Keep Your Promises to Yourself

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In college, many adults felt compelled to warn me: “College is the best four years of your life.”  Bollocks, I say to them.

“Enjoy this now,” they advised at family get togethers, church gatherings, and Christmas parties.  “Soon you’ll have to face the real world,” my elders warned.  To me, these naysayers were Statler and Waldorf from The Muppets, jeering cynics criticizing me for dreams too unrealistic.  Real-life Scrooges, bah humbug-ing at my hope.

Through the beer goggles of adolescent idealism, I left their warnings by the wayside.  I mapped out my future: college, law school, and a seamless transition into work I’d enjoy.

Suffice it to say, things didn’t go exactly go as planned.

Its been seven years since 18.  Seven years, two under-eye circles, four jobs, and three injuries later.  I don’t have a diamond on my left ring finger.  In fact, I don’t have a man in my life, and there are zero ships on that horizon line.  I am without a noteworthy savings account, or job I can’t wait to go to in the morning.  The perfect work/play balance still eludes me, and great credit is one delinquent medical bill out of reach.  I haven’t gotten my Master’s, a home loan, or made the perfect home.

But I’ve climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with my best friend.

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Now, she’s back from living abroad for two years, and we’re climbing mountains at home.

I’ve perused the Christmas markets of Prague in the winter, filled with wonder at the sights and smells.  I’ve conquered fear, skiing down more double black diamonds than I could ever count.  I’ve become a better friend, listener, and employee.  I’ve failed, made myself vulnerable, and looked like an idiot.  Countless times.  I’ve crushed my credibility, and glued it back together.  I’ve had my heart broken, and more than likely, broken a few hearts also.  Although I may not have achieve what I thought I wanted to, I believe I’ve tried my best.  I think I’ve acted with integrity, and I’ve tried to maintain a semblance of grace.  At the end of the day, I may have not adhered to the script, but I believe I improvised well.

I hold the same to be true for you.  Life does not always go according to plan.  That’s one thing we can count on.   Maybe success isn’t the X marking the spot you thought it would be.  That said, if in your life, you are abiding by your basic values, the core principles you believe in, you’re doing just fine.

Check in with where you are.  Today, think about your paths not taken.  What is it that you still want to be?  How are you spending your time?  Could you be doing things better, or rather, differently to be your best version of yourself?  Use your imagination.  Its one thing to say this, its another to do it.

If we use the brain dominance theory as a model, each one of us is either left-brained or right-brained by nature.  Right brain individuals are intuitive and creative.  Left brained people interpret the world in logical and analytical ways.  While right-brained people are better at imagining where they want to go in life, left-brained people are better at communicating those plans and mapping the blueprints of how to get there.

In his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change,” Stephen R. Covey asks us to synthesize the hemispheres to successfully set and attain goals.

He asserts society places higher value on left-brain dominant skilled over right ones.  We, in turn, are conditioned to brush off that side of our selves.  Conversely, Covey argues: “The more we are able to draw upon our right-brained capacity, the more fully we will be able to synthesize, to transcend time and present circumstances, to project a holistic picture of what we want to do and to be in life.”  It makes sense.  The part of you that can imagine your future.  The part that delights in visions of who you want to be.  That’s the right side of your brain.  The left side deals with the details.  The execution of the plans.   What’s his prescription for brain hemisphere meshing?  Writing a mission statement.  Identify goals for each role you lead in your life to make a mission statement for yourself.  Touch on career, family, and the like.  Roles and goals give you structure in carrying out your mission.  For example, the short version of Covey’s mission is, “My mission is to live with integrity and make a difference in the lives of others.”  Covey says your mission statement should take you some time, maybe even months or years to write, but you should revisit it often.

Think about each area of your life: family, work, health, etc.  First, think about each of the roles you fill in your life.  Brainstorming can be fun.  For instance, mine could be: surfer, yogi, paralegal, homemaker, writer, friend, and sister/daughter.  Organization is critical in executing our goals, and writing down all of our plans for each area is not only fun, but it helps us to solidify our plans.

College was fun and everything, but with age comes a peace I’m only just starting to understand.  Today, reconnect with what it is you still want to be.  Go within and think about wishes of the heart that have not materialized.  Merely think about them.  Entertain possibilities.

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5 thoughts on “Keep Your Promises to Yourself

  1. Mostly, I just want to make sure that the trip to my eternal rest is an example of “getting there was all the fun”.
    As far as teh different roles I fill, the character of who I am doesn’t change. Just the facet shown at any given time.

    Breaking away from the ideas of how life should be lived, and moving towards the life I want to live was one of the more rewarding things I’ve done. Still have plenty ways to go though…

  2. This was certainly timely for me. I had read Stephen Covey’s book a long time ago and to be reminded of one of his messages triggered all sorts of thoughts. You put the perspective and ideas into words I needed to hear.

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