New Year’s Day And the Hero’s Decision

New Year’s Day and the Hero’s Decision. No other day of the year exemplifies the hero’s decision the way that New Year’s Day does. People come to the new year full of hope, wishful thinking, determination and the desire to change their circumstance. Many want to lose weight. Others want to find themselves in a relationship. More want have more money, read more books, create more works of art, build more bridges, dig more fence post holes, sew more stitches, save more time, rescue more kittens, throw out less trash, recycle more, compost more, change their oil more regularly, rotate the cans on the shelf, finally clear the clutter…

New Year’s Day As a New Beginning

Every story starts with a beginning. New Year’s Day draws a line. The old year, and all of its mistakes and glories, is over. Today, everything starts fresh.

Each of us is the hero of our own story. Sometimes these stories are inspiring:

Malala Yousafzai who is a young Pakistani woman who was shot in the face. She is an activist for the education of women and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate.

Daryl Davis who is a blues musician who befriends members of the Ku Klux Klan. He is a black man and his message of friendship has caused approximately 200 Klansmen to give up their robes.

Ron Finley who is a self-styled gangsta gardener in South Central Los Angeles creating food in a food desert.

Joanne Rowling who as a single mom living on benefits wrote the Harry Potter series.

Geoff Lawton a permaculturist who has brought green growth to the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan.

While these stories make the news and may inspire us, our everyday existence defines our personal stories. These may not be dramatic, but they are ours and only we know what effort they require. We bring home a paycheck and make certain the bills are paid. Conquering the laundry mountain at the end of the bed is no small thing. We finally learn how to make a decent gluten free loaf of bread. We read for an hour or exercise for 30 minutes every day. All of these achievements start with a thought and a decision. And each New Year’s Day can start a new chapter or a whole new story.

Every Moment A Decision

Heroes make decisions. And each of us is making decisions at every moment whether they are conscious decisions or unconscious decisions. It is very easy to bump along, go to the job that pays the bills, flick through the channels on the television every night, eat the pre-packaged food advertised as convenient, win social approval, read the best sellers, and go about life like floating down a river in an inner tube. It can be pleasant. And this is fine if you are happy and your purpose is to live life in this manner. Actually, there is much to be grateful for in this expression of life. And your life is your story.

However, if you are living your life as described in the previous paragraph and it is not a conscious decision or you have no real purpose of your own, it is quite easy to have your life given over to someone else’s aim. You can be manipulated for all sorts of tomfoolery, skullduggery, and fiendishness.

In addition, life may be lived like a leaf on the wind. If the wind blows gentle and the sun shines warm, it’s a beautiful day. Perhaps someone paid you a compliment or payday arrived. But what about when the wind blows chill, like -15 degrees Fahrenheit? Or it is raining? What about when you are fired from the bump along job? And the roof is leaking? And you burned your grilled cheese after spilling coffee on your white shirt? Do you feel lost?

Our Own Hero

At moments of failure, we learn who we are. We have to fail to be able to dig deep within ourselves and find meaning—how badly we want something, how much an aspect of living is important to us, who is important to us, how we will express ourselves, and what the story of our lives will be. The only way to be aware/awake is to ask questions:

  • Who am I? How am I unique?
  • What will be my epitaph? What will I be remembered for?
  • How do I want to contribute to the world?
  • How will I express myself?
  • Who is important to me?
  • What will I fight for?
  • What do I love?
  • How can I express love?
  • What is my “why”?

 

We, as heroes, make the decisions that start our journeys. What journey will you be on in 2018? How will you make the year your best ever?

Obstacles to Goals

5-3D-Street-Art

“Fairytales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

I have been writing about goal setting and achieving goals the last couple days because I have had some set backs in my current goals. I need the pep talk. If someone else benefits– woohoo!

