Project Louise: Beginning To See The Light

By Louise Kennedy
Guest contributor

Well, I did it. I got the damn thing done.

When you create a vision of your ideal life, it's easier to see what fits in and what has to go.

When you create a vision of your ideal life, it’s easier to see what fits in and what has to go.

For those just tuning in: Last week, I attended a workshop run by my strategic coach, Allison Rimm, in which she promised to help all of us develop a vision for our lives and start to create the strategic plan that will make that vision a reality. Since I’ve been promising Allison for months that I would write my vision statement and then somehow not quite doing it, I figured the workshop would, if nothing else, make me get out my pen.

And it did.

What’s interesting is that I had been thinking about my vision, off and on, for all these months – but there is something about actually putting it down on paper that is energizing, exciting, and very motivating. When you take the time to describe, in detail, exactly what you want your life to look like, it becomes more tangible – almost as if you can see it. (Gee, I wonder if that’s why it’s called a vision.) And once you see it in all its glory, you really, really want to make it happen.

Which is where the next part of the exercise comes in: figuring out what you need to change in your current life to make it resemble your ideal life. I was reassured to realize that many parts of my life are already working pretty well. I have healthy and happy children, one of my top priorities; I generally love my job, and I have wonderful friends.

As for the other elements – financial stability, personal writing projects and a few more things – well, now that I’ve identified those as a central part of my vision, I can start to build feasible steps toward achieving them. With a full-time job and the aforementioned children, I don’t have a lot of time to write outside of work. But because it’s truly important to me, I decided to commit to spending 30 minutes a day at my desk, every day. That, I can do. And it’s already making me happier.

Allison’s workshop gave me a couple of tools to help find those 30 minutes – and maybe some more time, as I get better at comparing my daily choices to my long-term vision. She had each of us fill out a calendar outlining a typical weekday; a take-home part of the exercise, which I haven’t completed yet, invites me to do the same for a typical week and then a typical month. But even just looking at a single day was useful.

I saw clearly, for example, that my children don’t get the best parts of my day. Sure, I’m with them for the morning scramble, but no one can call that quality time. And then there’s nothing till dinnertime – which I’m often late for – and a bit of TV. Seeing it in black and white made me vow to spend more time playing, less time watching … and to build a hard stop time into my work day, so that I get home in time for a relaxed and connected family meal.

I also saw that I spend way too much time on email. It’s a beast, and one that we all fight, but I am going to find a way to tame it. I currently have 10,528 items in my inbox, of which 4,514 are unread. Granted, a ton of those are ignorable – sale notices from all those stores I gave my address to, endless reply-all chains on issues I don’t really need to focus on – but the psychic weight of it is a problem. So I’m going to spend an hour a day cutting through the mess until I get it down to zero – and then I’m going to set up better filters and rules to keep it clean from now on.

What does all this have to do with Project Louise, you ask? Well, I’ll talk more about that in a couple of weeks, when Allison, editor Carey Goldberg and I sit down for a six-month checkup, but here’s the short version: I am learning that change is complicated, and that even seemingly straightforward goals like “Lose weight” can have some pretty tangled roots. I’m also learning that when you change one thing, it can create changes elsewhere in your life as well. So clearing out my closet or my email or my calendar may not sound like a weight-loss plan … but I’m feeling a little lighter every day.

And, to my delight, my scale agrees. I’m a bit behind where I’d like to be at the halfway point of my year – ideally, I’d be down 22 pounds by now. Nevertheless, at 174, I can now proudly say that I’ve lost 15 pounds.

Losing 29 more between now and Dec. 31? I can see it.

Readers, what does your ideal life look like? And what do you need to change to make it real?

 

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  • lindam313

    Congratulations on keeping the big picture in mind! I agree with “beyond” – you are very brave to be so public! I keep writing because I appreciate what you are doing for the rest of us as we struggle! Maybe you have a book in this experience too? keep writing for yourself and for us! Find ways to enjoy life! It sounds morbid, but I like to remember that I could die in just a moment from now and that’s why it is so important to be sure you are being the best you can be, being who you are, doing what is important to you, leaving whatever legacy behind that you want. No one else can do that for us! When I was 19-21 I worked in a general practitioners office in Montana and I saw several bad things happen to really nice, hard-working people. While terrifying, it was also very informative to me and so I work hard to find space for myself every day, appreciate life, be who I want to be, accomplish what I want. Very existential I know, but there it is. All of that put together is how I create my “ideal” life – which includes the “ideal” lives of many others! We all give it our best and our best is very different for everybody, so we just meet where we are. I too recently cleaned out my inbox from last September and I am very happy – now I’m working on being sure to put things into folders in my inbox for future reference!!! Keep up the amazing work you are doing! Hugs! Linda

    • Louise Kennedy

      Thank you so much, Linda. You are so right that anything can happen and we need to remember that. Years ago I had a very bad health scare; it turned out to be nothing much, but for about two months I was living with the real possibility that I could have a fatal illness. I vowed then to live life to the fullest – and though I forget that vow from time to time, I think it’s an important one to keep. So thank you for the reminder!

  • http://www.beyondworklifebalance.com beyondworklifebalance

    Obstacles to change absolutely can have some gnarly and nubby roots. It is amazing sometimes to discover what they are, isn’t it? Think you are brave to be so public. But I guess that will help with accountability to yourself, right? Best wishes and good luck! M

    • Louise Kennedy

      Thanks — and yes, having to report on what I’m up to is definitely keeping me accountable!

  • Bella

    “figuring out what you need to change in your current life to make it resemble your ideal life” Ah, there is the key.
    One of the things I want in my life, in addition to getting in better shape, is to find a partner. One of the things standing in my way was being facebook friend’s with my ex’s daughter, and her mom. It kept one eye on the past, but I kept claiming that it was ok. And then today when I saw the daughter become friends with the new girlfriend, it was like a kick in the stomach (that I had basically asked for.) Not because they shouldn’t be friends, but because of how I feel about the whole situation. So, today I did the difficult and necessary thing of unfriending the daughter, and her mom, which will prevent me from seeing anything that will pull me backwards.

    Coming home today, with the the dregs of adrenaline working its way through my nervous system, I thought “i’m not going to exercise. I deserve to just sit and have a bunch of wine and some pizza probably and wallow.” But thankfully I have a Fitbit now, and that will force me to go for a walk later since I don’t want anything less than 10,000 steps looking at me.

    And then later i will come home and write my vision. And more importantly, I will make some plans for the holiday weekend that involve being around other people!

    • Louise Kennedy

      Good for you. Letting go of the past leaves you free to embrace the future. I’m telling myself that as much as you. Keep moving!