“The whole point of dancing is the dance.” This is true. It’s the steps you take, and the way you move your body. It’s also the time in between those steps. Are they slow or fast? Do you pause for two beats? Three? Or do you immediately move into the next step? It matters, because every step becomes the dance. And the dance becomes your life.
Life is meant to be lived. Not worried about. Not just studied and catalogued, but enjoyed. It is the dance. It’s important to know the difference between living and existing.
Time and life will go on without you.
But how does all of this translate into the practical? Into what we do everyday of our lives?
I have a theory. I think that the steps you take every day, the little things that you do, are your dance. My dance has not been what I want it to be. I’ve been too caught up in the steps. “Overthinking it”, as my dance teacher advises us not to do, especially when we’re getting closer to our performance time.
I know this, in my head, anyway. When I dance at home it’s less technical, more about how the music makes me feel. When I am performing, though, or thinking about performing, I worry. I think about how the dance is going to look and how I’m going to look performing it.
The same goes for my life. I am constantly overthinking things. Should I do this or should I do that? Will doing this one thing help me get ahead in this area or should I do this other thing? Inevitably it leads to analysis paralysis, or worse squirrel syndrome.
In the Past
For the last couple of years around New Years, I’ve chosen “3 Words” for the year. An idea I got from Chris Brogan, who also employees it every year. It’s an approach where you pick 3 words that remind you of areas you want to improve on. I’ve been mostly successful with this model, but I’ve always felt like something was missing. Namely, how this translates to changing your everyday life. I’ve tried to solve this by setting a daily reminder on my phone that pops up my 3 words every morning, but after a while it’s easy to ignore that reminder in favor of just getting my day started. Eventually, this means that I stop trying to pursue these ideals altogether. Sometimes by this time, they’ve been incorporated into my life, but not always.
This year, I didn’t choose 3 words at all. Well, actually I did, but I had just separated from my husband and my focus and the words kept changing. After a few months I gave it up as a bad job, and just started focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. That’s all I could do for a while. Recently, though, I’ve started to heal which has allowed me to look past this situation and start living my life again. This year I want to do more with my life than just choose 3 words that make me feel good about myself. It’s not that I don’t think it works, it does. I just need something more right now.
In honor of my Birthday (I just turned 34 this weekend), I’m going to reboot my life. It’s an ambitious and ridiculous goal, but it’s something that I have to do for myself.
Aristotle said, “You are what you repeatedly do”.
What I have done in the past is not who I wanted to be. I have to face that and then change it, because if I don’t then moving forward is impossible.
The saying goes, “One step forward and two steps back”. Sometimes I feel like my life is more like one step forward six steps back. To be fair that’s now always the case. Sometimes I make huge leaps forward, but I always seem to slip back into the same old rhythms, like a long-lost song that won’t stop playing over and over in my head (even though I’d like it to).
I want to take this next year to explore my own dance. To discover what steps and pauses work for me. To make my own performance count with the daily steps I take and also the way the music makes me feel.
To that end, I’m going to use a model that I’ve seen a lot of others use: the reboot. Recently I’ve read some posts where Wil Wheaton used this model. Actually, it’s only recently for me that I’ve read it. I think he used this a couple of years ago to get his life back on track.
The model is this:
- Figure out what you don’t like about your life
- Make a List
- Do the opposite of those things as much as possible
- Track whether or not you do that
- Adjust as needed
Sounds simple, right? So simple that I’ve tried it more than once in various forms. The problem is keeping up with it on a day-to-day basis. I know it works though, because it has worked for me in the past. So, to the actual reboot.
Here’s my reboot list.
- Exercise more consistently
- Eat better
- Write more
- Read more nonfiction
- Enjoy just being more
- Ship more
Now, I could also channel my inner Rory and say that I’m going to do “x” amount of these things per week, but I’ve come to learn recently that I am not an automaton. While I may resemble one sometimes when I’m in one of my caffeine-induced super-productivity modes, I am human. Life happens, and you have to let it happen. What works one week or even one day might not work the next. The goal here is to be more consistent overall, not to be perfect. Perfect can suck it!
I’ve also decided to ask myself three questions at the end of every week and record the answer, because I think it’s important to note whether or not I’m enjoying what I’m doing or not. I’ve thought a lot about when I should ask and answer these questions. A day seems too short and a month seems too long. Since we have these arbitrary “weeks” that were set up years ago, which are about a fourth of a month, I will use those.
- What did you like about this week?
- What did you not like about this week?
- What will you do differently next week?
Hopefully, the fact that I’m focusing on positive and negative aspects will lead me to appreciate more of my own progress, rather than beating myself up when I inevitably don’t perform as well. Which leads me to the next thing I’m going to steal…
His grading system. For some reason I’m very hard on myself. If I don’t do something perfectly, then I am less apt to keep doing it, because not doing it perfectly and realizing that makes me depressed. Then I get that bad feeling associated with the thing I want to do everytime I try to do it, and soon I’m not doing it anymore. This leads to feeling even worse about it and getting more depressed, and… Well, you can see how fast it is to fall into that self-defeating spiral. Anyway, his grading system, which I haven’t seen anyone else do, is brilliant. It’s literally just like the grades we used to get in school: A-F. A if you did really good. F is you did really bad or failed completely. It’s less all or nothing and more “Hey, you did not so good this month. That’s okay, you can change that next month”.
