Monday, January 21, 2013

A five year plan

The next step in Dan Zadra's book "5: Where will you be five years from today," is harder than a simple journalling exercise. The book's authors posit that my dreams may be translated into my goals, and my goals can then be transformed into a five year plan with actions in each of twelve domains - spokes on what they call the "Wheel of Life."

Balance in one's life calls for balance in the twelve domains, which include:
Family * Spiritual * Relationships * Romance * Travel * Adventure * Charitable * Recreation * Education * Financial * Health * Career.

Two weeks ago I sat down, pencil in hand, and starting jotting down notes for where I wanted to be in five years in each of the twelve proposed spokes - twelve spokes that may - or may not - bear any direct or obvious relationship to one's goals or dreams.

This was hard. I started thinking about long term (e.g. ten years from now) versus short term (one year from now) goals. I started thinking about how much overlap there was between my spokes.

"Gah!" I thought. "The book is now insufficient for my reflections." So I drew the "Wheel of Life" on big paper. I mapped it out on a Power Point.

Then I took a break for week.

I came back to the exercise this afternoon - after President Obama's inaugural and in the middle of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

And I started to get unblocked.

Let freedom ring

It was with tears in my eyes that I read my nephew's "What Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Means to Me" essay aloud to BMG a few moments ago:
"He fought with his voice and with his voice he heard Freedom! Freedom! And because of his voice me and my moms can live together. Oh! How thankful it makes me that my family lives together. Living in the same house, eating the same meal, drinking the same water and sharing the same love together. Thank you! Dr. King!"
Juxtaposed against the beauty of the inauguration - in which President Obama paid homage to the writers of the U.S. Constitution, President Lincoln and the men and women who advocated for the end of slavery in the U.S., Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the principled men and women who fought back in the Stonewall riots - my nephew's words strike a powerful chord this morning. 


Blogger's note: Nathaniel is nearly 8 year-old young African American boy. He is adopted and lives with two Caucasian moms and his adopted older sister from another mother. Nathaniel is of above-average intelligence and he struggles with an emotional disability. He loves Pokemon and the color orange. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Island of Enlightenment

Gal Pal Nancy alerted me to an article posted in Jezebel on January 7, 2013, Seven Extremely Confusing Steps to the Life you Want by Tracy Moore.

The article is a good-natured jab at a piece written by Oprah's personal coach/guru, Martha Beck called "Seven Steps to Living the Life You Want," Which is, as Tracy Moore points out, maybe the dumbest self-help article ever written.

Now I'm a big fan of life maps and visioning exercises. Give me old magazines, scissors and a glue stick and I can spend HOURS making a collage of my dream life. Seriously, I've paid for weekend retreats to engage in this type of self-indulgent and dreamy shenanigans.

So, Martha Beck, I get it. My dream life is an island located in a vast sea that I'm traveling. OK, I'll play along.

Until Step Four:"Create your Islands of Enlightenment." This appears to be code for "Identify all the bad stuff you did that you wish you didn't, pretend each one is an island, make a collage representing each of the bad habits (or thoughts or relationships) as a separate island in your life sea, and then, add monsters to the collage, beating up and otherwise destroying the bad habits/thoughts/relationships."  And when you are done, " you can hoist anchor and set sail."

Wha? That's the stoopidest thing I've ever heard! All I need to do is make a collage (and I DO love collage) of collage monsters destroying my collage bad habits, and, voila! problem solved?  I have a graduate degree in Social Work, but I never heard of a class called, "Managing bulimia through scrapbook art," or "When the restraining order doesn't work: Collage as domestic violence prevention." Not to mention, the politically correct bullshit of calling ending unproductive behaviors/thoughts/relationships "enlightenment." What is it about having metaphorical monsters metaphorically attack my real life unhealthy choices that constitutes "enlightenment"?
So I couldn't even finish Martha Beck's original column in my beloved Oprah magazine. Not sure how satirist Tracy Moore got through it all, but she did. And she comes to the same conclusion I did after merely starting Beck's column online. Which is this. I thought life was about the journey, not the destination? So why am I spending all of this time trying to get to a specific destination, in this case, my dream life island?

Oh Martha, you've failed me. And Tracy Moore, you rock.

As I get back to The 5 Book: Where do you want to be in five years, I'll remember to take it all with a grain of salt.

(And thanks to gal pal Nancy for sharing the Jezebel article with me via Facebook.)

The two grossest things I ever saw at the gym were...

Yesterday, at the Planet Fitness in Hingham, the guy next to me on the upright stationary bike was pedaling hard and fast. When I mounted my bike he had already cycled 11 miles at an average RPM (revolution per minute) or 97. (My pace, in comparison is 88-91 RPM.) About 2 miles into my "ride," out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a puddle on the floor. "Wha?!" I thought. "Is his water bottle leaking?" I look a little closer and realize the guy next to me is sweating so hard that salty human brine is literally pouring off of him. The puddles on either side of his bike was fast encroaching on my space, with the square footage of the water increasing so rapidly that I thought I might not be able to dismount without slipping in his sweat.

