(e.g. “I’m a Systems Engineer working for a Fortune 500 company and the father of two beautiful daughters.”)
But who we are isn’t a perception of our life or how we choose to label it.
Who we are is what we do all day.
Artist Austin Kleon summarizes it this way…
“You are the mashup of what you let into your life.”
You are an amalgamation of all the tiny things to which you give your attention during your waking hours. (Those things may or may not be in your job description.)
And yet we rarely take a hard look at those little choices, little changes, little ideas and little rituals and ask ourselves, “why?”
But if you want to make changes in your life, that’s where you need to start.
What do you do all day?
If I were being honest (which I am), and broke down the little chunks that make up an average day/evening for me, I would say they include…
- Nature /Exercise: I try to walk two miles, outdoors, every day.
- Puppies: My co-workers are two lazy Basset Hounds. Loving them to pieces and playing with them is a (highly enjoyable) requirement each day.
- Silence/Daydreaming: This includes the time I spend dreaming up and fleshing out ideas for presentations, classes and clients, as well as times when I just space out.
- Content Consumption/Generation: I spend gobs of time reading social feeds, blog posts, articles, books, etc. and an equally huge chunk churning out writing assignments, proposals, strategic plans, etc.
- Art/Entertainment: This is my number one “go to” activity when I am feeling lost, bored or stuck. I just go somewhere else –anywhere else–and live there awhile instead.
- Conversations: Since I have no co-workers, for me this consists of interactions via social media as well as the odd stranger I talk to face-to-face when I am out and about.
- Love/Family: When my family comes home, I try to be as fully present as possible during my time with them.
- Service: I try to do something nice for someone else at least once a day. Sometimes that is pro bono work. Sometimes it’s just a compliment or kind word for someone on Facebook.
- Pain Management: I have multiple degenerative spinal conditions that require management and maintenance (some days, this a job in and of itself.)
- Meditation Practice: Not thinking. Just being. It sounds so easy, but it is so damn hard.
When you add up all of these little pieces, it gives you a pretty accurate picture of who I am as a person, (And is much more accurate than if I just said, “I’m a consultant and a mom.”)
What does your list look like? I double dog dare you to take a moment and write it down.
(Be honest. If you spend most of your time cleaning up your boss’ messes or generating reports no one reads, write that down.)
Where do you invest your time?
Let’s do some work with our lists.
First, proportion out the time you spend each day on each of your chunks and ask yourself some hard questions, like…
- What is lacking in my life? (For me, that’s clearly friends, hobbies and a social life.)
- What is good? (For me, I spend little wasted sitting time in meetings. And I try to balance taking care of myself and taking care of others.)
- What do I spend the most time on and the least time on?
For example, here’s what a typical day looks like for me, proportion-wise…
This is a picture of the life I am inadvertently creating for myself each day.
So, now I need to ask myself, “Is that the life I want?”
If I want to be a good wife and mother, should I be giving more time to my family and less to entertainment? If I don’t have many friends, then who the hell are all these people I’m having conversations with all day and are they deserving of that much of my time?
These are the kind of questions you need to ask yourself if you want to achieve your life goals (Not something generic like, “How can I achieve my life goal?”)
The whole is just a whole lotta pieces.
Yes, this exercise may be uncomfortable, but it sure is enlightening.
It shows you what your life really looks like so you can accurately assess what you can to do with it.
As Hunter S. Thompson said…
“Beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life.”
You are already living your life and working toward your goals–right now, as you read this.
It’s the pieces that hold the power in your life, not the goal.
So, ask yourself, do those pieces have a purpose? If not, which will you keep and which will you leave behind? Which will you love the best?