by Kim Childs, CPPC
In my courses based on The Artist’s Way, there’s an exercise that asks us to track our spending for one week. It’s designed to help us see where our money’s going and whether those expenditures reflect our true values. A similar exercise asks us to track how we’re spending our time for one week, hour by hour.
The results can be sobering for those of us who say we “can’t afford” and “don’t have time for” the things we desire, because they show us where we may be wasting not only money, but also our time and energy. Comparing what we say we want to do with what we actually do may lead us to realize that some changes are in order.
It’s the kind of accounting that prompts the question, “Is this really the life I want to be living?”
Without a doubt, we’re in the midst of a very noisy, distracting, anxious time in human history. We’re pulled in so many directions by electronic communications, omnipresent media and overfull schedules. People are working more hours and taking work home, and even kids have busier lives than ever. There’s a lot of pressure to do, go, keep up and produce, but at what cost?
If we don’t periodically check in with ourselves to ask whether how we’re spending the currency of our lives reflects our deepest values and desires, we risk losing our lives before they actually end. Such is the message of Bronnie Ware in her powerful blog, Regrets of the Dying, which cites the top five regrets of her patients in palliative care. Here’s what they said:
–I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
–I wish I didn’t work so hard.
–I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
–I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
–I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Do you see yourself in there anywhere? If so, pick the regret that most resonates and make a commitment to address it. I don’t necessarily mean adding to your “to do” list, but instead seeing where you can subtract any time-wasting, energy-wasting and even money-wasting activities from your life to reclaim resources for what’s more personally meaningful.
For example, if you have a latte habit that adds up to $25 a week, could that money be spent on a weekly yoga, dance or drawing class instead? If Facebook and TV suck hours from your life, could some of that time be redirected to conversations and visits with people you love or the pursuit of a new career or creative interest? Can you bundle work activities and errands in ways that free up chunks of time for fun, spiritual nourishment or self-care?
Of course, there are periods in life when the demands of family, illness, work or other obligations intensify and our time and energy for personal pursuits is limited. At other times, however, it’s more likely a matter of transforming any habits we’ve developed that rob us of precious resources and ultimately leave us feeling unfulfilled.
To begin reclaiming your life, ask yourself these questions:
1 – What’s truly important to me in life? What do I love to do?
This takes getting quiet and turning within to hear the answers. In other words, it takes time and space for reflection – something that we don’t often allow ourselves. Give yourself an uninterrupted chunk of time, pen and paper at the ready, to explore and note your answers.
2 – Where do my current choices reflect that? Where don’t they?
This is where an inventory of how you are spending your time, energy and money comes in handy. Get real about the way you are actually using these resources, and see where you can reclaim some of them for your deeper desires.
3 – What is one small step I can take this week to reclaim my life?
After you’ve identified a place where you’re wasting time, energy or money, make a decision to plug the leak and use the reclaimed resource for one of your answers to question 1. Remember that small steps are easier to take, maintain and build upon. They’re also less threatening to the part of us that hates change.
Reclaim your life for what truly matters to you. It’s not too late.
Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity, soulful living and midlife transitions. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in her Arlington, MA, office or via phone or video chat.