for now) in order to maintain that sense of balance and Peace. I am also very protective of my time and don’t say yes to things that don’t align with my priorities. The activities I have carefully chosen keep me very busy, but each one is done with a sense of Peace and intention. I am clear that I have chosen this life. I may be constantly tinkering with it in hopes of improving it because I am never satisfied, but I am also wildly grateful for it. I have never been bored. In fact, I wish there were 24 more hours in each day to add those Nature hikes, guitar lessons, and letters to you. And yes, I fully appreciate each one of those No Schedule/No Obligation days of vacation that I get. But there is no doubt that despite the busy-ness of my life–and perhaps to some degree because of it–I feel very, very full.

How about you? How busy is your life, and how does that busy-ness affect your happiness? Open up your journal and walk through your typical week. How crazy is your schedule? How long is your normal work day? Does it cause you to miss things that are important to you? Is your job stressful while you are there? How much do you love the work? Do you feel a sense of Peace and fulfillment while doing it? Do you have to bring the work home with you? Do you bring the stress or joy home with you? What occupies your time outside of work? How much of that time is devoted to children or other people that depend on you? What percentage of that time is personally enriching and a source of great joy? How much is stressful? How much do you begrudge these people depleting your stores of time and energy? How much of your time gets eaten up with the regular tasks of living (e.g. grocery shopping, preparing and eating meals, medical appointments, traffic)? Do you go to the gym? Do you have any classes that you attend or clubs that you belong to? Do you have self-imposed deadlines or practice times that you must stick to for things you are passionate about, like my writing? What other things fill up your time and have the potential to make you feel rushed? With all of the things you have mentioned so far, how full is that schedule? How much of that time fills you up? How much depletes you? How much time is left for leisure? What do you do with that “just for you” time? Does it make up for the more stressful and depleting parts of your schedule? However busy you are, is there enough Peace in your activities or downtime that, on the whole, you are able to feel balanced and full? Do you ever get bored? Why or why not? Is boredom a symptom of having not enough to do, not being interested in the things you do, not having enough passions or curiosity, or something else altogether? Whose schedule would you like to trade with? What is it about theirs that you envy? How can you put some of that into your schedule? Would it make your life more fulfilling? What would you include if tasked with drawing up a schedule for your ideal normal week? How has your degree of Busy changed across your journey? How has your degree of Full changed? Is there a correlation? What conclusions can you draw? Are those conclusions universal, or do they seem to apply only to your personal path? What is the right balance for you? Leave me a reply and let me know: Is your life busy, full, or some degree of both?

May Peace be with you,

William

P.S. If this resonated with you, please share it on your social media channels. Let’s all be full!

P.P.S. If this way of examining your life appeals to you, consider purchasing my book Journal of YOU: Uncovering The Beauty That Is Your Truth at your favorite online retailers.

Is Your Job Working You?

IMG_1015Hello friend,

Picture yourself on your deathbed. Your mind spins like a broken record, replaying your life over and over in hopes of coming to some peace. Peace with what you have done and left undone. Peace with your accomplishments and your failures, your great loves and great loves lost. But mostly, you are trying to make peace with how you passed your time here on Earth, how you spent your dash. Regret enters the conversation. “I wish I had done that.” “I am so sorry that I did the other thing.” Woulda shoulda coulda. These are tough thoughts, heavy loads to bear as you cross over to the other side. So, here is my question: At the end of the road, are you going to say, “I wish I spent more time at work”?

Naahhh! Me neither. Not many people, I am guessing, would fess up to that regret. It is not that I discount that as a possibility, especially for those who are truly following their Bliss–their calling–and have turned it into a career. I love writing these posts to you. If I was earning a living wage for it, I could definitely see spending a little “too much” time delivering one to you on a daily basis. Mostly, though, I think that, like most of you, wishing I had worked more hours won’t be among my biggest deathbed regrets.

But how about the reverse? Have I spent too many hours at work? Have I missed out on the things that I would tell you are important: my kids, my wife, my family of origin, taking care of my health, pursuing my passions, learning? Has my schedule reflected my priorities?

As with many other areas of my life, I have taken a unique, winding path in my relationship with my work schedule. After spending most of my 20’s trying to work as little as possible so that I could spend my hours on self-improvement, my early 30’s found me living the life of a workaholic. I was on both the teaching and the management sides of tennis, and that meant a grueling schedule of more than 40 hours per week pounding my body on a tennis court and then another 20-30 hours in the office stressing over budgets, staffing, programming and the like. I was burning the candle at both ends, to be sure, only seeing the light of day on the weekends (some weekends). Every night found me completely exhausted.

