It’s time to shape your life

It is the beginning of the second decade of the millennium. Every year many of us traditionally make New Year’s resolutions. We want to feel powerful and positive in our own lives, energised by a break from work, by summer sun, heat and the taste of salt on our skins.

To feel powerful and positive requires the agency of “I”. And yet many of us shy away from the pronoun. When we talk about difficulties we use “one” or “you” or “we”. I’ve even heard someone talk about themselves in the third person. Strange.

Using the term “you” creates distance: “You know how it is, you just don’t have time.” Training with Martha Beck on life coaching, she insisted we use the “I” pronoun and that everyone takes ownership of the choices he or she makes.

“You know how it is, work, family, friends, you just don’t have time for playing the piano.”

“Use ‘I’,” Martha would say. “And use the verb ‘choose'”.

“I choose not to have time to play the piano.”

Much harder — it now sounds like it’s mine. I have to own it and take responsibility for my choice.

Jinny Ditzler’s book, Your Best Year Yet, is a comprehensive and easy way of taking stock of what’s happening in your life. The book has a purpose; its intention is to get you to live with intention, not to drift through life and work. The process is designed to stimulate you to shape your life towards where you really want to be — by design, not by default.

So where were you at the beginning of the millennium and now, 10 years later, what’s happened? Did you drift to this point? Or is January 2010 a work-in-progress that you’re consciously shaping; are you content with where you are, now, at the start of this second decade of the new century?

Many coaches use the wheel-of-life tool to get clients to take stock and consider the different parts of their lives. Think of the various roles and responsibilities you have in your family, your profession, your community, your leisure time: mother, father, daughter, son, aunt, uncle, spouse, lover, family member, care-giver, author, member of a professional body, team member, colleague, yoga teacher, financial manager, home manager, fashion fundi, art collector, road runner, singer, deacon, mentor, preacher, and so on.

Choose eight roles, the ones most important to you in terms of the personal values you cherish. You are the only person who knows your values, which may include: integrity, honesty, family, ambition, career, success, love, care, tolerance, fairness, loyalty, balanced life, generosity, perseverance, solvency, trustworthiness. Draw up the list of values that are meaningful to you.

There’s one role that’s mandatory, because it’s so often the role that people overlook. They forget about themselves. Role number one is self-care. If you don’t take care of yourself, holistically, you are likely to jeopardise the potential and sustainability of all the other roles.

Some roles may need clustering, such as family member, professional, and so on. You decide. A “significant other” relationship qualifies here, whatever its nature, if indeed it is one of the eight focus areas of your life. A role may be new, one that you intend to start focusing on, for example, business partner, author or decathlon participant.

Draw a wheel for yourself. Mark off four intersecting spokes, creating a scale of one to 10 from the ­centre to the circumference. Write the eight roles on the eight points of the circumference.

Consider what doing well in the role means to you. Think about each role in three different ways considering: (1) How important is it to you? (2) How much effort do you put into it? and (3) How satisfied are you with how you feel about yourself in this role at this moment?

Take three differently coloured pens and award yourself a score on a scale of one to 10 with 10 being your top score (no improvement imaginable) using the following three variables: importance, effort and satisfaction. Using the coloured pens, join the dots. Spot the synergy. Spot the gaps. Where there’s discrepancy that’s what you want to reflect on.

Write down the changes you would like to achieve in 2010. Write down how you would know that you are succeeding. What will you see, hear or feel that indicates your progress? What’s tangible that you will be able to point to as a measure of your success?

Can you hear the corks popping? Can you smell the bouquet of flowers as you celebrate? For whatever it is that you set yourself as a goal, when you succeed, don’t forget to celebrate. Happy New Year.

Keep the powerful accountable

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