If you want to go to Mexico, you'll never get there—no matter how hard you try—as long as you are heading toward Canada.
This is one of our favorite sayings because it speaks to a couple of fundamentals about creating the good life. One is the importance of getting really clear about where Mexico, i.e., the good life, lies for you. Once you're headed in the right direction, you then need to figure out what moves you toward your goal, and equally importantly, what does not.
To help handle the inevitable bumps in the road, we all benefit from having some good tools and strategies. How we define these bumps usually determines how and where we focus our energy. It's handy to have tools for each of these tasks:
Clearing obstacles, both external ones—those in the environment, involving other people, circumstances, etc.—and internal ones having to do with our beliefs and habits of mind. Sometimes it's easy to miss an obstacle because it has been there for a long time, or it is in our blind spot. These road blocks are really tricky and usually require some personal awareness (see below) and/or help from others.
Other obstacles involve not having the right resources like time, energy, and money. If you are super busy, super tired, or super strapped, these things need to be addressed before you can move on down the road. Other obstacles may be very tangible, like a particular person, object, or (surprise, surprise) animal.
The important thing is to identify whatever it is that seems to be in your way and take time to understand it. This will give you clues for removing it, or for finding a way around it. Sometimes you may even discover that an assumed obstacle is not one after all and, poof, it just disappears!
Creating systems to help you do the stuff you need and want to do in the easiest and best way possible. Systems are routines that work well and save you from having to reinvent the wheel or limp along without one. They can be big—like having a place for everything—or tiny—like the chime on your computer which tells you take a break every 30 minutes.
Good systems are fairly simple and intuitive to use. They may take some time to set up and get established, but ultimately they should require less work than the alternative. They should be reviewed every so often so they continue to work well. We had a client who parked her car in her driveway because of her old dog and continued to do so long after he was gone. Eventually she realized she could change her parking habits and create the garden she wanted in her driveway.
Developing personal awareness such that you better understand who you are, and what makes you tick. It really is hard to stay on track if you don't take time to figure out what you really want in your heart of hearts, and what your role is in the reality you are creating. Strategies for self-reflection, processing emotions and change, as well as communicating authentically and effectively with others are all part of the good life tool kit.
More often than not we start by focusing on one area, only to realize we need a combination of strategies to really get traction. We may use our personal awareness to address obstacles and to create systems, and in dealing with obstacles we create new systems and develop more awareness. Usually we are more comfortable with certain approaches and find others challenging or avoid them completely. For example, some of us are good at managing stuff or people in the world, while others prefer thinking our way through an issue on our own.
Ultimately we do best as we become more versatile, using a wide array of strategies and tools. Drivers who avoid highways or narrow roads limit where they can go, while those who only know how to make right turns, well they tend to go round and round in circles.
Take a few minutes to reflect on the approaches you most commonly use when you are impeded from accomplishing a goal. Are there strategies you don't tend to use as much? Why is that?
Next time you hit a bump in the road, brainstorm at least 3 different strategies for dealing with it. See if you can come up with ones from a category you don't usually tap. This is particularly useful when your past efforts haven't been as effective as you'd like.
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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