Do you ever get so caught up in the rush of your crazy-busy-life that you forget to stop and reflect a little? Wait, don’t answer that - I’m going to go ahead and assume yes. I mean let’s be honest here – when was the last time you actively pursued an activity that was:
- closely related to one of your big dreams,
- made you feel most alive or most yourself, or
- just plain old wasn’t part of your busy-list?
How Often Do You Stop To Sharpen The Saw?
Steven Covey, famed for his teaching on productivity and life-management, talks about taking time out for something he calls sharpening the saw. The saw being you, your skills and talents, and most certainly your goals and dreams. Of course the benefits to such time out from daily life are obvious, but that doesn’t make it any easier to stop and ‘indulge’ in such a past-time, does it?
And when we get to the crux of it, I think that’s the real problem; the concept that taking time out to rebuild or develop our talents and skills – let alone our mind – is an indulgence or something that we’ll make time for once everything else is done.
Well here’s the kicker, and I think it’s important that you know this. You are going to DIE without everything being done. It’s time to get over trying to complete that ever-increasing list of yours and start being more effective with the limited time you to have.
Pressing Play On Your Dream Life
This morning I took some time out to do just that. I managed to tear myself away from my normally frantic ‘never-quite-can-keep-up’ writing schedule to ‘sharpen the saw’, by completing some values, mission and goal exercises in my new planner. Can I just say – I feel amazing for having done this. Calm , in control, and empowered to take on my dream life. And I would very much like to pass some of this positivity on to you! So without further ado, here are 5 quietly powerful strategies you can use to lay the foundation of your dream life and finally ‘press play’ on those big goals.
Step One: Values
Values are the innate guiding principles that you would ideally like to live by. When your life is not in alignment with your values you may feel restless, discontent, guilty, and frustrated. If you’ve never done this before (or not for a long while) I urge you to take some time to consider what your deep inner values are. Why not pull out a nice journal or just start a new file – label it ‘My Dream Life’!
To give you some examples, my values include health, creativity, family, spirituality, courage, gratitude, patience, abundance, and business. Covey suggests attaching a few clarifying statements to each value, i.e. “I take time to reflect daily and be grateful for the things in my life”
Step Two: Roles
Once you’ve determined your values it’s worth taking a few minutes to consider all the different hats you wear in your life. There’s probably at least 4 or 5 key roles that you’re trying to fulfill, and I’ll bet you have goals associated with each of them.
If you don’t take some time to break this stuff down you will likely find yourself moving sideways from one thing to the next and basically ending up going round in circles, rather than truly progressing forward! My roles included writer, wife/mother, athlete, coach, and ‘sharpen the saw’. That’s right – a whole separate role just for the development side of my life! Add some clarifying statements to each of your roles as well; this will help you when it comes time to set goals.
Step Three: The "Be, Do, Have" Exercise
One of my favorite exercises, and one I’ve come back to time and again over the years, is Covey’s ‘be, do and have’ exercise. It’s where you get to really dream about how your life will be when you do start pressing play every day! It’s very simple – all you need to do is fill a half page or so with things you’d like to one day be, another half page with things you’d like to do, and then another with things you’d like to have. For an example, I’d like to be a published author (in a bookstore!), I’d like to have at least 2 more children, and I’d like to spend 3 months out of each year living overseas at some point throughout our lives (do).
Step Four: Reflect
After completing the above exercise you’ll be raring at the bit to start coming up with some exciting goals and strategies to help you achieve all that good stuff. I know I was! Well – don’t do it! At least, not yet. The reality is that it’s in your nature to always want more, and (if you let it) your mind will continue to come up with endless possibilities for your life. This is definitely a good thing, but it can also make life messy and overwhelming as you jump from task to task. Taking time to reflect on what really drives you will give you focus and a sense of calm as you plan your big goals for the months ahead.
Here are some questions I like to ask myself when reflecting:
- What am I truly passionate about?
- What gives me a sense of ‘flow’?
- What are some moments when everything has just seemed right?
- What makes me feel happy; joyful; more alive?
- What has the opposite effect?
This is my favorite part of the journey – it’s where you get to visualize and then plan the specifics of your dream life. The who, what, when, where, why and how! I love this part because I find words to be incredibly powerful – just writing something down can help you to picture it actually happening, and then when you break it down into small steps all of a sudden something big and scary becomes not only tangible but also achievable. So – setting smart goals is really easy now that you’ve done all the groundwork.
Take a moment to refer back to your values and your roles, and then simply set goals for each value/role! It’s useful to decide on a due date for your goal, and then break it down into small steps. Make them bite sized! For example, if one of my goals is to have a column in a health and fitness magazine, my steps would include brainstorming post ideas, writing drafts, asking for feedback, brainstorming title ideas, researching editor/contact details, and finally submitting an article!
Of course you could keep going even beyond these 5 steps. Covey talks about using this stuff as a base to create a mission for your life, but even if you don’t do that you will notice a tremendous sense of empowerment simply by taking time out for yourself. Another next step you could take (and one that is next on my agenda) is to use your goals as a base to planning out your year, month, week and then even your days. Sure, it will take you an extra half hour or so each week, but really – in the midst of that crazy-busy-life of yours could there be any greater feeling than knowing that each busy little moment is one that truly counts toward your dream life? Who knows – you may actually become one of those people who does press play every day!
What else do you do to press play on your life and dreams? I’d love to hear your strategies and tips for making sense in a busy world … and I’d also love to hear from you if you do take time out to follow this 5-point plan!