Messing Around with Boats

My friend Jenni has long been a goal-setting inspiration to me.  This week she’s completed her PhD while married with a school-age daughter and a demanding full time job.  One of the many things I appreciate about Jenni is that she accomplishes one amazing thing after another with a big smile on her face.  She is the epitome of positive mental attitude.  (She is an Up With People alumna, no surprise.) On the same day I was buying a card and flowers for Jenni’s celebration party I received my June issue of Oprah’s magazine.  I flipped through and then stopped to read Martha Beck’s column.  She is an extraordinary life coach who has a knack for writing what I need to read.

Since Oprah is one of those love or hate personalities, and some of you do not have access to her magazine, I will summarize Martha’s column here.  It is an imaginative recasting of goal setting 101.  Using the metaphor of Odysseus’s journey (itself a metaphor for life), she gives you a way to chart your course through the sea of life.

Step 1:  Make an ideal island.  She suggests making an actual collage of images or dream board.  You can also journal about it or spend time vividly visually it.  What are you designing?  Your ideal future life.

Step 2:  Make an island of experience.  This is your “You are here.”  Be as realistic about where you are starting from as possible.  Use the same process as the ideal island:  collage, journal, and visualization.

The next 4 or 5 steps are the creative place where her suggestion departs from Covey’s 7 habits.  I love it because it fits with my commitment to live more intuitively and to have fun with my redesign.  Next map your Islands of Enhancement.  For everything on your Ideal Island, you begin creating an island on the way to visit that will help you reach your ideal.  For example, one of my ideals is to be fit and trim and one of my islands on my journey is a fitness island where I will explore various ways to become and stay fit.

She also suggests Islands of Enlightenment where you shed the things in your current experience that are not part of your future ideal.  For example, you may visit the island where you quit smoking, or quit emotional eating.  (Maybe emotional eating is an atoll for Fitness Island.)

Then as you go island hopping gather provisions and information.  I may discover that beekeeping is more fun to learn about than do.  If that is the case then I will change my Ideal Future and leave the Isle of Bees behind.

Finally one day you claim your kingdom.  Or is it a forever process?  I like the idea of setting a time limit so I am not feeling forever in transition.  Maybe it will be my ideal future for the next 15-20 years until I semi-retire.  And then I will redesign again.

Meanwhile I have been reading a chapter a day from a book Cameon gave me for Christmas a few years ago.  (Yes, finally.)  It is Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.  And it is about the status of women in the world.  Most women in the world live in much more oppressive circumstances than I do.  I had access to a world-class education, pre-natal care, an emergency cesarean, a cornucopia of fresh food, clean abundant water from my tap.  And I can go on and on.  Reading about women in developing countries where a woman’s life counts very little humbles me.

Mapping my ideal life is a first-world challenge.  And yet, because I have been blessed with so much, all the more reason to be thoughtful about how to make sure my ideal life includes empowering women who do not have the opportunities I have.  This is not new in my life—I just want to make sure that it remains a big part of my future too.

I was also reminded of something important from Sarah Harriet this week.  In case you have not heard, she and Marcos are engaged and planning to begin their marriage with a wedding sometime around March 2013.  We have talked a lot about staying open to opportunities and not rushing to decisions.  Sometimes when we make quick decisions we are trading a wider range of choices for  a semblance of control.  Sometimes God has something more magical, more imaginative than we could have dreamed if we stay open.  The hard part is determining when it is an easy snap decision and not deciding is procrastination, and when it is a rushed decision to alleviate the overwhelming feeling of having too many balls in the air.  Figuring out the differences is part of the joy of living.

Happy sailing.