Thursday, August 27, 2009

An Amazing Life Is No Accident

By: Chalene Johnson
An outstanding life is not an accident. What does it take to live life the way that makes the most sense to you? What does it take to have a fulfilling career and smile inside because you can’t believe how good things are? The formula: Preparation, attitude, planning and thoughtful navigation. Though many good fortunes in my life are the result of dumb luck, I can plainly credit my accomplishments to careful preparation and an “unshakeable” positive attitude.
Too often we keep ourselves busy with all the things we “need” to do. Sometimes we let our own ability to “do it all” kidnap our ability to enjoy an outstanding life. We say yes to too much and “I’m sorry, I just don’t have the room on my plate at the moment” to too little. Most often this happens when we forget to consult “our life plan”.
What’s your life plan? What’s your dream kid? Do you know? Who have you told? Is it clearly defined and written on paper or scribbled in lip liner on a lint covered post-it-note on the bottom of your purse?
Are you living your life as a passenger or a driver? If you haven’t clarified your priorities on paper or if you’ve never written down your goals, you may be an unsuspecting passenger (without a seatbelt I might add!). List, on paper, not in your head, the areas of your life that hold the greatest importance to you. List the top 5 in order. Some examples might be health, family, collect more shoes, career, spirituality, finances, leisure/hobbies, fitness, other people’s perception, animal rights, helping others or some other category that holds great personal importance.
Those who live from day to day devoid of a plan, a pecking order, a map, those who live without clearly defining what is most important to them, do so at catastrophic risk. As a result they marry the wrong person, waste years in unfulfilling jobs, worry about what unimportant people might think of them and spend years feeling as though they were meant to be doing something different, but they don’t know what. Those, whom lack this life blueprint, though seemingly perfect on the outside and abundantly busy, actually feel confused, uncertain, unhappy and overwhelmed.
Is that you? Were you meant to read these words today? Do you know clearly what is important to you and in what order? Most of us think we have a grip on our goals and values. Yet, until you’ve written them down and given them considerable thought they overlap and clutter the space like a studio apartment filled with too much IKEA. Those who have not taken the time to rank their values and simplify their lives struggle for days, weeks, months and sometimes years with decisions that would have been otherwise obvious.
Without a steadfast plan the busyness of our lives creates a smokescreen, an illusion that we are living a full existence. We must be living the life we wanted, right? We are the ones who agreed to do all these things, right?
I have two simple theories that will help you map your course for this wonderful life. I know… I’m not the first to figure this out! I’m just telling you what I’ve learned. Henry David Thoreau once said, “Our life is frittered away by detail... Simplify, simplify, simplify! ... Simplicity of life and elevation of purpose.” A few years back I asked my son Brock, now that football season was over, if he wanted to play basketball and baseball like he did last Spring. His answer was nearly as prophetic as Thoreau, “How about just one. Doing too many things might give me a headache. I’ll just play basketball.” You ain’t kiddin’ kid! (Now I tried not to appear overly ecstatic, but inside I was screaming with joy, doing the hip hop happy dance that only a mom who has endured countless torturously boring t-ball and baseball games and practices could understand).
Step One: Clarify to simplify.
You can’t simplify until you’ve clarified that which is most important to you. Most everyone knows that when I grow up I plan to host my own talk show where I can help people find the right gadgets and gizmos, get the life and fitness on track and speak girlfriend to girlfriend with frank advice. Now that’s the end result and I’m pecking away at my (carefully crafted and diligently maintained) CCDM task list to accomplish that big goal when the timing is right. The timing has to be right according to my family’s needs, not mine. You see, my family ranks above my career… by a landslide. That’s what works for me. What works for you? Be honest with yourself. Prioritize according to your own beliefs, not the imposed beliefs of others. If your kids are higher on your list than “spirituality” then next time you are faced with skipping prayer group or missing a T-ball game, the decision is easy. If your career ranks higher in your list of priorities at this time than your health, then the decision to skip the gym and stay late to impress “The Donald” is a no-brainer. So when several years ago I was offered the opportunity to interview for a television show that would take me away from my family for about 12 weeks, I politely declined. You can make new opportunities for yourself whenever you need to. Nothing I can do, can roll back the time you’d like to have spent with your children.
Of course a nice balance of all your priorities is always key.
Step Two: Plan your outstanding life.
Commit to investing time to plan your life. How much time? How does 5 minutes sound? Spend a minimum of 5 minutes everyday creating the foundation of your daily to-do list, or what I like to call a carefully crafted and diligently maintained to-do list. Write out and prioritize things you need or wish to accomplish for the day, the week…the month. Every 6 months revisit your plans for the year and for the future. Review your written ideas with your spouse, a best friend or the person you most respect. Put them in writing. Transfer your plans to your smart phone. This is an important concept, so, if you haven’t gotten the hint: WRITE IT DOWN OR IT DOESN’T WORK! Go back and check your list a minimum of 5 to 10 times a day. It’s no big deal. It’s on your phone. This isn’t Facebook, this is your life! It’s so funny to me that people check their emails, voicemails, Facebook, and text messages more than they check their to-do list. Huh? Whatever. It’s cool. Just makes world domination easy for the rest of us ;) Can’t say I didn’t at least try to share the secret with you!
People assume my life must be out of control busy. It’s not. It’s exactly the way I have planned it to be. I might pretend I’m super busy so that people don’t ask me to do 10,000 things that I don’t want to have to say no to, but I’m as busy as I like to be. I’m focused, on task. I’m doing the things I wish to do, with the people I wish to do them with. I dictate my schedule. My schedule allows me to be my best and deliver on my promises to those most important. I do things that give me joy.
People are always surprised to learn that I teach nearly everyday of the week. Even if I had Oprah’s money I would find a way to teach fitness classes. It’s my drug. It’s my high. It’s fat free and I won’t do jail time for having this addiction. No matter how tempting it is to say, “Yes” to some obligations, I will first take care of my obligation to my family. I happen to believe that taking care of my family means taking care of my marriage. Honesty, love, respect and shared interests have been our secret sauce. These things take work. Our worlds are not separate. We work to keep them entwined. We can talk about the same people, the same triumphs, the same tribulations, because we make sacrifices to be on the journey together. Sure we want to kill each other from time to time, but it always ends with great make-up sex and we have enough self-control and respect for children not to jeopardize our relationship by saying hurtful things in the heat of the moment. It takes work. It takes balance.
An outstanding life never happens by accident. It is the result of mapping a course for your life and making key decisions on the difficult stuff that keeps you up at night, while using your core values as a compass.

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Lori Hanson said...

Do you have an alternative exercise for the straight leg dead lifts you've put in the chalean program?? Those are so hard on my back and I can't seem to get the right position. Those exercises are notorious for causing back problems anyhow, wondering why you chose to put those in?
Thanks for the great program, I'm loving it!!

Carrie Cox said...

Chalene, This couldnt be more 'right on!'. I am on the 'simplify your life' bandwagon...having a way to go myself, I try to live this way. If only more people couldfocus on positive things, change for the better instead of passing blame ont things and other people for their current state on unhappiness. I love this article...I am going to link it to my blog and pass it on to my co workers! Thanks!