Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Taking stock: how and why?

I am sure I am not alone in that I start the year with a goal, but I also get excited by things throughout the year, and add to my goals.  Not only that, but as I do other work, such as working moon cycles or doing journaling prompts, I'll find more things that I want to work on, and set up plans for them.  And, when I read about a new practice, I'll want to try it out!

All in all, I frequently add to my personal work load, and if I don't pay attention, by the end of the year, I'll have this whole list of things (more like a dozen different lists of things...) that I intend to do every day/week/month...and probably over half of them aren't getting done.

I think we are naturally inclined to get excited about things when we first see them.  It is new and shiny and of course we want whatever it is.  Surely it's worth the work, and the work looks kind of fun doesn't it?  We may even be very good and dive right in and do the work for a few days...before our enthusiasm runs out.

But more often, I find that I'll set myself up with new longer-term goals, and they never get worked into my routine, because I set them, and then forgot.  Or, I'll pick up a new goal, and be really dedicated to it...and my older goals will sort of slip through the cracks.

This is why I think it's very important to not only keep a master list of all the things you are working on, but to check in with it several times a year.  I actually like to keep my 'year plan' broken into daily/weekly/monthly/Sabbat categories, because those are the main cycles that I work with. 

My current (bullet journal inspired) planner has three year plans in it right now:  the one I wrote up at the very start of the year (with a half-year reflection added), one I wrote up recently to check in while looking at the next year, and my plan for next year.

At the start of the year, I broke down my year and my goals.  I listed all the things I wanted to do, and how often I planned on doing them.  I like lists, and having everything clearly written out let me see at a glance what I was looking towards.  My lists are color coded, so it is very easy for me to see which parts are daily, which are weekly, etc, which helps make the lists feel more manageable.  My list also included a section for things that I thought would be fun to add in or that I might play with, but that I wasn't committing to.  Sort of like an idea page!

And then, halfway through the year, I revisited this page.  I took out another color of pen (again, so I can easily differentiate!) and I checked in with each thing:  how well was I doing it, what needed to change, what wasn't I doing at all?  It's always interesting to see how my plan and the reality line up and where what I actually did veered off from what I thought I was going to be able to do.

One thing that is really important, when starting to check in, is to be as absolutely factual and non-judgemental as possible.  Write down what is going on, but don't justify or give reasons for anything.  Just start with the reality of the situation.  Then, you can go back through and look into the reasons why things turned out the way they did.  I think if you start by writing out why you missed your mark, it is much easier to try to make excuses instead of owning your truth.

Also, when you start going into why things didn't match up, don't just beat yourself up for not doing what you set out to do.  Sometimes situations change unexpectedly and we may have thought we would have more time/energy/resources than we ended up having.  Other times, we thought something would work one way for us, and the reality is that it didn't work at all. 

One of the main reasons for doing a check in is to make adjustments.  You aren't always going to keep the same goals!  Sometimes you may need to put things on the back burner.  You might acknowledge that it is still something you are interested in pursuing, but right now isn't the right time.  You make a note of it, to check back in later and see if it might be feasible then.

You might just need to adjust how you are working towards something.  I've definitely had to adjust my hows many times!  Sometimes, I found I needed to do things more or less frequently than I had originally intended.  Other times I needed to change the actions I was doing (I have done this with meal prayers MANY times...still working on finding that perfect fit for me!) 

Another technique I have used, for miscellaneous goals and to-do list items was called the unlist, but the idea is you don't actually schedule anything on your unlist.  Instead, you keep one big list of stuff you need to do (things that don't have specific deadlines), and every day you check in with it.  You spend some time, reading each item on the list, and seeing if you feel like working in it.

It's a really interesting approach, that sort of works for me.  The idea is that eventually you will feel like working on a thing, and then you will do it and cross it off your list.  But every single day you are at least reading it and thinking about if you want to do it.  You may also eventually decide you no longer are interested in it, so you cross it off your list.

I have some things that are on my version of an unlist (right now it's my weekly task section of my planner).  Every week, when I plan my week, I put some things on my weekly task list that aren't hard to-do's.  They are things that I would like to work on...sometime.  And I keep writing them down until I either do them or decide to take them off my list. 

What I like about this method is it's sort of passive pressure.  There isn't a pressing need to do things in this section every week.  In fact, some things have been on my weekly task list for months!  But, I feel like I'm not completely neglecting them.  I'm thinking about them at least twice a week (once when I write them down, and again at the end of the week when I check in to see what I've done).

I'm actually using my moon work to check in a lot this year.  Working with specific moons each moon cycle, I go through a whole program of different areas of my life:  family, cravings, body/health, relationships, commitments, 1/2 year check-in, physical world, gratitude/abundance, letting go, animals, protection, cleaning/cleansing.  And, since I'm working these themes with the moon cycles, I'm doing a whole intention, plan, action, adjustment, gratitude, release and rest cycle for each of them...along with a divination spread!

This sort of forces me to evaluate the different areas of my life, which I find really helpful.  But, because I am focusing on one section each cycle, I'm not feeling bombarded by the need to work on all the things all at once.  I can focus on one area of my life, make sure it's balanced and working properly, and see if there is work I need to do in that arena.  Sometimes, I will set whole goals that will carry over and be added into my general routine, while other times I'll work on something during that cycle and then feel like I am good.

Another way to approach this sort of life reflection is often called the level 10 life process.  You take the major areas of your life (typically:  family/friends, personal development, spirituality, finances, career, relationships, fun/recreation, giving/contributions, physical environment, health/fitness), and you rank them all on a scale of 1-10.  Most people recommend graphing this out (using different colors for each!), so that you can see at a glance how fulfilled you are in your life.

Once you have this basic assessment done, you can pick the areas you feel you need to work on most (often the ones you are the least fulfilled in), and set a goal or two for each one on ways you can bring up those levels. 

This is something that is really great to do at least once a year (but you may find it helpful to do several times, or even once a month).  I think it is really easy to just get into our routines, and sometimes we know that we aren't feeling tip top, but it may not be obvious what is wrong.  But, when we check out our life levels, we notice that we really haven't been doing a lot of fun/recreation or personal development.  By shoring up those weak areas, we often find that we feel much more fulfilled in general.

The big thing about taking stock is that you are actively checking in with your life.  You aren't just letting life progress without stepping in and taking control.  It is much easier to let things slip through our fingers when we aren't even aware that they are sliding.  And it is so much easier to stay on top of things when you regularly check in and adjust what needs adjusting.

Remember, there is no shame!  Adjusting doesn't mean failing.  Even choosing to not work on something isn't failing!  Making the choices that are right for you are exactly that...right! 

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