"I learn by going where I have to go." ~ Theodore Roethke in the Poet's Corner at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine
I keep a wipe board in my apartment that tracks my to-do's for my projects. This confined space helps me to sort out where and how I'm spending my time and energy. It's a helpful, simple tool that keeps me on track by giving me a very concrete visual of my priorities. It tells me where I have to go to create the kind of life I want.
In 2010, this chart has been heavily influenced by Innovation Station, my after-school project with Citizen Schools. With Citizen Schools, citizen teachers build the curriculum backwards, starting with the construction of the final project, called a "WOW", and working the lessons backwards with the final project always in mind. Rather than using the forward-working paradigm of "what comes next?", I have to start with "what needs to happen right before the WOW?" I decided to try this approach with my wipe board, too. On the far right side I wrote down the goal, and then only included the projects in my life right now that work toward that goal.
This exercise helped in a number of ways:
1.) I have some projects in my life that aren't serving that goal, and they didn't make it to the wipe board. These projects have value; they just aren't the right projects for me given my goals and in comparison to the other projects I have. I also noticed some very clear holes - things I needed to be doing, places I needed to be going, that I didn't realize before this process.
2.) I breathed a great big sigh of happiness to see how the projects all fit together and support one another. A cohesive plan breeds confidence and conviction.
3.) Having the plan laid out gave me a lot of energy. I spent a lot of time carefully thinking through options and allowing them to play themselves out in my mind while I made some key decisions. With this plan laid out, I freed up the energy that I was using in the decision-making process.
4.) The plan provides me with more down time to be with people. These projects lay out the main interests of my life, and by knowing those interests, I can strengthen relationships I already have and start new ones based on commonalities. I am always inspired by feats that people can accomplish through collaboration. Having a very clear sense of what we want to accomplish helps us to meet others who have those same goals - our kindred spirits.
5.) The wipe board gives me a place to go. There will always be new opportunities and new projects that will appear. It can be hard to say no. With a clear sense of what I want, I can go to the board and see where the new opportunity fits. If it doesn't fit, then the decision process is made that much easier. It's an effective sorting method.
Clarity of mind gives us a wonderful sense of freedom, a radiance that we can feel and that others can see. By working toward clarity, decisions become easier. The tough work of getting to clarity is well-worth the reward of simplicity.