I can honestly say that I have failed the majority of things I have set out to do. I know quite a bit about failure– how obstacles can stop you in your tracks, how sometimes you have to reassess your goals, how the expectations of others can get in the way, how you simply are not in control of every possibility and sometimes the world shifts and you have to shift, how easy it is to be distracted, how easy it is to get discouraged, etc. There are always obstacles to goals. Sometimes setting off to achieve a goal is simply an exercise of faith. One has to believe that the endeavor will succeed. But you need more than this to improve the chances of getting to your goal. After years of failing and trying to learn from my mistakes, I have come to the conclusion learning something new, reaching a desired goal, or developing a new habit requires 3 things: persistence, planning/problem solving, and self-control.

Obstacles will arise on any path to any goal.

You may think your writing is the next great sensation, while your writing group evaluates your writing as needing serious work. So you have at least a couple obstacles: 1. developing your writing ability and 2. developing your inner editor to be able to see your work more clearly. Should you simply give up because a handful of peers said your writing is not so good? No, but you may have a lot of work ahead.

You may want to lose 50 pounds, but your first two weeks of dieting and exercising every day result in no pounds lost. At this point should you decide that losing weight just won’t happen? No, but you may have a few obstacles to overcome– like maybe you need to get a better sense of portion control, maybe you have a slow metabolism and losing the weight is going to take a very long time, etc.

You may set a goal to get a job and send out 765 resumes and not get one job interview. There may be many obstacles in your way in this scenario. Perhaps the job market for your field is saturated and you will have to be more persistent, get additional training, be willing to volunteer, be willing to move to a different part of the country, etc. Perhaps, your resume needs a professional career counselor to help you evaluate and re-write it. Perhaps, your age, race or gender are negatively impacting your chances of getting hired and you need to make more personal contacts or get more creative about how to get a job.

You may want to save $100/month. Perhaps after three months  of saving, your car breaks down, requiring a $600 repair. Should you give up the goal of trying to save money?

I can name more obstacles– caring for young children so there is no time to exercise/read/go to the bathroom alone; no money to buy that thing you think you need to help achieve your goal; friends and family around you that are less than supportive and ridicule you; not getting signs of success in a timely fashion; etc.

In my opinion, addressing the obstacles that stand in your way is as important and visualizing your end goal. I think we need both. We need a vision of what we are aiming for and we need to be willing to look at, problem solve and plan for things that will stop us from getting there. I think visualizing the goal without looking at the obstacles can be too easy and has its own weird reward in the act of fantasizing. Looking at just the obstacles in the way can be demoralizing. Imagining the future and considering the obstacles can be a powerful way to create a realistic action plan.

By way of example, I have been trying to get in shape. Our bodies are very dynamic and efficient. Most people’s bodies will acclimatize to the amount of exercise they are doing and the number of calories being eaten. This means that unvarying routines don’t always work to achieve large weight losses or to maintain the weight loss. I was walking 10 miles per day and gaining weight while dieting. I decided my efficient body had acclimatized to my walking (obstacle 1) and I needed to do more strength training. I did not know the first thing about weight training (obstacle 2) so I hired a personal trainer. Money was a problem in hiring a personal trainer (obstacle 3). I chose a higher deductible on my health insurance plan to save money to pay the personal trainer. A housemate of mine lives in the room below me so I cannot use my treadmill in the morning and needed to find other times to work out consistently (obstacle 4). I planned my workouts before or after classes. I am still not losing weight, although I am in better shape, and I suspect my metabolism is adversely affected (obstacle 5). I have had tests done and am seeing a doctor. I may need to suck it up and realize that I will never be able to eat more than 1300 calories a day, will need to exercise a lot to maintain the weight, and losing weight may only be possible by eating 1000-1200 calories per day. I am still sorting this out. This is my planning/problem solving to get to my goal. I am not giving up. I may need to re-evaluate the goal.

Another example, I would like to write, publish a book, and have my book on a library shelf. I have been unemployed and need to get this sorted first. My time at present needs to be directed towards getting skills that an employer needs. This is the main obstacle that needs to be addressed before I can work on my skill as a writer (obstacle), developing a habit of writing daily again (obstacle), and developing a habit of sending material out for submission (obstacle).

