Monday, September 19, 2011

Milestones and realizations

"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.  William Blake."
      "Whaddaya mean, 'William Blake'?!?"                                                
        "I mean, 'WILLIAM BLAKE'!"                                                            
-- Annie Savoy and Crash Davis in Bull Durham.

By the time they hit my age, most people have a fairly set concept of themselves -- what they're like, their defining characteristics, who they are.  And I am certainly no exception.

But like most people, my self-assessment is undoubtedly skewed.  I cultivate an aura of confidence and brashness, sometimes to the point of starting to believe my own hype.  But in truth I am far less confident than I project to the world.  And for all my snarkiness, I detest detached irony and am far more sentimental and earnest than I tend to let on.

I mention this because I have recently been making a concerted effort to get control of my life -- to figure out what parts of it make me happy, what parts don't, what priorities and goals I want to achieve, and how. And the way I have gone about figuring this out and taking steps to move forward are so unlike me -- or at least, unlike the type I play in my head -- that it's kind of freaking me out a little bit.  But in a good way.

I am so not the type to read self-help or personal development type books.  In addition to the fact that I'm a literature snob, and books like that tend to be horribly pedestrian in their writing style, my sense has always been that there really isn't anything new under the sun and that in order to achieve your goals, just decide what you want to do and do it.  I don't need anybody to tell me that.  And all the rah-rah bullshit -- or what I perceive to be rah-rah bullshit -- of people like Tony Robbins or whoever is so not me.

But.  But but but but but...

Sometimes the trick isn't just knowing that in order to get somewhere, you have to figure out your direction and then start the journey.  It's clearing away all the clutter in your head and getting organized enough to even find the road.  Or the car.  And that's where I was having trouble.

What with the kids being as young and demanding as they are, and J working nights for the past 7 weeks or so, and work being crazy and money being tight and trying to manage a full-time job while also trying to figure out how to grow my Beachbody business, to say that I have been a bit harried and overwhelmed over the past few months would be a laughable understatement.  But something had to give, because I was starting to feel the cold clutch of a depressive cycle in my chest, and every time J did something even slightly irritating I was mentally dividing up the household effects and preparing myself for single-parenthood, and I was grumpy with my children and generally exhausted.

So in a flurry of, "aw, what the hell, it can't hurt," I signed up for a 30-day organize-your-life-and-achieve-your-goals challenge run by Chalene Johnson, the woman who created and leads a lot of the workout videos I do.  Starting September 1, every day I have gotten an email from her and watched a video on how to get organized and get successful and happy.  She starts with the basics -- think about what your priorities are.  Write them down.  Then think about what your goals are for the next year.  Are they realistic?  Measurable?  Consistent with your priorities?  Write them down.  Then put them in order, with the biggest, most important one at the top -- the one that makes all the other goals possible.  Write it down.  Then brainstorm about what you would need to do to achieve the goal.  Do you need to do research?  Go to school?  Whatever you need to do, write it down.  Then develop to-do lists, with one or two steps included every day to take you a little closer to achieving your goal.

And so on.  None of this is revolutionary, rocket-science type of stuff.  But having someone slowly and methodically take me through the steps in a way that doesn't overwhelm me was apparently just what I needed.

So I've been doing it.  I keep a notebook that I use to jot stuff down -- my goals, what I want to do when, anything that's on my mind or that somehow relates to my "push" goal (the one that will make my other goals possible).  Every night I do some free-form writing of things to add to my list, and then I transfer the list to my phone, which also syncs with the same list on my computer.  I check it multiple times a day and schedule my days so that everything has a block of time.

You know what?

I feel fucking awesome.  Writing everything down this way takes it out of my head.  So I have it, but it's not stressing me out, because I know it's written down and I'm taking care of everything.  I've become insanely productive.  My 9-to-5 is going great, and I'm taking the Beachbody business forward in a way that will be a decent second income without it feeling like a second job.  I'm happy with my children and my husband again (and the fact that J is now back on days doesn't suck either).  And I feel like I have some direction, and that I know what that direction is.  I don't feel remotely depressed.  In fact, I'm downright cheerful most of the time.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to be the same sarcastic bitch you've come to know.  I will never be one of those people that posts tweets or Facebook status updates consisting of inspiring quotes by William Blake or whomever.

But I will be (slightly) less judgmental of those who do.


  1. Hahaa sounds like we have the same opinion of the self help genre.

    But I totally know what you mean about not being able to organize your thoughts and decide what to do to change your life - and you've got a way more hectic life than me... glad you found something to help you sort it out! Now I won't be (so) judgmental about it either =). A time and a place for everything, huh?

  2. Exactly. I know a lot of people who get into the books and audio CDs and stuff and find it really helpful. So if they're happy, who am I to judge? And quite honestly, plenty of successful people, including many that I know personally, are big into personal development books, so clearly they're doing something right and I should just shut my mouth.

  3. Jen Luc...6:30 PM

    Never say never ; )