"This week you are being asked to examine your payoffs in remaining stuck. You will explore how you curtail your own possibilities by placing limits on the good you can receive. You will examine the cost of settling for appearing good instead of being authentic. You may find yourself thinking about radical changes, no longer ruling out your growth by making others the cause of your constriction."
"Responsibilities," excuses, putting others before ourselves . . . these are the things that come between us and our dreams. This is the week that we evaluate these situations and make choices based on our truest selves -- not the self that we have made others see.
Last week I struggled with a reading deprivation challenge. The challenge was to eliminate ALL reading for just one week. I limited my reading, primarily reading that I honestly couldn't get out of due to obligations, but I wasn't completely successful. I still found myself reading, mostly out of habit. In fact, I was quite surprised at how difficult this challenge was for me. I had never realized how much I read. Only recently I have started getting back to reading for fun. Prior to the past month, I haven't picked up a book in several months, other than to browse for art ideas or to get suggestions for being a writer. What I discovered this week was how much time I waste reading web sites, e-mail, and other unnecessary junk. My dependence on this reading was even more obvious because I had very little work to do this week. What I wanted to slip in to replace the time I spend working was reading!
Now, reading isn't a bad thing. It helps us learn a great deal, broadens our perspectives, and entertains us. But, just like everything in life, reading must be kept in balance. When I find myself sitting on my butt in front of the computer screen more hours of the day than not...when I find that my activity level has dwindled to almost null...when I see that I haven't been out of the house for much else than grocery shopping and going out to eat...and the primary activity that keeps me in this rut is reading...there's a problem!
Most of you who are reading this may not be as hooked on reading as I am. But there's probably something that eats up your time as much as reading eats up mine. Maybe it is taking care of others. Maybe it is your job. Maybe it is watching television or spending time in clubs or the social scene. Maybe it is working with organizations dealing with very worthwhile causes. It doesn't matter what it is...how good for you (or anyone else) it looks from the outside. Anything can become a problem when it is not kept in balance. If one or more main activities keeps you from taking care of yourself, giving yourself what you truly need, allowing you time for solitude, time to do the things you love to do....then it's a problem.
If reading isn't your vise, and you haven't discovered what is, you may want to spend a week taking a time inventory. Keep a log of your activities every day for a week. At the end of the week, summarize how you spent your time. Other than the time you spend eating and sleeping and maintaining your body (showering, dressing, doing some physical exercise), how much time did you spend on JUST YOU? How much time did you spend on all other activities? How much time did you spend doing for others? How much time did you spend taking in information (reading, watching television, listening to the radio)? How much time did you spend expressing yourself (writing, drawing, creating, singing)? How much time did you spend on things you really enjoy? Speaking of enjoyment, when was the last time you did something YOU really love to do?
After answering these questions honestly based on the log you kept, you will discover what it is that stands between you and your dreams. If you are like most human beings, the discovery will be followed by a lot of buts. "But...I can't give up taking care of my family," or "But...I really get a lot of pleasure out of watching television. It provides me with some down time that I really need." or "But...my friends are important to me. Spending time with them is enjoyable and something I would never think of giving up."
There's always good reasons for everything we do. If there weren't good reasons, we probably wouldn't have started the activity to begin with. What we have to remember here is BALANCE. Yes, you must take care of your children and family. There's no way around that. But you must also take care of yourself. If you don't give yourself time for just you, you will have nothing left to give to your children or your friends...or even to yourself. You will be a shell. Your spirit, your authentic self, will have disappeared, gone on a hiatus until you regain your senses and decide it is time you invest in yourself.
Whatever your thing is...that thing that gets between you and your dream, take an honest look at it. Is it out of balance? Could you reduce the amount of time spend on this activity and use that time for yourself? Maybe you could trade off babysitting hours with a friend one day a week. Maybe you could give up one night of television and spend it on an activity that will feed and refresh you. Maybe you set aside one night a week to be YOU night and do whatever your heart desires. What you do with your time could be something indulgent, like taking a long soak in the tub. Or, it could be something purposeful, like the next step that will take you closer to meeting you dream. Whether it is purposeful or frivolous, it will feed you in a way that will give you the energy to realize your dreams.
* * * Creative Expression * * *
Draw, or obtain a picture of, a clock face. Make the clock face fairly large -- at least as large as what will fit on an 8.5 in. by 11 in. sheet of paper. If you can use a larger sheet of paper, even better. Draw lines across the clock as if it were a pie that cuts the clock up into 12 wedges. Let each wedge represent 1 hour.
Think about the things you want to do for YOU. Find pictures, or draw pictures, to represent these activities. Then place them in your clock. If you want to spend 1 hour on a particular activity, fill one wedge of your clock with the pictures representing this activity. Continue filling up the wedges in your clock with representations of things you want to do for you. When you are finished you will have a clock that shows 12 hours of "Me" activities.
Can you challenge yourself to set aside 12 hours just for you over the next week? If you can't squeeze in 12 hours this week, how about the next two weeks or the next month? Squeeze in as many hours as you can this week. These hours can be at any time of the day or night, weekday or weekend. It doesn't matter. See how long it takes you to complete the activities you chose in your "Me" clock. The longer it takes you to do these things which you chose as things you like to do, the greater indication that you are not giving yourself enough time for yourself. The sooner you can complete the activies, the sooner you will feel recharged and ready to tackle anything, even the more difficult challenges you face on the way to meeting your dream.