Solid Gold Goals

Do you have trouble sticking with your plans? Do your routines fluctuate wildly so you can't really call them routines?  

I know all about that, especially in summer where my schedule varies every day and my sweetheart is home more so there's more incentive to work on house stuff or do fun things together, and I mix up vacation-y stuff with work stuff.  Mostly I like the variety and the flexibility. 

But sometimes my most important (yet not urgent) to-do items get shuttled from one day to the next while I make breakfast smoothies, see clients, take walks, fold laundry, do some writing, play with the cats, and check my emails and FB way too many times.

Last week I was talking with my friend and fellow coach, Wendy Battino, and we ended our call by setting some concrete goals for ourselves. 

I kept trying to say "solid goals" and saying "solid gold" instead-- so we came up with Solid Gold Goals-- and then of course I had to spend about twenty minutes looking at old videos of the Solid Gold dancers - that sure was a crazy eighties show!

My idea for Solid Gold Goals (and this is not an original idea by any means but doesn't it sound great with this catchy splashy title?) is to come up with just three things every day - generally things that can easily get put off - things that aren't necessarily part of the daily maintenance or regular routine of my work, and number them 1-3, and make sure I do them. That day. In order.

Ideally I complete at least two of them in the morning. I've also tried this strategy with six things too, with the idea that you move anything not completed to the next day - keeping the order the same, so you stop skipping the to do items when other stuff pops up.

If you pair a strategy like this with relentless avoidance of social media checking, you can really get some things done!  

I'm fascinated by my avoidance - some call it resistance - and I try all kinds of things to address it, from compassionate observance, to sneaking up on it, to just going ahead and facing it head on.

Do you have some items that keep slipping from one day to the next on your to do list? 

Try a short list of three daily Solid Gold Goals and see what happens.

Photo by bodnarchuk/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by bodnarchuk/iStock / Getty Images

Lessons from redwoods

You cannot “capture” a redwood on your phone in that tiny 2x4 inch screen, no matter how hard you try. Even with the panoramic feature, even with your friend in the photo for scale, you can’t fit it into that two dimensional surface.  Even if you videotape and do a 360 degree turn and pan your camera all up and down.  I don’t think you can fully get the sense even if you had an IMAX 3-D camera.

No, you must come and stand next to one,  sit down at its base while raindrops fall toward you from impossibly high heights so you can watch them form perfect spheres looking like tiny glass balls before they splatter on your forehead.  Even sitting surrounded by hundreds of redwoods in a quiet dripping forest, even then your mind will struggle to take in their enormity.  Not only of size but age. 

Trees live slow lives.  They take their time.  They spend entire seasons simply waiting. Their experiences stretch over centuries.  There's a tree not far from my home that I visit regularly - indeed it's the tree pictured on the cover page of this website - the "Tree of Life", they call it.  It's been there since the 1740s.  My mind cannot fathom how long that really is, and how much the planet has changed since that time, and that's not even super-old for a tree.

Something happens to me when I review my own life - I wonder if this happens to you. I have a habit of forgetting what I’ve accomplished.  My mind tells me stories of all of the ways I avoid and hide and fail to act. When April and tax time comes and I review the year in more detail, I’m always surprised at how much did happen - how many clients I saw, classes I led, retreats I created, places I traveled, when my mind tells me I was just sitting around being lazy.

I haven't been writing as much recently.  I’ve been percolating a lot.  Reading. Thinking. There's so much that feels like upheaval in the world. And try as I might to avoid it, the first few months of 2017 I’ve felt a lot of fear. I don't like to write from a place of fear.

So I went to the redwoods. I asked them for help with my fear. My fear that I’m not doing enough, taking enough action to make the world better, making clearer choices to create peace and safety- to serve the greater good. They seemed bemused and puzzled. They did not have advice for me-- a short-lived soft-bodied human with such a fast-paced life and a speedy metabolism. They don't know what that's like. They don't move through the world. They're grounded firmly in place growing large and tall. When they fall in wind or storms, they simply become the building blocks for the new trees who follow. There's no loss, no tragedy, no remorse.  

The redwoods suggested that I simply keep living. They certainly weren't judging me or my choices. They welcomed me and told me they'd probably be there next time I returned, barring storm or human intervention. They can't be worried about it. That's not what trees do. And I appreciate that while I am not a redwood or an ancient live oak tree and cannot live my life that way, I can take a lesson in slowing down, staying present, and appreciating what is before me.  And that when I am afraid I'm not accomplishing enough, the antidote may actually be to take a break, invite a friend or two, and sit beneath a tree.