Did you just throw up a little in your mouth? Because that's what I did when I realized, if I stayed where I was any longer, that I would have to walk through the evidence of this guy's workout in order to leave.

So, I decided to get off the bike and find something else to do to get my heart rate up.

But, this isn't the grossest thing I've ever seen at the gym.

"What IS the grossest thing you've ever seen at the gym Clownface?" you clamor, wanting more.

More than ten years ago, while in the common area of the locker room at the HealthWorks in Porter Square Cambridge, I was changing into exercise clothes. The locker room had several pods - with wood paneled lockers clustered around a central bench that could easily accommodate people on all four sides. I was in a pod with one other person who was also partially undressed - either wrapping up or preparing to start her fitness routine. We did not interact, or even acknowledge the other person was there.

Now this is an important detail, because I HAVE to believe that the other woman in the pod with me forgot there was another human being in her presence because what happened next was the most gauche thing another woman can do in the presence of a stranger. She reached between her legs and pulled out a bloodied tampon. Yup. That's what she did. She inspected it, then wrapped it in tissue, and set aside for her next trip to the toiler area.

Did you just throw up a little in your mouth? Maybe a lot? Yeah, me too.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Goals and Dreams

The 5 Book posits that a goal is nothing more than a dream put to paper.

The strategic planner in me says this is not QUITE true. I'd suggest that a dream put to paper is merely a dream, an idea, an imagining. What makes it a goal is an articulation of how you might know your dream has come true,  a refinement of the dream, which might be the start of a plan.

I can say my dream is to travel to Africa. I could cop out and say I will know it is true when I travel to Africa, but what lies beneath that statement is actually a desire to hike Mount Kilimanjaro and go on safari. And then, once that goal is articulated that specifically I can start to build a plan to make the dream come true.

I also appreciate that The 5 Book is taking me on a journey, which needs to start with my dreams.

So here goes. What are my dreams?

  • To hike Mount Kilimanjaro
  • To go on safari
  • White water raft down the Grand Canyon
  • Grow a giant pumpkin
  • Be perceived as an athlete
  • Be married
  • Be known or admired for my flower garden
  • Live in NYC or Paris
  • Travel travel travel
  • Have work that is satisfying but does not suck the life blood out of me
  • Be the best aunt I can be.

At least, these are the dreams I have this morning. (Which are pretty consistent with the dreams I've articulated for a majority of my adult life.)

What is interesting here is that I started this process because of a desire to find the "right work." What I see in this list is a desire to have the right work so I can realize my dreams. I am hoping The 5 Book helps me explore this a little more.

What are your dreams? Be bold, be specific, be honest. I'm curious to hear them.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

My personal mission statement

"Your life is worth a noble motive" says Dan Zadra in the book 5: Where will you be in five years?

I'm blogging about my experience completing the action steps in Zadra's book. You can follow the discussion by searching for all posts labeled "5" here on the Collected Works of Clownface.

The next worksheet in the book invites me to write a personal mission statement. This is a statement of the direction in which my heart tells me to live my life. In the margins of the worksheet, Pop astrologer Rob Brezsny is quoted as saying,
"(Writing your mission statement) may be the turning point your grandchildren will tell stories about years from now: the time you leap (sic) over the abyss...and being your life in earnest. On the other hand, this moment of truth may end up being nothing more than a brief awakening when you glimpse what's possible...but then you tell yourself, "Nah, that's waaaay too far to jump." In that case, your grandchildren will have to be content talking about what delicious cookies you used to bake, or what your favorite sports team was. It all depends on how brave you'll be."
This worksheet intimidates me a little bit. Why? What's the risk in merely writing down a mission statement? Well the biggest risk is being seen as a failure. And in in my case the biggest indicator of being a failure is inaction, of living a life without trying.  What is that other trite inspirational quote? If you aim at nothing you'll always hit it? So if my life has no aim, then I'll never hit anything. (And if the aim of my life is to bake the best damn cookies in the world, then so be it. Suck it Rob Brezsny.) the risk of being seen a failure, here is my personal mission statement:
My mission in life is to help people (starting with myself) realize their true potential by removing obstacles and maximizing their conditions for success.
Ok. Your turn now. What is YOUR personal mission statement? I'm curious to hear it.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Are you talkin' to me?

En route to Boston's South Station train terminal at 4:30 PM on Thursday, I stepped off a crowded curb, ready to head across a busy street. Two cars had already zoomed through a yellow light, and while I knew the walk light would soon be mine, it wasn't clear that cars would actually stop. As I stepped off the curb, the woman standing next to me said, "Don't get killed."

