Sunday, February 19, 2012

We are such stuff as dreams are made on

(SMLC 07 - vision board)

On Friday night I saw the film 'A Week with Marilyn'. Based on a true story, the film centres on a young Englishman who has a passion for all things film. Against his parents wishes he pursues his dream of working in the industry taking any job available; making tea, running errands, eventually landing himself a position on the set of Marilyn Monroe's film 'The Prince and the Showgirl'. It's the beginning of a wonderful adventure and highly successful career. 

What struck me about this story was the courage and passion this young man showed in following his dream. He let nothing stand in his way - he didn't bow to the pressure of his family and the expectations of the times. He took his life by the reins and drove it at full throttle.

I have a great admiration for one of the pioneers of the scientific study of happiness, Michaly Csikszentmihalyi, and his research on what makes for an engaged life. In addition, I also love what Sir Ken Robinson has to say about following your passions. At the end of 'A Week with Marilyn' Kenneth Branagh quoted the following line from Shakespeare, which, I think sums up these two concepts wonderfully.

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on; 
and our little life is rounded with a sleep."

The Tempest, Act 4, scene 1, 148–158

From very early on we all have dreams of what we want our life to be - great hopes, ambitions, and even courage. Yet sometimes, somewhere along the way we let other people and situations take hold of the reins to our life, being guided by a kind of current like fallen leaves in a stream. We get caught up in 'can'ts' and  'shoulds', in what is determined to be easy and safe, or following what we think is the acceptable path. There are a rare few who have escaped this altogether. In certain aspects of my life I'm guilty for sure.

Just recently I was presented with an opportunity that on paper ticked all the boxes. Situations like this don't come up all that often, and my head was telling me I would be mad not to take it and it's accompanying challenges and benefits. Yet my heart just wasn't in it. My gut churned. This opportunity fits in well with where I have been and where I am now, but not with my dream of the future.


This week's challenge is about creating a vision board, which I am renaming a dream board. On this board I will start to build up images that come to me over the coming months, or that I have collected already that reflect the next steps in my journey. The visuals will help me unfog this vision I started to formulate many years ago, but has been covered by the layers of daily life.

It's time to free my dreams. Here I go...
Click image to enlarge

PS: another great little book is 'Follow your heart - finding purpose in your life and work' by Andrew Matthews

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Whose agenda are you following?

(SMLC 06 - goals)

Words spilled by a colleague over tea last week stopped me dead in my tracks:
"I've spent far too long engaged in other people's agendas. It's time to take charge of my own."
At that moment it's like she's opened up my soul and gave it a good jab.

It's in my nature to make sure others are ok - that they are comfortable, have what they need, feel included, are engaged, getting the most out of life, and are fulfilling their goals. This can be an extremely rewarding experience - seeing the people around me happy makes for a happy me. Unfortunately though, I'm not all that discerning about to whom and what I give my time. I also spend a chunk my days distracted by people and their own goals that, while make alot of noise, don't always add a great amount of value to my life. Quite frankly, some do the opposite.

So what about me? While doing all that nurturing of others have I been making sure I am ok, that I am fulfilled? Have I been following my own agenda? The moment the statement left my colleague's lips I knew the answer, and it wasn't positive.

I recently read Julian Barnes' book The Sense of an Ending. The following statement by the main character Tony Webster stuck with me:
"The less time there remains in your life, the less time you want to waste it."  
At that moment of realisation I knew: while I remain so intently focused on spinning my wheels for other people, the only person I cheat is myself. If, as Webster states, I have a certain amount of time left in my life, how do I want to spend it? What is my agenda?

And in this last question lies an even more gaping hole. I've been humming along for the past eight years studying with the intent after graduation of helping people in some capacity. That's a pretty broad statement. Basically, instead of spending my life make rich people richer, I wanted to enrich the lives of those that need a little helping hand. Now I'm finished with academia, the questions remain:

How do I want to help people? 
Who do I want to help?
How will I help these people lead more meaningful lives? 
How will I help them believe in themselves and their strengths? 
How will I guide them in following their passion?