In my work on The Journal Project, I have been able to revisit those years via my daily journal entries. Let me tell you, those are the most boring, repetitive entries of my entire adult life! They are like a broken record that goes something like this: “I am so tired. My body hurts so badly. This is no way to live. I wouldn’t recommend this to anybody. I am happy and grateful. Life is beautiful.” Yes, thank goodness that my spiritual and psychological foundation—my base of deep happiness and gratitude—had been laid prior to those years, because I never would have made it through without that foundation. It is true that I believed in my cause—I loved being in tennis and was heavily invested in making my club a wonderful place to work and play—and that certainly helped me to sustain my energies while there. But it was all there. I didn’t have much energy left to offer anything outside the building. All of those other things I would have said were high priorities—wife, family, passions, health—were left to pick at the crumbs of energy I had left when I limped in the house under cover of night. Between the stress and the physical beating and the endless hours, my work certainly exacted a heavy toll on me in exchange for a paycheck. In effect, it consumed me. (Here might be a good place to add that my wife is a saint.)  I knew what was happening, too, but I just couldn’t seem to do anything about it.

But then, something magical happened. My daughter was born. The sweetest, most beautiful angel ever in the world was alive and coming to stay in my house, where I could scarcely find time to be. That seemed just plain wrong to me. My priorities suddenly came sharply into focus. But more than that, the need to match my schedule to my priorities became urgent. So I did. I quit the management side of my job and cut my teaching schedule down to four days, with no nights or weekends. The paycheck and status took a huge hit, but finally my schedule was in alignment with my priorities.

Those quality days with my daughter—and eventually my son, too—were worth more to me than any paycheck ever was. If you could ever climb inside my heart on a “Three Amigos Day”—one of our weekdays with just the kids and I—or “Family Fun Day” (all of us together on a weekend), you would understand completely the meaning of the word “priceless”. We have been carrying on like this for 5 ½ years now, with me spending less time at work and more time with the ones I love and having the energy to be fully present when I am with them. So, there I was at the bus stop this morning to give my daughter a hug good-bye before school, and there I was at the end of the day to see her jump off the bus and run smiling toward me for another giant hug—an untradeable moment—and a trip on our bikes to the park. And tomorrow, on that weekday away from my job I have clung to all these years, I get to go along on the kindergarten fieldtrip to the museum and the zoo. These days of my being my kid’s best friend don’t last forever, right? I think I’ll soak them up while they are still here.

As you can see, my relationship with my working hours has been one of extremes. I have known dipping my feet in the water, wading comfortably at waist-deep, and full-fledged drowning in my work. I have known myself to be happy in the midst of all three, but actual satisfaction came only when I was finally able to make my schedule reflect my priorities. Who can say how my path will meander in the coming years as circumstances change, but I hope that when I am in full life-review mode while lying on my deathbed, I will have no regrets when it comes to the time I spent at work.

How about you? How are you doing with your work schedule? Open up your journal and tell yourself about it. Are you spending too much time at your job? Are you missing out on important aspects of your life because of your work schedule? Do you ever wish you worked more? Is your job your true calling or just something you do? When it is all over, are you going to regret the way you spent your time? And most importantly, how closely do you think your schedule reflects your priorities? If it does not, what small step can you take today to change that? Leave me a reply and let me know: Is your job working you?

Live a self-approved life,

William

What Step Can You Take Today?

DSC_0248If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” –Henry David Thoreau

Hello friend,

Everyone has big rocks. Goals. Things you want to accomplish. Habits you want to begin. Things that are out there in the shadows of your mind, ready to be illuminated simply by looking at them and admitting their importance. These rocks are different for everyone. Lose weight. Learn how to paint. Finally remodel the bathroom. Start your own business. Write a daily journal (yes!). Reconnect with your life partner. Trace your ancestry. Travel to Rome. Daily meditation. Go back to school. Get in shape.