 

Maybe you need some juice?

When I was a young girl, my mother told me a story from her childhood about becoming quite ill with dehydration one summer. Her caregivers gave her a tiny cup of juice every 30 minutes, and she described how torturous it felt. She was dangerously dehydrated but the last thing she wanted was to drink. I remember being completely flummoxed by this story.  Why would this happen? Why didn’t she want to drink the juice? How could something so simple and curative feel so hard?

 

Last week I had a revelation about this dehydration and juice thing, in the middle of a session with a client, where this story of the cups of juice became a perfect metaphor for a universal struggle. We resist our cure, not to be difficult, but because when we’re suffering, the antidote is often the most unappealing thing we can imagine.

 

Cups of juice. We just need to get them and drink them. We don’t need to believe that we’ll feel better in the moment, or expect that we’ll actually want the juice even though every cell in our body is parched.

 

photo credit Mark Adams

photo credit Mark Adams

Maybe we could even have some juice on hand— at the ready—so we don’t have to work so hard when our circumstances get rough or our thoughts grow dark.  

 

When we are struggling in small or big ways, we expect to be overjoyed to find a solution - like a drowning person would be about receiving a life ring.  How freeing to realize that’s not necessarily the case.  We have to hold our noses and drink the juice, not feeling saved at all, trusting that our relief may come later.

 

What area of your life is feeling like dehydration? It might be tricky - you won’t always feel the symptoms of dehydration coming on, so you need to get still and listen.

 

Are you missing time for you while you take care of everyone else? Are you putting off something important that feels too hard or too scary? Is your mind producing thoughts that are mean and judgmental? Are you avoiding exercise or bingeing on crappy food?  Are you ignoring your clutter piles? Are you hesitating to address important issues in your relationship?

 

What cup of juice might help, even though it initially feels better to be distracted by your phone, extra activities, bingeing on Netflix or avoidance napping?

 

Is it a walk outside? Making the phone call? Sitting down to write? Going shopping for some fruits and veggies? Throwing out the junk mail? Doing the bookkeeping? Meeting someone for that hard conversation? 

 

Maybe it’s time to let yourself have some juice.

Lessons from a spider

This is the actual spider spinning her web by moonlight.

This is the actual spider spinning her web by moonlight.

Earlier this month while I was in Florida I watched a spider spin her web by moonlight. She is the type of spider who makes a fresh web each night and takes it down in the morning, and she was nearly done with her handiwork.  I didn't see what happened, but a few minutes later the web was broken and completely down.  It might have been a breeze that knocked it or one of the dogs catching the guy wire. I felt terrible once I noticed.  She would have to start completely over! 

The spider probably wasn't sighing.  She wasn't worried.  She simply began the task of rebuilding.  And in an hour or so she was done.  With plenty of time to catch her dinner.

Unlike the spider, I can be very whiny about building things.  I get frustrated with formatting on my computer.  I get annoyed resizing photos and taking all the little steps to move things around on a screen. I especially dislike having to re-do things that I've already done once before.  

But rebuilding is part of what we do. And creating fresh. We can be like the spider and just do it, rather than whining about how hard it is or how it doesn't look right. The spider doesn't care if all her threads are completely evenly spaced, as long as they do the job.  They are close enough.

How freeing to focus on the building and the creation.  How lovely to approach my work this way - don't you agree?

What do you do when you are literally hit by a train?

This week, my husband was hit by a train.  Not a metaphorical train. A real one. 

He was simply on his way home from Lowe's.  It was late, after 9:30.  He crossed at an unmarked railroad crossing, having looked and not seen the train.  Apparently the train was so darn close it was invisible in the dark.  

One second earlier and I would have been a widow, as the slow moving train would have plowed right into the driver side and crushed my dear husband as it dragged the car along the tracks. Instead, the train just clipped the back of the car, tore off the rear bumper and made a mess of the back quarter panel.  

I've tried to puzzle out the meaning of this.  I don't come up with much except wow, I am very grateful, and wow - death really can happen at any time.  We've seen that this week with tragedies of epic proportions in the news, and that doesn't include all the regular people dying all over the planet from disease, accidents, old age, etc. who don't make it into the endless media cycle.

We so want to believe we have time. Lots of time. Plenty of time. Maybe we do, maybe we don't.  

So what's the answer?

For me, it is to get as present as I can. Not later, but now. 

Especially with those I love. Put down the phone.  Look in their eyes.  Really listen.  Be awake and amazed at this wonder of being human together.