Making a life changes is more work than we’d like to admit, isn’t it? In my quest to decide what work I should do next, it was overly optimistic to think that what followed Step 1: Listening to Life was Step 2: Learning to Act.
As soon as I turned up my hearing aid through intentional listening, an overwhelming cacophony of opportunities and thoughts and ideas have made listening a head-pounding experience. It’s been a bit like standing in a practice room with a dozen musicians warming up individually before auditioning for a solo. You know that each musician probably plays well, but you can’t tell because of the clutter of sounds. To discover the soloist, each one needs to play individually.
And that’s what I’m doing to bring order to the clutter that has accumulated in my mind the last few weeks. For each good option, I’m trying to ask some key questions. None are new, but recent life experiences have compelled me to rethink my answers to them.
Question 1: Do I love this?
In Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown likens the process of choosing essential work activities to cleaning out your clothes closet, and his method is brutal—nothing that you might wear someday can stay. The key question to pare down your wardrobe or schedule is, “Do I love this?”
If the answer is no, then rid your closet of that item or strip that activity from your schedule.
See I told you it was brutal.
I know the keepers, hoarders, and addicts to busyness are busy formulating their protests. What about frugality? What about preparedness? What about responsibility or duty? These questions and more popped into my mind as I was reading the book, but McKeown makes compelling arguments that take the air out of our most common excuses for hanging on to clutter in our lives (which I don’t have room to summarize here).
The question also forces us to consider why we do what we do and whether we should continue to do it. Sometimes we must do things we don’t love. If we drill down to the values that undergird our life choices, however, many necessary activities such as taking out the trash or changing our child’s diaper are connected to what we do love like cleanliness or our child, which can make an unenjoyable activity an act of love.
And one other thing to keep in mind concerning this question–the goal is to use it to reduce the nonessentials in our lives so we can focus on the essentials with more energy and focus, which brings us to the second question.
Question 2: When you reach the end of your life, what would you regret not doing?
This question is posed in The Art of Work by Jeff Goins, but I was considering it before reading the book. Since the new year began, I’ve had several close family and friends dealing with life-threatening health issues, and others have passed on from this life. Mortality has a way of clearing away the nonessential.
Answering this question is more difficult than the first because we don’t know the number of our days, and it is impossible to measure some of the more important things in life. How do you know if you’ve spent enough time with family and friends? How do you know if you’ve enjoyed life to the fullest? How do you know if you’ve reached your potential? How do you know if you’ve loved enough? We can’t. But asking the question may help us to prioritize our activities.
Question 3: How do we turn our work into something generous?
This question also comes from The Art of Work, and is necessary to balance the “me” focus of the first two. Of the three questions, this has been the most helpful and freeing to me in two ways.
- Freedom from task orientation. I’m task-oriented, so it’s easy for me to end up serving a task rather than God or others. Considering how my work can be more generous reminds me that my choices affect others.
- Freedom from cash orientation. Money is necessary, but any time I’ve taken on work simply to make money, I soon find myself dissatisfied with the situation. There has to be more to the work than bringing home the bacon (although I know a few bacon lovers who would disagree with me). When we consider how a job we’re doing can be turned into something generous it may not change the work, but it changes our attitude to the work. We may decide to move on, or we may find the work takes on new meaning that we didn’t recognize before.
I’ve asked these questions about my blog, A Path Not Chosen, and I’ve concluded that I enjoy blogging. Though continuing the blog is not high on my life’s bucket list, it’s a tool that helps me to connect with others, which is a priority.
I need your help
The one question I’m still pondering is how I can make my blog more generous, and that’s where I need your help. When I began this blog, it was primarily a cathartic exercise for me as I tried to deal with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. It did allow you, my readers, a glimpse into my life, but I honestly didn’t think much about what you would get out of what I wrote. It was a navel-gazing time for me, yet I couldn’t have gotten through those first couple of years without the support that so many of you gave me.
So, I would like to continue blogging, but I sense it’s time for a makeover. If you have enjoyed anything about A Path Not Chosen, I would be grateful if you would answer the following poll and/or leave comments below. If you can think of things I could add, let me know that as well. If you prefer, you can also message me privately through the contact page.
Thanks in advance!
Posts in the Series, Making Life Changes
Step 1: Listening to Life
Step 2: Ordering the Clutter
Step 3: Your Life—the Final Frontier, Boldly Going Where You’ve Not Gone Before
As a part of this new adventure, my website and blog will be getting a makeover in May. If you’d like to follow my foolish adventure and begin one of your own, here are four easy ways to do it.