Two months ago, I started this “Journal of You” blog. For the year-and-a-half leading up to that, the focus of all of my non-children time—my biggest rock–was working on what I call TJP, or The Journal Project. I read through and took notes on every one of my daily journal entries from the nearly 50 volumes I have filled in all of my years of journaling (basically my entire adult life). For most of that year-and-a-half, the long-term goal of the project was to make some sort of a book out of the entries. I wanted my daily habit to become an example for others, an inspiration to get to know themselves through journaling. When I finally finished reading and taking notes, I realized that, at the pace I was moving and the time I had, it might take a few more years to actually produce that book.

The feeling began to gnaw at me that I couldn’t wait that long to get my voice–my message–out into the Universe. I was impatient to, if not be done with my rock, perhaps bust it up a little. I asked myself, “What can I do right now—what step can I take today—to advance my agenda, to move my rock?” The answer, of course, was to start “Journal of You”. I started writing to you twice a week in an attempt to coax you into starting your journal to discover yourself and ultimately become a happier, more grateful person. It was more of a giant leap for me than a small step, but that is kind of how I roll. Even though the blog has taken up a lot of time–that I didn’t have in the first place–I love doing it, and it has become part of my schedule. It means a lot to me, too, because it symbolizes to me that I have put myself out there, not just to you but to the Universe, so the gods know I am DOING something about my dreams, not just talking about them or writing about them in a journal.

But what now?  The blog has settled into my schedule. Even though some days I feel like it is all I can do to keep up writing and coming up with new ideas for the next one, I also feel like I need to go beyond that. I have other rocks, after all, and though in my most lucid moments I am aware that I cannot do everything at once, I don’t want to get lazy, don’t want to be irresponsible with my gifts and my dreams. I keep reminding myself, “This is not a dress rehearsal!”

So, what are my big rocks at the moment that need to be addressed? I definitely have to return to The Journal Project and start the next phase, which is typing everything up.   That could take years—literally years—to finish, but it must start sometime? I made it through the first (reading & note-taking) phase, which was a year-and-a-half, so I know I have it in me. I also have to get on my plan for life coach certification. That has always seemed like this giant, vague, amorphous shadow that is somewhere “out there”, that I have yet to come to know. It retains an air of mystery because of that, but, much more powerfully, it is frightening to me. For one, I know it is going to involve a large investment of both time and money for me. Those are things I do not part with easily. Second, jumping into the training means I am really going to do it. That means shaking up my whole world, potentially changing careers entirely and starting fresh. Sure, that is exciting, but it’s scary as hell, too. It is in my DNA to have a million more rocks to move, too—daily meditation, get back in shape, learn the guitar, paint my bedroom, and on and on—but The Journal Project and life coaching are the rocks that feel heaviest to me today.

Though these rocks are almost so big and scary that they resemble the monster in the closet that is more comfortable to ignore than to face, face them I must. I am compelled to do something to chip away at them. Anything! But what? What can I do today—even this week—to shine a light on the monster, to make the boulder a little smaller, to “endeavor to live the life which I have imagined”? Here is what I have decided. For The Journal Project, I am going to give myself both daily and weekly goals and minimum quotas, and I am going to schedule the time to achieve those goals. I am slowly learning the wisdom of scheduling my priorities, that if something is not on my schedule, it is not really a priority and will not get done. For the life-coaching monster, I am going to finally give it a face. I am going to get on the Internet and research the different options for training and certification. I am going to learn—in clear and certain terms—how long the training is going to take and how much it is going to cost. That will allow me to frame it more clearly when I try to come up with some sort of a 5-Year Plan. Right now, I just want to know what I am looking at. Understanding the time and money commitment will do that for me.

Those are my action items: make my goals and schedule the typing time, and do the Internet research to get clarity on the scope of the training. Whew!!! It feels like a relief already. The big rocks don’t seem so big and scary—so monstrous—anymore. I feel so much more free to “advance confidently in the direction of my dreams.” I didn’t need to clear the entire road ahead of me, just the next step. On I go!

So, how about you? Get out your journal, and let’s get specific. What are your rocks? Are they lifelong challenges, or have you discovered them more recently? Are they related to your dreams and following your Bliss, or are they more tasky things, like home projects? Are they one-time deals or more about habit-building? How much stress do they give you? Sometimes the mere idea of achieving a goal—or even working towards it—can relieve that stress dramatically. Once you identify your rocks, what can you do—TODAY—to move them? How can you make them more manageable? Give yourself an action item. Then, leave me a reply. I want to know: what step can you take today?

Walk like you mean it,

William