Set the Intention
The three main gardening tools for keeping myself on track, and growing the seeds of dreams, wishes, and desires, have been part of my toolkit since high school:
The first tool is to create simple games with structure. Breaking every task into bite sized pieces. Using apps like Notes and iCalendar and Word docs. It could be counting (10 things) or a timer (15 or 30 minutes) or a list of tasks (edit Chapter One). I am a master at flow and getting into the zone, but only if I have a container set up to allow for that. The container is like a Trust Fall. Have you ever experienced a Trust Fall? It is an exercise where one person stands with their back to one or more people, and when the structure is in place, someone says fall. The person trusts that when they fall, without looking, that they will be caught and held. The power is in the structure and placing your faith in someone else, as you surrender. Well, my someone else is the structure of the calendar and lists. Structure, structure, structure. Setting up a structure so that I can, surrender, fall, be held, win the game, and complete my wishes and dreams.
When I started this in high school, the game would be something as simple as washing the dishes. I would turn on a television show in the living room and every time there was a commercial, I ran to the kitchen and washed ten dishes. The game continued until all of the dishes were done. Or writing a paper for school. Setting the timer for 30 minutes then using the second tool, rewards, before setting the timer for the next 30 minutes.
The second tool is rewards to celebrate success. Micro celebrations at each step. Crossing something off the list. A five-minute dance break. A walk around the block. Posting a success on Facebook. Also, scheduling something every day like a movie, a yoga class, lunch with a friend, or dinner with family and friends – the kind of dinner where you sit and talk and linger. This leads to the third tool.
The third tool is community. Setting things into the schedule for weekly calls. Hiring a coach. Asking for support. Sharing goals and accountability, or collaborative partners. A formal or informal place to report.
Again, this started in high school when I would invite a friend to come over, and hang out and talk while I sorted piles of papers or folded the laundry and hung up my clothes. It was always more fun to do that with someone to talk to, especially when it was a task I didn’t really enjoy. I didn’t even need help with the sorting, it was just more fun to have someone sit in the room and talk with me!
As a young mother, I organized women’s circles to talk about our dreams and goals with ideas of how to get started and next steps. We generated ideas and celebrated together.
A couple of tips with setting up the game. It is really important to know who you are and what you need to succeed. Set up the game so that it feels like a win to you. I generate lots of ideas and I am strong in the beginning. I love setting up lists and crossing things off. So, I set up the game so that I can get ahead and have a strong beginning with wiggle room in the middle to take a break or blow off the day. Sometimes near the end, I break the steps into even smaller pieces. I may set the timer for five minutes instead of 30 minutes, and I find that I get in flow and I can write or do another task for longer than the five minutes.
I also create bigger goals that stretch me, and that I can succeed by finishing 95% of my goal. So, with clear intention, I set up the goal from the very beginning with the intention that I am not going to reach 100%. One example is that I want to see 10 films while I am in Los Angeles for two weeks to do some research for a novel I am writing. I scheduled 14 days of films and that gives me four extra days, in case something else makes it impossible to go to a film, or if I need a break. I made a list of the movie theaters and some of the films I want to see with the focus of strong female roles for women or films written and directed by women. The first day I arrived in Los Angeles, I had a plan set up to see a film that was a 10 minute walk from my daughter’s apartment. I had two possible show times. When I missed the first one, I had a plan in place and got to the second showing. That gave me a win immediately.
Set up the game so it stretches you and you feel a sense of accomplishment and there is a win at the perfect time for you.
It is okay to change the list. After you begin, check in with yourself around desire and goals and what is happening in your life. I had planned to finish two books at the end of 2017. I had notes, a structure, time and desire. But, a few days into the six-week plan, I realized that I was exhausted. The final nine-month Heal My Voice program, at the end of a 10-year intense process of 11 projects, deserved and needed time for decompression. I needed time to rest. So, I put the book goals to the side and changed the list. Signed up for 30 days of yoga in Seattle then in Los Angeles. Attended four classes a week. Did a detox. Slept. Watched films. Wrote in my journal. Helped my daughter with her dog. Took some time to wander. And now, I am ready. I am filled up again. Creative ideas are flowing. The book goals are on the list for the summer. And now it is time to take the first steps. The seeds have been planted and they are beginning to sprout.