Finally, the Plan
Read more nonfiction. I am a voracious fiction reader, especially Urban Fantasy. That’s been my schtick for a while now, since that’s what I want to write. The problem is that I also have a giant stack of nonfiction books to read, or in the process of being read because I can’t seem to stick with a book long enough to finish it. Maybe that’s because I love stories. But I don’t read nonfiction for the stories. I read nonfiction for the lessons. For what it can help me understand about my own life and about how others are living their own lives. Actually, I do read nonfiction quite often, but it’s mostly blog posts. I also subscribe to several podcasts. For a while now, though, I haven’t been able to read anything even remotely nonfiction that’s longer than a blog post. I don’t know why, but it’s something I want to change. I want to learn from others who have gone before me and be inspired by their trials and triumphs. Yes, I could do that with blog posts, but I want to read something that’s more in-depth. Something that takes a single concept, or a handful of them and explores them until the subject is defined to satisfaction. It’s hard to that in a single blog post.
Enjoy just “being” more. There’s a version of me that’s been taking over my personality a lot lately. I don’t like her very much. She’s always worried about work and trying to get it done on time, because she’s worried about what her boss will say when she doesn’t. She gets uptight about little things and spends way too much time trying to “check out” by binge-watching shows or reading books. She doesn’t exercise even though she knows she will feel better if she does. Sore, but better. She gets cranky with her son when he doesn’t do something right away, or when he’s not being “serious enough”. She’s just generally a crankier and more depressed person.
Yes, I’ve been through some hard times lately, but that’s no reason to act like I have been. I want to be a better person as much as possible, because this version of me is not.
The root of the problem lies in being busy. I’m a busy person. I have a day job, I own a business, have a son, and have many, many things I want to do with my life. So, when I do switch off it’s to do something like read or binge-watch a show. Rarely do I just go for a walk, or a run, or workout, or even just sit and think. When I do these things, though, I’m a much more centered, happy, and healthy version of myself. But the crazy, always switched-on, neurotic version of me is present most of the time.
I used to lift weights all the time, and run, and walk, and dance, and do all kinds of things that gave me what I like to call “space”. For me, that space is like clearing out the mental clutter that allows more of the better parts of my personality to shine through. It also allows me to enjoy my life more, and it also gives me the space to create more stuff. This year, I want to claim more of that “space” for myself.
This one will be hard to figure out if I’ve actually done it, but I know what it feels like. I’m confident that I will recognize it again when it happens. Maybe by the end of this year, I’ll know if this was a good goal or not. Until then, I’ll be pursuing it anyway. I won’t know until I try.
Ship more. To me this means pushing more stuff out into the world, whether that be blogging, projects, writing, or even just social media posts. I’ve actually done more of that this last year than I have in years past, which is saying something considering the state of my life. I’ve still hesitated to push everything out, though. I keep “saying” I’m going to work on things and then I don’t, or I’ll work on them a little bit and then stop.
This year, I’ll be pushing the envelope of what I can ship. Maybe it won’t be high quality stuff, but it will be more and it will be more of me out there. I need to see if I’ve still got it: that drive to do more, to be more.
Write more. In order to ship more, I have to write more. Most of what I produce is written. If it’s not written, then I usually write it out first, at least to get the idea down. Also, I want to finish my Urban Fantasy novel at some point in my life. So, writing is very essential to what I do.
This is the only part of my life where I’m going to establish a hard and fast rule. I will be trying to write every day, hopefully without exception.
I’ve actually been tracking my writing for about 2 years now using a Google Spreadsheet created by Jamie Todd Rubin. It’s a tool that automatically tracks how much I write as long as I do it by creating or updating a document within Google Drive in a specific folder. Since I have the app on my phone and I also use Drive a lot on my computer, I usually capture about 90% of what I write. The other 10% are things that I write on the fly or things which I write longhand.
Most of what I write are blog posts, but I also have some fiction that lives in that folder. My goal is to not only write every day, but to also start turning more of these projects into publishable works. Write more. Ship more.
Eat better. Eating better is a goal I’ve had for a long time. This is also another area where I have gone back and forth between doing really good and really bad. In the past when I have eaten better, I’ve made progress on losing weight and getting healthier. So I know it works.
In addition, I’ve had some recent health things pop up, which I know are due to my poor diet. So, eating better just entails making better choices every time I put something in my mouth. More fruit and veggies, less junk food. More water, less pop. You get the idea.
Exercise more consistently. As I mentioned before, I used to lift, run, dance, and do all kinds of active things. As I’ve gotten older, those have slowly dropped off until for the last couple of months I’ve exercised very little, and definitely not consistently.
Again, when I’ve done this in the past, I’ve seen progress. So, the goal here is just to do this more. To get back into the rhythm of exercising and moving so that it becomes apart of my life again. I’m always happier when I do.
This reboot is going to require tracking. I don’t want to go overboard with the tracking, though. As I’ve said before uber-tracking only leads to disappointment when I inevitably don’t reach my goals. So, instead, I’m going to record at the end of the day the progress I’ve made toward each of my goals. I’ll try to be as specific as possible. At the end of the week, I’ll compile these into one weekly journal and ask my weekly questions. At the end of the month, these will again be compiled into a monthly journal where I’ll do a final assessment. Did I do better? Did I do worse? Am I making any progress? What can I do differently, or what do I want to do differently next month. Simple. I’ve created a “Daily Journal Template” in my Evernote that I can duplicate every evening to record my results. Evernote is great for this kind of thing because it’s accessible on any platform (as long as you have it downloaded and connected), and you can search just your “Daily Journal”s.
I’ll be posting my updates every month. I hope it will help not only me, but anyone else who’s struggling with changing their life for the better. So, here’s to doing better, being more, and hopefully finding out what it’s all about.
Want to Read More?
Subscribe to get new posts delivered directly to your inbox.