Every once in a while, everyone needs to stop and think about their life - where you're going, what you're doing and why you're doing it. The problem of course, is that most of us don't. Many people don't intentionalize their lives - they just live day to day - floating from small choice to small choice - not really taking into consideration how they add up to become the direction our lives are taking.
In his book, "20,000 Days and Counting" (Amazon), Robert D. Smith asks "Are you spending life merely reacting to events as they happen, or are you moving forward each day with a clear objective? When you form a clear plan for your life, every day becomes part of something bigger: the process. Its up to you, however, to determine who you are in the process of becoming."
With that in mind, here are some of the steps I am taking as I reach my life's 19,000 day milestone on January 25, 2013.
- Starting with the "what", sit down and ask yourself "what do I want to become?". This is a powerful question because it forces you to look forward - not backwards in your life. While its important to appreciate where you've been and who you've become, you should not be bound by it. We live in a day where literally anything is possible! Write it down somewhere - in a journal, on a whiteboard, on a pad of paper or on your iPad... anywhere! Just write down the "what" so you can come back them time and time again -- you'll need to.
- Discover the "why". This step is critical and can not be overlooked. Block out some time and really ask yourself, "Why is this 'what' so important to me?" Don't stop until you can articulate the compelling reasons behind your "what". Once again, write these down next to each "what" and keep going over it until you're satisfied that this is real. Michael Hyatt says that "if you find your 'why', you'll find your 'way'" (podcast for authors) and I couldn't agree more! When you put time into this - you may find that your "what" changes. That's ok! But seriously - you can't continue to the next step until #1 and 2 are complete.
- Plan out some baby-steps. Forty days ago I decided it was time I got into a better morning routine. I have wanted to be more disciplined in my mornings in order to start the day of more productively and actually do what I'm advocating in this blog post - make time for solitude and introspection.I started with the "what" - to spend time refreshing my life at the beginning of each day.
I listed the "why's" that were real to me. Then, I set the alarm, promising myself I would actually get up. I'll admit - that first morning was tough - but not as tough as day 6 - the morning after a late hockey game. I was sore and tired, but by then I had begun to really enjoy my mornings, so I was able to fall out of bed and maintain the routine - which leads us to number four...
- Increase your productivity and the motivation will follow! In the chapter entitled "Motivation is a Myth", Robert D. Smith says "We are always trying to get ourselves to find a better or more efficient way to do things instead of getting ourselves excited to do better. But when we do better, we actually get excited, and the cycle continues! I always feel better after I do what I'm supposed to do, not before."
- Lastly, be accountable to a few trusted friends. This might include your spouse, a confidant or your coach, but tell a few people what you're doing. I actually waited until day 10 of my new morning routine to explain it to my wife and day 30 before I shared it with a few other friends. But the group is small (until today) and I would encourage you to keep it that way until it has become your routine. While some people find motivation in telling many, for most of us, the wider audience ends up replacing the joy and excitement with the fear of failure.
Find out how many days you've been alive - then go make a difference!