This is my third-annual recap and realizations post and, for this one, I’m going to try something a bit different (for reference, here’s 2014 and 2013). Instead of getting into the nitty gritty of everything Mr. Watson and I attempted and accomplished in 2015, I’m going to stick with one big lesson we learned:
Focus on what you want.
Not why you can’t have it.
Not what might happen if you can’t have it.
Not what you could have instead. And, for the love of all that’s holy,
Not how you could make something you don’t want work.
Mr. Watson and I tend to take a strategic outlook toward life so we ask ourselves ‘how’ a lot, e.g., “How could we buy a house this year?” As a result, sometimes we come up with wacky answers, “We could move to Pittsburgh where home prices are ⅓ to ¼ the local price.”
Then we make pronouncements such as “we could totally make that work” even if it’s not our dream.
Sometimes we even convince ourselves that we don’t know what we want because we don’t think what we want is possible (this is a huge one for me!).
Kate Swoboda of Your Courageous Life said, “Most of the time, when people say they ‘don’t know’ what they want, they really do. They’re just afraid to name it and claim it.”
Agreed. I would add that sometimes we say we don’t know because we don’t think we can have want we want and so, instead of naming that big wish, we go looking for alternatives that would suffice.
Which brings me back to the big 2015 lesson: What do you really want? We each must determine what we want before we move ahead to the next step: Creating that reality.
As an example, here are two things I’m very clear about wanting:
- To own a comfortable home so we can make the decisions about paint colors and countertops and whether or not to have pets.
- A small group of friends who want to see me regularly (every month or so) and who don’t make me feel guilty about my introversion or energy level. I’m doing the best I can, I promise!
There are some other things I’m not 100% clear about so I’ve adopted two questions to guide my decision-making in 2016 and help me focus on what I really want. Here they are:
Question #1: Is it meaningful?
Anytime I make a decision, I’d like to consider whether that course of action is meaningful to me or not. Here are a couple of examples:
- Do I want to work with a new foster child? > Well, will doing so add meaning to my life? — Yes, it is a cause and organization that matters to me. Sounds like a good idea!
- Do I want to join that board committee? > Will doing so add meaning to my life? — No, it feels like a ‘should’ instead of a ‘want.’ So the answer is thanks, but no thanks.
I’m using my values and feelings to guide my answers. If you don’t yet know what your personal or career values are, here’s an exercise to help you figure them out. On the feelings side, it comes down to whether you truly want to do something or if it feels like a ‘should’ or someone else’s expectation. It’s that simple.
Question #2: How do I want to spend my days?
This question is an important check on the first because:
- You don’t want to be writing checks your body can’t cash, as they say in Top Gun, i.e., you don’t want to be taking on too much even if it is super meaningful to you, and more importantly,
- Thinking about how you want to spend your days keeps the focus on dreams that fit your lifestyle. And the secret to happiness (after practicing gratitude) is enjoying your day-to-day life.
As we move deeper into 2016, I’m looking forward to keeping the focus on what I want—and encouraging you to do the same—by remembering what’s meaningful and how we want to spend our days.
What lessons did you learn in 2015 and how are those lessons guiding your 2016?