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Personal Development with Gray Miller

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how to make sense of a chaotic world

Framing Ferguson

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It’s a troubling time in America. More than usual.

The events in Ferguson Missouri have affected not just the national dialogue on racism, on police, on the use of force, the right to protest, and what the term “civil rights” really means.

Yet I am hesitant to comment on it directly, for a variety of reasons. The biggest being *I am not there*. Instead I try to listen to the news sources, to the live feeds of protestors, to my friends who are affected to varying degrees. I certainly have my own opinions, but I’m aware that they are at best half-formed, affected by the ways news outlets portray the events as well as the ways people on the ground report what is happening to them.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not every opinion is equally valuable. Similarly, everyone frames the story in their own way – but some frames are more useful than others.

Rough Edges

For example, one of the biggest head-shaking moments was when the police released a video that they alleged was Michael Brown aggressively robbing a store moments before he was shot. At the same time they acknowledged that the officer who did the shooting had not been aware of the robbery. The obvious question to follow was: then why bring it up? It was not only an attempt at a distraction, it was a clumsily obvious one.

Later investigative reporting revealed that even the irrelevant tape was an edited version. The portion that was cut out showed Michael Brown paying for the cigars he had allegedly stolen. Not only an attempt at a cover-up, a clumsy attempt at one.

And that’s just one tiny facet of the whole situation. It’s easy to want to just turn it off and tune it out. I know that following the #Ferguson hashtag on twitter is like trying to drive past a gruesome accident scene – you don’t want to look, but you can’t help it, whether it’s reading the atrocities happening at night or reading the atrocities uttered by hateful people during the day.

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A Bigger Container

About the only useful thing I can think of at a time like this is the cultivation of perspective. Understanding that this is not just about a scared cop and a young man. It is not just about law enforcement, it is not just about race, it is not just about anything. It is not new, it is simply current, and if we have any hope of reducing things from happening like this again it is through finding a place of understanding.

The most harmful thing I can think of would be to ignore it. To refuse to engage in dialogue, to pretend that it doesn’t affect you, wherever you are in the world. If the citizens of the West Bank and Gaza can pay attention, then you can, too. And the people involved – all of whom are human beings, scared, trying their best to make sense of chaos – deserve to be witnessed.

It’s also important to recognize that the world is full of dangers that we haven’t even thought of and also full of joy. It’s hard, but we can find room in our heart for both.

It’s good exercise. Try it out.

The Defining Moment: Far Enough?

The Saddest Word is “Almost”

"Reach" courtesy James Jordan, Flickr CC

“Reach” courtesy James Jordan, Flickr CC

Now that you’ve gone through the objective “Positive/Negative” evaluation of your Defining Moment experience, it’s time to go back to your gut.

Did you go far enough?

Much like the question “did you like it?” this is one where the answer will be immediate, followed by a whole bunch of rationalizations. “Well, I maybe could have done it more…” or “What if I would have done this instead of that?” You think about ways you might have taken it further, or perhaps went too far.

It’s ok – cut yourself some slack, already! Go back to the fact that you did it at all in the first place. You did all that preparation, you have stacks of worksheets, and you took the chance on getting what you want.

Stop over-thinking it.

But What if the Answer is “Not Far Enough”?

That’s the hard part. Because in this “choose-your-own-adventure” process, this is the part where I have to say: Go back to part 4: Plan and re-calibrate what “Far Enough” means. You have new information now to factor in along with all the rest of the resources, actions, and also a better idea of what the actual risks are.

It’s entirely possible that the main lesson you’ve learned is that you don’t want this particular thing after all! I remember at one open conference I facilitated an attendee came up and said he had prepared for weeks to give his presentation, because he’d always wanted to be a professional speaker.

“Great!” I told him. “How did it go?”

“It went great!” he said. “Because I figured out that I really don’t want to be a presenter after all!” Personally, I consider facilitating that particular moment of self-discovery a service not only for him but for scores of future conference attendees.

But if the Answer is “Almost…”

Anything worth doing is worth doing twice on the off chance you did it wrong the first time – Int. Assoc. of Skydivers

More often, though, we realize that we just didn’t get it quite right the first time. We caught a glimpse of that Moment we’re striving for, got a taste of that feeling…but somehow we fell a little short.

Nothing to do but pick up the pieces and start over. I’m sorry to tell you that; I know, it’s a lot of work. Especially if it was something that was hard to set up in the first place, it may seem daunting. Or even impossible.

It’s not impossible. It’s just hard. It just takes tenaciousness. One thing that everyone who got what they wanted has in common: they stuck around long enough to get it.

And I can tell you with absolute surety: if you came close to getting what you really want, and you don’t try again – it will haunt you forever.

So save the ghost labor, save yourself hours of staring at the ceiling late at night with a mind full of what if and try again. And again. As many times as are necessary.

