(I wrote this yesterday but didn’t get to post it).
My sister reposted an article by David Wong, published on the 16th July, entitled A 60 Second Guide to Learning the Awful Truth About Yourself, on facebook. I very seldom click on these things – I don’t believe in ‘quick fixes’ and think most such articles are a gimmicky waste of time – but something prompted me to today. I started it half-heartedly.
Step 1: ‘Get out a pen and paper. You don’t need much, an old receipt or something. Write down, in just a few words, what you did yesterday. Leave out the sleeping, eating, etc. And be totally honest, nobody is going to see it but you.’
Hmmmm. What did I do yesterday?
05:20 – 06:10: work on a report for work
06:10 – 07:30: get myself and the kids ready for the day, make lunches, drop kids at school
07:30 – 12:30: work
12:30 – 13:30: drop a woman who works for me and has a very ill 6-year-old at hospital after she was referred by our nurses (update: he is about to go into theatre to have his appendix removed).
13:30 – 16:10: work
16:10 – 17:00: fetch children; catch up on the day in the car
17:00 – 17:30: chat to family; tidy the house; get into running gear
17:30 – 18:30: travel to and run 4km time trial at the local athletics club; get back home
18:30 – 19:00: get kids to bed; shower and change
19:00 – 19:30: talk to hubby
19:30 – 10:00: More to Life Enrichment Group meeting
10:00 – 10:30: cuddle, talk, sex with hubby
Step 2: ‘On a separate piece of paper, write down in just a few words the five things that are most important in life. Roughly in order.’
That’s easy – I can copy and paste that from my More to Life Journal:
- Have a clear purpose and direction in all areas of my life, and to continue to work with discipline towards being joyful, calm, truthful, open-hearted, grounded, healthy, and embracing life, just as it is.
- Maintaining a stable, happy, fun home for my lovely boys until they are ready to launch into their own living spaces.
- Continuing to be part of creating a loving, supportive, caring, adventurous and mutually satisfying life-long relationship with my husband.
- To make a positive difference in the lives of those who need support through my work.
- To continue to attach value to relationships and experiences, not material things.
‘Now, if you write above the list, “I believe in …” then that is in effect your Philosophy of Life.’
Step 3: ‘Go back to your log of things you did yesterday, and re-arrange it in order of time spent, from most to least.’
- Working (8.5 hours)
- Time with children (3 hours)
- More to Life (enrichment of self and support of others) (2.5 hours)
- One-on-one time connecting with hubby (1 hour)
- Exercise (1 hour)
- Helping others (1 hour)
The article then goes on to say, ‘Write “I believe in …” at the top. That is your real philosophy of life. Take the other piece of paper and throw it away. It’s meaningless.
“Bullshit!” you might say. “You can’t judge me based on yesterday! I was really tired when I got home from work, and just wanted to chill!” Hey, I’m not judging you! I once lost an entire Wednesday afternoon trying to get a hat to stay on a rabbit. But if you think yesterday was an outlier, then go ahead and tally up the last month. If you’re like me and every single person I know, your two lists – the things you said were important and the things you actually spend time and energy on – bear no resemblance to one another.
So there you go. If you want to know where you’ll be five years from now, you don’t need a crystal ball. Just look at your philosophy of life – your real one, the one based on actual time spent. That’s who you are, and that’s who you’ll be five years from now, or 10, or 20. You are what you spend time doing. And nothing else.’
What I spent my time doing yesterday actually aligns fairly well to my philosophy, since while of course work took up by far the most time, my work is for a non-profit organisation that makes a profound difference in thousands of lives every month, and fits perfectly with ‘To make a positive difference in the lives of those who need support through my work.’ Work is, of course, also a financial imperative in most of our lives – few of us escape that, and indeed the income generated from our work can be a means to achieve many of the other things we feel are important in our lives.
Naturally, not every day fits so neatly with my purpose – and even yesterday, I nearly didn’t go for a run because I was feeling so exhausted, I worked in the morning when I would usually be exercising, and I nearly didn’t go to my enrichment group because I wanted to spend time with my husband. I usually would have rushed out the door to my group once the kids were in bed, but paused to spend some extra time with my hubby first because he was looking exhausted and stressed, and I wanted to lift his mood and connect with him before I left. I’m so grateful I did so, and showed him with my actions rather than just my words how much I wish to support him – and appreciative too that he encouraged to me to go to the group, knowing how important it is for my self-development, growth and happiness.
I understand the article was trying to make a valid point, and trying to do so through a harsh wake-up call, although I didn’t like the belittling tone its author used. I suppose what it reminded me of was that while what I do each day does often aligns quite well with what I believe is important, that is also because I have tried to be increasingly mindful and aware of this over the past couple of years. I certainly don’t think we are ‘nothing’ other than what we do, but do believe it is true that to find real fulfillment in our lives, our actions do indeed need to align with our beliefs.
Sometimes, external prompts to re-evaluate our daily decisions are useful, but what really counts is what we choose to do about it: not just for a day, or a week, or by creating a list of resolutions – but by changing our every-day habits and routines, remaining aware, and holding ourselves to account for our choices each and every day. Furthermore, rather than either berating ourselves or putting ourselves down when we fail in this endeavour, I have learnt that the most productive thing to do is quite simply to recommit to our intention, and tackle it with a renewed sense of purpose.