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Archive for January, 2011

what do you want?

What is it about this question that makes me want to avoid it? It’s a simple question.  I can do whatever I want with it.

I really do want to take an honest look at my life – all aspects of it – and look at the question of what I want. The first thought that comes to mind is that it seems selfish.  But why on earth would it be selfish? It’s not like I want anything that comes as a cost to someone else. I think we have the right – and the responsibility – to make the most of the life that we’ve been given.  So that argument doesn’t really carry much weight.

Getting a little more honest about it, taking a look at what I want means taking responsibility for my choices – my participation in why parts of my life are not necessarily what I want them to be – and making changes where needed.  Therein lies part of the problem. I want some things to be different but I don’t want to change. Know what I mean? (I know you do.)

Taking a look at what I want – in all aspects of life – means sometimes stepping outside my comfort zone. There’s a reason they call it the comfort zone. It’s comfortable. I like my life this way.

Do I really?

Do I like every aspect of my life?  Do I like where I live? (yes, for the most part)  Do I like my job? (yes, most days) Is it what I want to do for the rest of my life? (not sure)  Am I doing the writing I want to do? (not really) Do I like my wardrobe? (no) Do I like my friends? (yes) Do I travel as much as I would like to? (no) Am I happy with my health and weight? (no)  Do I wish I could cook better? (yes) Have I learned enough Spanish? (no) Do I miss playing piano and guitar? (yes)  Do I feel fulfilled with the way I spend my free time? (fulfilled? not really) Am I satisfied with family relationships? (some could be better)   And the list goes on.

Taking a look at the question “what do you want?” involves a plethora of other questions. It wakes me up to really live my life – and to live it intentionally.

Henry David Thoreau said it this way: “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to put to rout  [throw out, defeat] all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Life slips by SO quickly. I want to live it – truly live it – as long as it lasts.

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It’s so easy to put something off until tomorrow. For some reason tomorrow always seems like such a good day to start – as if tomorrow I’ll magically feel like doing something I apparently don’t feel like doing today.  Tomorrow I will read that book, eat better, drink more water, exercise, work on writing my book, learn more Spanish, sew, get to bed earlier, etc.   Tomorrow.

But today was tomorrow yesterday  – and today will become yesterday tomorrow.  Today is the day – it’s the only day we have available to work with.  So I want to make the most of today, to make it the tomorrow I promised myself yesterday and the yesterday I will look back on with a smile tomorrow.  🙂

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I think this is a question I don’t consider often enough.  I (we all) get into habits of doing things in certain ways and at certain times and I think sometimes I live on auto-pilot. I want to live more consciously – more intentionally.

So I’ve been asking myself the question “is this what I want?” about all kinds of things – like the way I spend my time, how I handle my finances, how I do my job, my interaction with people, how I respond in a stressful situation, the way I take care of my health, my weight, my skin, the way I keep my home, the amount of sleep I get, the food I eat, the TV/movies I watch, the amount of contact I have with family/friends, etc.  Is this what I want?

The other day a coworker commented that whenever she sees me, no matter what is going on, I am always nice to people.  I know that’s not always the case and if she saw me more often she might think differently. But I want that to be a truth about me – consistently. Since then I have paid more attention to the way I respond to people – observing when I feel myself getting impatient or annoyed, checking the tone of my voice.  In the middle of one conversation I noticed an edge to my voice. I thought “is this what you want? – is this how you really want to respond here?” and took a quick deep breath and spoke more patiently.  Change is challenging, but it’s entirely possible.

That’s one example of how I’ve used the question.  There are countless more. It’s a good question to ask. Just because something has been a habit, doesn’t mean it has to stay a habit.  When the answer to the question is no, there’s not always an immediate solution, but there is a solution out there. Asking the question is a start.

It’s nothing dramatic.  Just a quiet question. Is this what you want? But I think it’s a worthwhile question – and one I will continue asking.

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is this working?

This year, for 2011, I have some goals in mind that are a little less task-centered and a little more approach-centered. I thought it would be fitting to start the new year out with sharing one of those goals, and in the process, resume my blog, which is something else I wanted to do in 2011. (Thank you, Maura, for your prompting which got me back out here.)

For 2011, I have a question in mind that I want to get in the habit of asking myself.  “Is this working?” The question comes from two different sources.  One is Albert Einstein’s familiar definition of insanity, which is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.  There are elements of my life that need improvement – most significantly in the area of health, but also some in relationships and time management.  If I keep doing what I’m doing, the same way I’ve been doing it, there’s no reason to expect different results.  So I want to just start asking myself “is this working?” and if not, choose a different approach.

The other inspiration for this question comes from the movie “Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood”.  It’s quite an emotional movie at times, funny at times, and parts of it struck a chord with me.  I saw it years ago and this one scene in particular really stayed with me.   It’s a conversation between a mother and her daughter’s fiance. The mother and daughter have a volatile relationship and the fiance often ends up caught in the middle. In this scene the mother – a total drama queen who always thinks she is right about everything – is ranting on and on about how she has tried so hard and did this and that to be a good mother and to try to relate to her daughter.  She says “I tried to be the best momma I could.” The fiance asks: “and how did that go?” The mother responds in in what might be her first moment of being honest with herself and simply says “Not so hot”.

It’s kind of a pivotal moment in the movie where she, however reluctantly, starts taking responsibility and realizing that if she wants different results, she needs to try a different behavior.

That simple little scene kind of sums up one of my “goals” for 2011, which is to take a more honest look at what I’m doing in some areas of life that brings about negative results in my own life, whether it’s my eating habits that keep the weight on or elements of my interactions with other people, or the way I spend my time or whatever.

It isn’t a dramatic goal. It’s not about losing 50 pounds or writing the great American novel or saving a pile of money or quitting smoking (well, that wouldn’t be fair since I don’t smoke!) or running a marathon or any of the other more tangible goals that a person might set.  But I do believe that this goal – or commitment – could potentially have significant results.

The more that I take an honest look at my own participation in what is working, regarding my own choices, behaviors, responses, habits, attitudes, etc., the more likely I am to make the changes needed to fix the parts that aren’t working.

There’s a lot that I like about my life. I’m thankful for that. But it’s time to step up and take responsibility for the elements that I know could be improved. This isn’t a goal that can be measured quantitatively, but I have no doubts that when I look back on 2011, I will know that this was a goal that worked well for me.

And I look forward to sharing with you about it along the way.  Happy 2011!

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