What is my agenda?

An inspirational story
of a boy who just
needed to be heard.
When I ask myself these questions right now I feel as though I'm in a fog. I know what I don't want to do, but I have no idea what I do what to do.

So my broad goal for this year is to explore my own agenda and live to it. I want to avoid being distracted by the noise. I want to tune into myself, recognise when I experience flow and when I feel a fire of passion burning inside like I did at the moment I began this whole journey eight years ago.

I know there is a clear agenda in me - my immediate agenda is to focus on uncovering it.

Finding my agenda is my agenda.




Saturday, February 4, 2012

Climbing to my peak

(SMLC 04 - the wheel of life)

I'm definitely a multitasker. At work I'm constantly juggling, at the same time I tackled multiple subjects at uni. I can cook, talk on the phone, watch TV and read emails on my iPad all at the same time. Right now while I write this blog I'm watching the news. Some research to says multitasking is actually bad for us, that we end up doing nothing well. Unfortunately, it seems to be a necessary part of life for most people, though not necessarily always a good one.

What I describe here is something I call micro-multitasking; doing a whole raft of small things at the same time. Yet what I'm not good at is what I call macro-multitasking; working with multiple parts of my life at the same time to maintain a balance of these areas. In recent years selected aspects of my life have tended to get focus and become all encompassing, while all other aspects fall by the wayside. Last year, my study and work filled every hour of the day to the detriment of my body, health, time with family and my friendships. It's been all and nothing. It's unhealthy.

So this year want to find a more balanced approach to life. I know it's going be hard for me to do but the process in this week's challenge I hope will help - an opportunity to take at look at where I expend my energy and whether I'm living the (balanced) life I want to live. Firstly, I came up with some categories of my life that are important to me right now.

So, what does the balance look like currently?
Self care
I've not looked after my health and have gained alot of weight in recent years. It's not that I eat really badly, but the cheese and crackers after work, and the after lunch Freddo Frog all add up. I also had a couple of health scares, both personally and with close friends - enough that on finishing my degree at the end of last year I vowed to myself 'no more excuses'. So I took myself off to a nutritionist and got motivated. Already, six weeks in, I feel so much better. I'm also going to bed earlier, planning some none-food treats like a facial every so often, and learning to be not so hard on myself. It's going to take some relearning...

Personal growth
There's always room for growth. Investing in development of myself as a person and continuing to nurture, learn and grow will help me not only be the best me I can be, but help me help others grow too.

Relationships
This is a tough one that I know I really need to work on. I have so many beautiful friends that I have not been in touch with, or been there for them as much as I'd like in the past few years. I must recognise that my degree and work situation became all encompassing and that we can't be everywhere at once, but I now feel ready to turn this around. I'm an independent soul but recently reflected that there is a down-side to too much self-reliance. I've put little effort into building partnership with someone special. Perhaps it's time...

Creativity
I've had no energy nor the inclination to be creative for a while; I've felt like a wrung out sponge. I loved my degree but it drained me. All creative pursuits suffered - my daily writing to my dear F, drawing, playing music, sewing etc. I've had a block, big time. 

Home
Almost all my life I've shared my living space with someone else. On buying my own apartment at the start of last year, I felt unconfident in my own decorating choices. A year in I'm ready to make my own mark on the home that I love. Four weeks in Europe for some design inspiration should help :-)

Work, career, mission
Making people's lives easier and more pleasant has been my life's work through design. It's taken me all over the world and I'm so thankful for a great career. But my other passion is to help people in a much deeper way, those who are struggling to find their way, to cope with certain parts of their life, to get a smile back on their face and discover their passions. Last year I graduated from psychology with the intention of making this type of work my next career. But where to start?

Fun, recreation
Having fun, laughing, being curious and exploring are essential parts of life. My world in the past few years on the whole has been far too serious. I need colour!

Really, it's time find that girl who six years ago flew half way around the world to climb a mountain in snow with a man she'd only met randomly over a dessert.



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