There was a time last year when I was forced to reflect on my life, look deep within and really ask myself if I was living my best life. You see, I was living on auto-pilot – school runs for my eldest child, meeting the demands of my other two children still at home during the day, regular sole parenting while dear husband worked away, all on top of keeping the family and household functioning as it should. It felt, in a word, relentless.
I didn’t think I had unrealistic expectations of what life would be like staying at home, caring for the kids and running the household. It would be chaotic at times with a lot of hard work and effort, but it would be fun and busy and what living was all about. I guess what I hadn’t counted on was that it would, at times, also make me feel resentful and restless for me, for my life. This, in turn, made me feel selfish and guilty because I love my family dearly and live such a fortunate life – how could I question whether I was fulfilled?
The turning point was an observation my husband made when he noticed I was regularly on my phone. He asked, “How come you’re on your phone so much?”. I had never given this any thought before; it surprised me that this was something I was noticeably doing. But I really gave it some thought and I realised I was using my phone as my escape from the mundane reality of my life. And I didn’t want it to be this way. I want my life to have purpose and intention. I want to be present for my kids at the times they need me instead of absent-mindedly answering their questions while staring at my phone screen.
So here’s what I did.
I “mapped” out what I wanted my current life to look like. I dreamed. I imagined. I dreamed some more. I looked at all the areas of my life including my relationships, my home, my health, my passions. I wrote it all down – my aspirations for what I wanted to achieve in each area. It took a long while and lots of (beautiful) paper but taking my time was worth it because at the end of the exercise I was left with what I guess you could call a statement of my current life’s purpose and intention.
What next? I turned these aspirations into:
I had goals relating to, among other things, health, things I love to do, making the house a home, memory-keeping for the kids and getting this blog up and running.
A goal without a plan is just a wish.
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
This quote is so true. I needed a plan of action, because having a plan of action meant that, if things were getting done in accordance with that plan, and I was moving towards achieving a particular goal, I was living with purpose and intention!
So I planned. Goals were broken down into categories (I called them projects) if needed. For example, my big picture ultimate home goal is to have a home that makes me feel the way I do when I walk into a beautiful holiday home – a place for everything and everything in its place. Each room in my house is a project – my daughters’ shared room is called “Project Princesses”, my son is crazy about cars so his room is called “Project Carboy”…you get the idea. Then each project is further broken down into all the different things that need to happen to complete the project. For example, my daughters’ room needs a paint touch-up, a couple of pictures to be hung up and some wall decals to be added.
Here’s the important bit. At the beginning of each month, I look at what I can realistically achieve with respect to each project. These tasks are written down as a “to-do” list for that month. At the end of the month, I look at what I’ve achieved and what did not get done (and reflect on why not). To be honest, I haven’t felt pressure or disappointment or a sense of failure if things haven’t been done. The way I look at it, any time something gets done, I am moving forward, things are happening, I am fulfilling something I’ve set out to do. It’s early days and I only started this “process” at the beginning of this year, but I can tell you it’s a great feeling, this living with intention in between all the unavoidable mundane parts of life.
If I’m honest, I will say I am still quite attached to my phone however, I am working on this. I find myself already more mindful and intentional with respect to the time I spend doing things, inevitably resulting in my being more present for my kids.
Oh, also another thing I’ve realised? Wanting to be fulfilled in life is nothing to feel selfish or guilty about. All of us have a right to strive to be the best version of ourselves.