Too Many Choices
Ever have the problem of having too many good things to choose between? You have so many interests and opportunities and wanna-do's that you have trouble choosing which to say YES to? It's something I'm experiencing right now, and so are/have some of my coaching clients.
It's like having the truly terrible problem of too many flavours of gelato: they ALL look good, but you know you can't try them all (at least not in one sitting!), or there will be (negative) consequences...and the choosing can feel excruciating.
In moving to a new community, I'm in a state of discovery, which is very exciting. There are so many new places to explore, groups and organizations to join, volunteer opportunities to support. We have new neighbours to get to know, a new school community to participate in, new restaurants and markets and festivals and parks and trails and lakes and beaches to check out. There are community colleges and universities with amazing classes and workshops to take. There are book launches and gallery openings and speaker nights and live music and beer festivals.
I'm also trying to build my coaching and consulting business, so I've been attending networking events and joining communities of practice and working on updating my site and writing blog posts. I've gotten involved in the local deathcare community, as I've wanted to grow this aspect of my coaching for a few years now. I'm considering joining a couple of volunteer groups that align with my priorities, and I'm collaborating with other coaches on some new offerings. And, I've enrolled in a feminine leadership program to continue my personal development.
I'm trying to carve out time for creative writing (my first passion) and getting involved in the writing community after a 20-year hiatus. I've got two children's book manuscripts that need some love (and an illustrator! and a publisher!). I'm looking forward to attending at least a few events at the Victoria Festival of Authors later this month -- yay!
Oh, and since my husband and I aren't living 1800 km apart anymore, we can actually do things TOGETHER again. Like go on dates.
And our child needs to get to and from school, and the dog needs to be walked, and the laundry needs to be done, and the floor needs to be washed, and the meals need to be made, and...
So. Much. Good. Stuff. To. Do.
AND, there are only 24 hours in a day. And I like to sleep for at least seven of them, eight if I can get it.
So how do I choose where to direct my time and energy and effort and cash?
For me, knowing my values and my why help me choose. I discovered, or named and prioritized, my values when I was training as a coach, and I revisit and adjust their priority from time to time, and refer to them on a daily basis when making choices.
I also discovered my why, or life purpose statement, during my coach training. I check in with it to see if it still resonates and captures what I'm here to do, and make tweaks as I continue to grow and learn and evolve.
Defining values and crafting a life purpose statement are two of my FAVOURITE things to do with clients. They form the foundation of our coaching relationship, AND they add clarity and value to my, and my clients', lives. They make decision-making easy.
Here's an example:
One of my top values of CREATIVITY -- the ability to be creative, to create works of art, writing, or other formats of creative expression, to find new ways to solve problems, to combine things that aren't related to make something new and wonderful.
So, if I'm presented with a choice between doing something standard, routine and predetermined, like...going to a monotonous left-turning car race, OR doing something where I can discover and create and learn, like going to a poetry reading-slash-flamenco performance workshop... I'll choose the latter.
So then once I've chosen that thing over another thing, how do I fit creative pursuits, or personal interests, into my life as a coach, parent, spouse, volunteer, etc.?
I've found two methods that work for me, and for many of my clients, either alone, or in some combination of the two. I've decided to call them The Tidbit Method and the Spurt Method.
1. The Tidbit Method
This method is basically this: allocate a tidbit of time every day for that thing or things you REALLY want to do. For some people (not me), this looks like getting up an hour before everyone else in the house to read, write, meditate, pray, practice, exercise or whatever fills you up and helps you feel like a human being before the onslaught of the day. For others, it is getting up for a walk every two hours during the workday. Or scheduling a girls' night or guys' night or date night. You get the picture.
A small, repeatable piece of time to do the thing, and making that time sacred AF.
One of my clients is working on establishing a bedtime ritual as a means to calm her mind before sleeping so that she can have a more restful sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and creative. She's designed a de-stressing and brain-dumping process including things such as a warm shower to literally and figuratively wash away the day's work and worries, and journalling to empty out her thoughts so they don't run through her mind and wake her up throughout the night, so when her head hits the pillow, she is more likely to sleep soundly. She's even adopted some positive self-talk to give herself permission to go back to sleep if her working mind wakes her in the night.
And after just a few nights of this practice, she's noticed a difference. She's learned that in particular the journalling practice is crucial for her to have a good night's rest, and so it is becoming a sacred, protected part of her evening. Over time, these tidbits will accumulate and provide a cumulative positive effect on her stress level, her sleep patterns and her ability to be creative when she wakes. Ta da!
I had another client who dedicated 15 minutes every evening to write. Some nights, 15 minutes felt like a year. Other nights she kept writing for an hour with ease and in flow. After a week, she had her first draft of a book she's been carrying around in her brain for the last decade. Now it's on paper, and it's real, and she's got something to work with. Ta da!
The Tidbit Method is enabled by scheduling -- setting a specific time every day or week for that thing. Then -- the clincher -- making it non-negotiable. Some people thrive on this method and plan out their entire days, weeks, lives in this manner, but other people find this too restrictive, prescriptive or rigid. That's cool.
I've had limited success with the Tidbit Method for my creative writing. I tried to get up early and write; I tried to stay up late to write. Some days it worked, other days other stuff is on my mind and I'm unable to focus on my creative process, or the constant interruptions of a child or a dog or husband make it feel insurmountable. This method works for other parts of my life, so I embrace it there, and don't beat myself up about it for my creative endeavours. Too much.
2. The Spurt Method
The Spurt Method is basically this: allocate a chunk of time for the desired activity and do only that thing for that entire time. For example, I've created my own retreats -- booked myself into a hotel for a couple nights, ordered room service and went to work on a project, then re-emerged into my "normal" life and routine.
A spurt can last 15 minutes, an hour, a day, a week, several months...depends on your life and the 'what' of your spurt-time. Are you writing a book? Creating an art piece? Designing a program?
A wonderful article I read this week describes how the author, Claudia Day, used a spurt method to write her most recent book. As a parent, I find this too is how I work when it comes to my creative work...'stolen' or staked and claimed moments or longer chunks of time to focus and concentrate and hope the creative juices flow, and relying on the discipline and focus to be able to produce within that window. (I also loved the other themes of this article, about the dark and unspoken aspects of motherhood, which I'm all about exposing and talking about...maybe in another post.) You can read Claudia's essay here: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2018/08/14/mothers-as-makers-of-death/
The Spurt Method is also enabled by scheduling, and the ability to take a time-out from your regular life and responsibilities. Some people schedule seasonal retreats -- a few days every quarter to retreat, review, refresh, plan and then emerge. Others use their annual vacation from their accounting job to create several new works of art. Others leverage a few hours while the baby naps to create something... a melody, a collage, a meal.
Of course, there are challenges with implementing either of these methods, especially when it comes to choosing our personal creative interests ahead of the demands of our employer, clients, family, etc. So the choosing suddenly feels like the easy part. How do we fit all this good stuff into our lives, amid responsibilities and expectations and obligations?
I've got some ideas, which I'll share in a future post.
Until then, let me know -- how do you choose between too many good things?
In love and light,