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Yesterday was my 37th birthday. I feel like Sally in When Harry Met Sally, “I’m going to be 40!” A friend of mine posted on Facebook yesterday that he hoped that this was the start of the best year I’ve ever had. I really liked that sentiment; I hope it is too. If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you’ve probably noticed that I like to make lists and set goals. I’ve made my list for year number 37. It includes a lot of what was on my list for 36, my list for 2013, plus a few more things. I think if I can master the following, the likelihood of being successful with the other goals will be much greater.
Embrace the Discomfort
As I’ve mentioned, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, is one of my favorite books. In the book, Don Miller, through learning about writing stories, determines to live a better one. One of the concepts of living a good story that I really struggle with is embracing the discomfort. I am a serious creature of habit. I know most people hate change, but I’m especially awful with it. I rarely embrace the discomfort and initiate change. If I hadn’t lost my job a couple of years ago, I would probably still be working at a job I don’t particularly like. In the book, Miller quotes a statistic about women in abusive relationships, most of them, knowing that this isn’t how they want to live their lives, stay in the relationship because it’s better than the unknown. Change is scary, but looking back on my life, it’s the scary things that I did that I remember most fondly. When I was a senior in college, I put all my stuff in storage and set out on a great adventure, Semester at Sea, a study abroad program. It was a huge leap of faith for me. Not only was I going to places I’d never been, I was doing it with people I’d never met.
Take One Step Every Day
In this next year, I’m going to try to do something uncomfortable every day. It might be something big or it might just be pushing through a learning curve that I’m fighting. On one hand, I love learning new things, but on the other, I hate not being good at something. A few years ago I participated in a program with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic called “Be the Orchestra.” Our instructor told us that if we’d just spend 20 minutes a day practicing (she advised us not to go over the 20 minutes), we would gradually get past being awful and become comfortable with our instrument. I’ve been trying to apply that philosophy to learning that Chopin piece I’ve always wanted to learn. I spend part of my practice time warming up with pieces I’m pretty familiar with and then spend a few minutes each day plugging away at the Nocturne. I haven’t even mastered the first line of the piece yet, but I know if I keep working at it, I will grow more comfortable with the five flats and things will begin to fall into place. In addition to mastering Chopin, or at least one of his works, this year I would like to improve my surface pattern design skills, study calligraphy, read more non-fiction, and study Italian. I know if I will commit to spending a few minutes each day developing these skills, by the end of the year I will be thrilled with the progress I’ve made.
Carve out the Time
Carving out the time is hard; it’s so easy to come home from work and veg in front of the TV until it’s time to go to bed. But as Donald Miller points out, a good story isn’t made in front of the television. I think that with Hulu, Netflix, and DVR’s it’s easier than ever to still get your TV fix, but not let what’s on TV tonight dictate your life. I’ve cut back some, since I left my old job. Most of our lunchtime conversations revolved around our shows. I watched a lot of stuff I normally wouldn’t have watched just to be able to participate in the conversation. I plan on whittling down my TV watching to a few well written programs that are worth my time. In addition to cutting back on the tube, I am studying up on rapid reading. So much of what I want to do involves reading. If I could knock out several books a week, like some people claim to be able to do, I could really make some progress. I’ve discovered several web apps that help retrain you to read. I’ll update you on my progress and what I learn.
What do you want to do to live a better story?