By Louise Kennedy
Well, I did it. I got the damn thing done.
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?