Progress is a drug to me. I always need to feel like I am “getting somewhere”, no matter how tiny the progress is. Over the last few years, I have discovered that unless I am specific about what direction I want to be heading, it is very, very easy to get waylaid and stagnate. And that is a surefire way to feel miserable about everything.
This was why I developed my daily “Ideal Life Exercise,” in which I cover four simple bullet points (What is working? What isn’t working? What do I need to consider? What do I need to do today?) about each of the 19 themes I identified as composing my Ideal Life.
This being the end of the year, it is a natural time to measure my progress by checking in with my Ideal Life Themes.
I do the exercise every day in a cycle of three weeks, tackling one theme each day. My answers to the questions and bullet points are generally related to what is happening in the moment–in the now. Sometimes, I try to look back on where I had been during the last cycle, but I very often don’t take the time to do it.
If you have been working on your own Ideal Life Exercise this year, too, let me suggest two questions with which to approach this next cycle: Where are you coming from? and Where are you going?
Where are you coming from?
It’s an overview of your life in a particular theme for this year. What were the high points? What were the low points? Anything that can characterize the year for this theme is fair game.
Remember, these themes are the ones that you identified as being the essential components to your Ideal Life. Being lucid and honest with yourself as you rundown your progress (or lack thereof) this year can be both satisfying and convicting. A measure of both progress and stagnation is normal.
How we feel about the stagnation is telling.
Sometimes, we will stagnate and know that there was no other way. Our goal was too lofty for our current situation. Our circumstances cut us off at the knee. When this happens, it is rather easy to shake off the disappointment. But I would argue that we must take a moment to shake off the disappointment so that we do not carry it into another year. The compounded frustration of making no progress by no fault of our own can steal our joy.
Sometimes, we will stagnate and be able to look back and see all the small steps that lead us to stagnate. This can be significantly more painful, and requires both truth and grace. Recognizing the specific errors, oversights, mistakes, missteps–naming them can be a powerful way to insure that we don’t make them again. It will also help us form a plan to deal with them in the future, if that is what we want to do. Most importantly, naming the specific areas of failure means that we can forgive ourselves and give ourselves a measure of grace before we start over again.
Where are you going?
This is the goal-setting part of our review. It is a great time to review our In my Ideal Life I am a person who… statements.
When done in the light of our progress or stagnation towards our Ideal Life in the current year, we can set intentions for the next year.
Setting Ideal Life Intentions is not the same thing as making a run-of-the-mill New Year’s Resolution. Already, it is based on what we imagine our previously articulated Ideal Life to look like, so it is naturally something desirable that we want to–and hopefully will–work towards. It has a built-in accountability process–that recurring cycle of four bullet points that we return to every three weeks to check on our progress.
Over the next three weeks, I will be reviewing my year in the light of my Ideal Life themes as an example. I really hope you will be inspired to examine your Ideal Life Progress, too!