I was astonished. And replied, "I won't get killed, but thank you for your concern."

The woman kept talking and I realized she was talking to someone else. She didn't care if I got killed. I felt embarrassed because I assumed other commuters around me heard the exchange and knew I had responded to someone who I thought was being caring, but who in fact didn't know I existed.

Fast forward to Friday morning.

While walking from the ferry terminal to my office, again during prime commuting hours, I was talking to my future mother-in-law on the phone. I said to her, as we prepared to hang up, "Love you!"

The guy standing in front of me, a Wall Street type in a suit and topcoat, turned, smiled and waved, in a gesture of "Love you too! Thanks for caring!"

I hung up the phone and laughed.

Guess what comes around really does go around!

What are your top values in life?

The first exercise in the 5 book is intended to help me figure out what my top five values are in life. I did this sort of Rorschach test-style, going with my gut response rather than over thinking my instinct.

The questions are in italics. My responses are not.

Here goes!

What are the three things I like most (and least) about myself? (I cheated and did four.)
Most: work ethic, compassion, laughter, organization/efficiency
Least: anxiety/nail biting, anger/bitterness/jealousy, uncertainty, impatience

Who is the happiest person I know?
Steve Garfield, Beth Ann Schacht, Katie Cutler, Robbie Cutler

Who are the two people I like and respect the most, and why?
Amy Cooper Ayles - she's kind, forgiving, forthright, honest about who she is, what she wants, what she does (and doesn't) need in her life
Jeff Cutler - all of the above plus happy-go-lucky - with  real joie de vivre

Who am I?
I am fat, kind, exceptionally smart, an introvert, straightforward (but not comfortable with this), and a (mostly) good communicator. I get things done. And I get them done well (or at least good enough). I reluctantly admit I have charisma, lack self-control, and struggle at times to maintain a respectful filter. I can speak hard truths when the time and situation is right. I am loyal to my small and tight circle of family and friends with whom I like to eat, drink, and be merry.

(GAH! Who am I was an impossible question to answer off the cuff. I edited this a little, but took no more than 15 minutes to write it down.

My top five values are:
1. Honesty
2. Hard work/challenges
3. Loving kindness
4. Laughter/play
5. Certainty/confidence
(The subheading here reads, "Identifying your top five lifetime values is a shortcut to identifying your top goals in life." I struggled a little with this. I wanted my values to have meaning, to be actionable, not just to be a series of words that sound righteous or lofty. So I looked up "what is a value?" The phrase "guiding principle" was most useful to me.)

OK. So this is the first set of exercises in the 5 book. Your turn!

Where will you be 5 years from today?

"5: Where will you be five years
from today?" by Dan Zadra.
For Christmas, I bought my brother-in-law the book "5: Where will you be five years from today," a pithy workbook-style self-help book intended to help people get their dreams unstuck so they can live them.

On New Year's Day I bought myself a copy.

And today I started working in it.

The book lists seven people who transformed their lives in under five years - from Christopher Columbus who discovered the "New World," to Jeff Bezos who went from living in a 500 square foot apartment to having a net worth of more than $10 billion.

On this page there is a quote: "Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Louis Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein." -- H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Ok. I'm in. I'm eager to learn what accomplishments can I achieve in five years.

I'll share the exercises in the book here at the Collected Works of Clownface. The will be tagged "5" if you want to read in chunks. I invite you to complete them as well, privately or using the comments section. Why? Because I'm eager to know what accomplishments YOU can achieve in five years.

Let's go!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Resolution shmesolution. So I personally don't find utility in the annual charade of "resolving" to be a better person, lose weight, exercise more, yada yada. But I have goals, I always have goals, for personal and professional growth.

My goals right on January 1, 2013?

Goal 1: By June 2013, be fit enough to motor, on my own steam, 5K in under 40 minutes.
How will I do this? By (a) walking whenever I can, (b) making (and using) time for exercising for 45 minutes at least three times a week, and (c) including weight lifting in my exercise routine.

Goal 2: Stop biting my nails by finding and committing to an alternative stress management strategy.
How will I do this? By (a) minimizing time spent in my car, which is when I seem to bite my nails the most, (b) always having gum that I can pop in my mouth when situations become stressful, and (c) being more mindful about having my fingers in my mouth.

Goal 3: Continue to maximize the time I spend with the people I love, and minimize the time I spend with people who sap my energy (regardless of whether I love them or not).
How will I do this? By (a) intentionally reaching out - via social media and other ways - to people who recharge my energy stores, (b) clearly and firmly declining invites to spend time with people who don't make my heart go pitter pat, and (c) discouraging relationships with people who make me want to pull my heart out by minimizing social media interactions (e.g. hiding Facebook profiles, minimizing likes, responses, etc.)

What are your goals for yourself right now?