One last example, I am in the process of changing careers and am working on learning to program in C++ and Java. I am taking a course through the local community college. Obstacles that I have had over the last several months: 1. I am frequently the only woman in my classes or one of a small number; 2. I have to organize my studies around caring for my children; 3. Going back to school is expensive; and 4. Not all courses are created equally and I still need to learn to code. For the first obstacle, I found a friend who was willing to listen to me vent on occasion via email and I began going to the local Girl Develop It group meetings. For the second obstacle, I plan out my week ahead of time and stick to my schedule so I do not get behind. For the third obstacle, I pulled monies from my retirement funds. This was scary to do but because of the retirement funds, I do not qualify for financial aid and student loans are very expensive. In regards to the last obstacle? I spend a good amount of time researching the material and teaching myself how to code because the coding classes are often taught by instructors who are not teachers but rather are former programmers. One instructor was self taught and then got a degree. He understands how to teach the material. Other instructors are not so good. I take the attitude that learning the code and teaching myself is just one more problem to solve on top of the coding assignments.

I think other people can help brainstorm solutions to obstacles that are in the way of getting to a goal, but ultimately the person who wants to achieve the goal has to determine for themselves what those obstacles are and what the solutions are. Ignoring obstacles or dismissing their importance is a way to set oneself up for failure.

And now I need to go work on learning Java programming.

Time


The concept of time changes over the course of a lifetime and for different circumstances. When I was a child summer vacations felt as though they went on forever and the distance between birthdays was just unfathomable. It felt like I had all the time in the world. When I visited South Africa the time went by all too quickly. Currently some mornings I read and research for several writing projects I am working on and two hours seem to fly. Other days I have to wait for service people and the time drags. Time is very relative.

A year ago I sent my mother flowers for Mother’s Day just as a part of the annual routine. I didn’t know it would be the last time I would send my mother flowers for Mother’s Day. Currently, I am receiving daily emails from the company I ordered flowers from asking if I would like to place an order for my mother this Mother’s Day. Last Mother’s Day feels like an eternity ago. When I sat with my mother last fall as she was dying the time went too quickly. I regretted not spending more time with her over the last few years. Her death was a smack upside the head that we really do only get so much time on this earth and being conscious of this and choosing how we spend time is important.

Currently I am working on being the person I envision being. I find I need to project management my efforts and my time. I also will easily work 80-90 hours per week and not acknowledge my accomplishments. I need to make lists to both organize myself to get everything done and to recognise when things are done.

Never before have I had quite such a grasp of how valuable my time is. Currently every morning, I review my schedule for the day and create a list of things/tasks to get done. And then I start. Never have I felt so compelled to get things done and to not waste time.

I am in a kind of transition time right now. I came to the awareness a while ago that whatever we put time and energy into is what will develop. In part I came to this on my own and what solidified it was researching and writing a biographical essay about Ai Weiwei. Ai Weiwei is probably the most influential modern artist alive at the moment. For years he worked as a day laborer (and incidentally learned to gamble and is a top-tiered blackjack player) and refused commissions that would lead his art away from his vision. He worked tirelessly and remained committed to his ideal.

I have been reading about permaculture and ecology lately. When old growth forests are cleared, if the land is allowed to regenerate on its own a type of scrub will grow in to protect the soil and water table and begin to heal the land. Weeds are beneficial to the land because they bring nutrients to the soil, can penetrate the hard pan, prevent erosion, etc. Don’t underestimate the benefit of weeds. But then as caretakers we have to come in and make choices about the use of the land. If we are wise we will imitate the progression of a natural forest and plant plants and trees that will create a full habitat for animals, insects, birds, humans, and the plants.

During transition times for people, it is a little like the time of scrub growing in. Opportunities pop up that relieve anxiety but may not be in alignment with one’s vision for what one would like their life to be. There is great deal of flailing around and trying to figure out what will work and be beneficial. More than a few weeds will come in and present ideas and more. I guess it is this task in this time period to envision what one’s life should look like in the end and engineer backwards. And then no matter if time seems to move slowly or fast, be productive or flailing, just keep working towards the vision. Try out different things and figure out what will work.

So the quality of time is relative. Time in terms of how it feels in passing is relative. But if one invests time and energy in a vision of what one wants to accomplish this is the only way to make it happen. We only have now and I want to make the best of it.