Many years ago my sister, excited I was showing an interest in her favorite hobby, loaned me a book called Quilt in a Day. I excitedly picked out my fabric (in hindsight, not the best choices) and gathered my supplies and on a sunny Saturday, sat down to let my creativity flow. A month later, my quilt was complete. A MONTH! It was my first quilt and it was not quite square (turns out, when the book instructs you to sew at 1/4 inch, you can't swag it). Still, every time I look at it I smile and think to myself, "That was my very first quilt!" Did I overestimate my abilities by thinking I could actually sew a quilt in a day? The answer is, obviously, yes.
Fast forward 14 years and we've moved, yet again. We've got this down, I think. Our 5th move in as many years (military life has many perks, and also, a lot of this) and I optimistically told my mother-in-law on the phone that I thought we could be mostly unpacked and set up in four days, before our expected company arrived. Did she laugh once we hung up the phone? This I may never know. What I DO know is that it's a month plus down the road and I'm still looking at boxes (I'm also thinking about the quilt, and the 29 extra days it took me to make it). I am hopelessly optimistic. It's something that I love about myself, the glass is always half full, but my optimism doesn't always mesh with reality (because, life) and that can be disheartening. So today I'd like to share some valuable lessons I've learned (or been reminded of) in the past week.
Lesson One: Life happens. Sometimes our goals and momentum are halted, even momentarily, by life events. OK, yes, maybe I could have unpacked more boxes had I not gone to so many Christmas Markets (but, kids in Germany at Christmas). And maybe I could have finished the library if I'd not gone to Prague (yes, I REALLY DID, for New Year's and it was INCREDIBLE!). And maybe I could have pushed through being sick, grieving over the death of a loved one, and getting my kids into Kindergarten in a new country where we don't speak the language, to make sure the towels were folded on the right shelves and that the bathroom storage was properly organized. But the goal of life is not really a goal at all, it's the everyday happenings that give us opportunities to act and react and love and CREATE the positive energy that fuels us to move closer to our vision. When life gets in the way of our to-do lists, it's not failure, but it sure can feel that way. Life is happening all around us, and when we give ourselves permission to forgive an unchecked box, our energy can flow more positively so that we can move forward with grace. To that end, we can start by being more realistic in our daily goal-setting.
Lesson Two: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. A page-long to-do list is overwhelming and unrealistic, so start with smaller bites. First, write your list the night before so the next day you don't have to waste any time wondering what your next step should be, you can hit the floor running. Then divide your list up into sections, like this:
- One item that HAS to get done
- Do this FIRST, it really has to be done
- Three items of medium importance
- Probably should shoot to get this done in the morning
- Whoa, almost time to get the kids from Kindi, better knock this out
- Yes, I did it!! Cross it off the list!
- Five small items
- Sure hope I can get to this
- If I don't it's really OK
- But if I DO I can check it off my list
- Woot woot, got it done!
- OK, so this one will be BACK on the list tomorrow.
Ideally, every individual item on your list should be able to be accomplished in one sitting, so that you can start and finish one thing completely before moving on to something else. Don't plan on making a quilt in a day when you've never quilted before. You may, like me, be frustrated for an entire month before finally finishing your project and basking in the glory of a checked box.
Lesson Three: There are no excuses. But sometimes, there are. When we fill our brain with positive quotes like this... If it's important to you, you'll find a way. If not, you'll find an excuse, Excuses will always be there for you, opportunity won't, Excuses are the tools of incompetence, used to build monuments of nothingness ...we can begin to feel that life's unexpected circumstances shouldn't have any bearing in our ability to move forward as we may have originally planned. I would urge you to let go of that notion and, instead, embrace where you are in any given moment so that you can live in that moment fully, and then move forward without the baggage of shame or guilt for having "fallen".
Lesson Four: Love, forgiveness, grace, respect, and a belief in one's abilities. When we give these things to others, it impacts our relationships in immeasurable ways. Now imagine what would happen if you regularly gave them to yourself, as well. Aha! And so, my friends, as I share this with you I am not only feeling uplifted, but the moment I hit "publish" I can check off an item on my list. And it feels good. Do you have tips for a great to-do list?? I'd love to hear them!