Did you go far enough?

DAMN RIGHT I did! What’s next?

The Defining Moment: Positive & Negative

“You Keep on Using That Word…” – Inigo Montoya

When someone says something discouraging, have you ever remarked – either out loud, or to yourself – that “negative reinforcement doesn’t work very well” or something to that effect?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever done this – and don’t worry, you’re safe, no one is watching. It’s ok, I’ve done it too. But some of you are smiling, because you know what I’m about to say, and the rest of you are wondering what the big deal is. That’s fine, this is one of my personal crusades, along with championing the Oxford comma and the acting prowess of Keanu Reeves. Say it with me:

Positive adds. Negative subtracts. Good and bad have nothing to do with it.

Vedomatic 9 volt type 006 P Long life batteryThe idea of “positive” and “negative” reinforcement is one of the most misunderstood and misused concepts in psychology. It’s usually used in behavioral conditioning situations. However, it is not the idea that making someone feel good is “positive” and making them feel bad is “negative.” These are interpretations that humans put on the words. Positive and negative reinforcement has as much to do with good and bad as a plus or minus sign in arithmetic.

Which is good: 3+4 or 6-2? The question doesn’t really make any sense, does it? Same with positive and negative reinforcement. Positive simply means you add something (“Here, have a cookie!”). Negative reinforcement means you take something away (“No more cookies for you!“). Those examples may seem to be following the good/bad paradigm, but it’s easy to flip them. How about the positive reinforcement of playing the Trololo song at high volume on repeat? Makes for a pretty good “enhanced interrogation technique”, but I wouldn’t call it “good.” If you changed your behavior in the way I wanted and I turned off the music, that would be negative reinforcement – but I sincerely doubt anyone would consider it bad.

Now you know, and you can join the growing ranks of those who do not misuse the phrase.

What’s the Link to the Defining Moment?

We’ve already covered your gut reaction to the Defining Moment. The idea of good/bad in terms of feeling has already been determined.

This frees us up to take a look at the results of whatever it is we did with a clear head. We can start to look at the positive and negative effects of having the defining moment not as a “good/bad” dichotomy, but rather simply as two questions:

What did this add to my life?

and

What did this remove from my life?

Like the other exercises in the Defining Moment process, I like to do this with a big blank piece of paper, just writing things in. “I no longer wonder what skydiving feels like,” negative. “I have a sprained ankle from not landing quite right,” positive. “I have a new podcast to connect with other people,” positive. “Diana became my fifth Patron! She rocks!”, positive. “There’s so much more writing to do, I don’t have as much time to read for pleasure,” negative.

By writing things out like this you can get a more accurate view of the actual effects of that Defining Moment in your life. That will be essential in a few chapters, when you ask the all-important question:

Do I want to do this again?

But that’s foreshadowing. There’s a few more things to do before that, and we’ll go on to the next step in a week, when we look at just how good we were at predicting the outcome. Here’s a hint, but don’t stress it: if you’re like most people, not very.

Defining Moment: gut reactions

How did it go?

All the pieces were in place. You finally got over your fear and took that step (or were pushed by friends or circumstance or both). You put everything on the line that was needed, all the fruits of those papers and those charts and those hours of evaluation…and the Defining Moment came.

As such things do, the Defining Moment went, too. Now what?

Afterglow

The word might make some of you smirk with salacious connotations, but the first thing you need to do after your Defining Moment is nothing. Create a moment of stillness, a place where you can just sit and let the feelings/neurochemicals/aftershocks roll over you. Your brain will start second-guessing and critiquing and re-writing and re-framing the experience soon enough.

In fact, in all likelihood, the first thing your brain will wonder is “Did I give myself enough time for afterglow?” That’s fine; that’s the way the monkey mind works.

But try, for as long as you can, to say “Nope. Need a little more time,” and just sit with it. Maybe try the Ten Breath Waiting Technique. Maybe have a glass of water. Do some yoga. Listen to Free Bird. Whatever it takes, give yourself some time.

It Does Not Mean What You Think It Means

2319494_origThinking beings being what they think they are, though, you will begin to think again. This is a good time to go with your gut; give a simple question:

Did I like that?

Accept whatever answer you first come up with, and if you hear a “…but” forming after the “yes” or “no”, just stop right there. There will be time for buts later.

Admitting that you like something is not a statement of intent. It is not a fault, it is not a commitment, it is not a sin (if that’s a word you find useful). It is a simple evaluation, an honest reaction.

We all have the ability to choose our actions at any given moment, and an astonishing number of those actions are doing things we don’t like. An even more astonishing number of them are doing things that keep us from things we do like.

So it’s already proven that just liking some experience or not won’t fundamentally change your identity. You’re safe. So go with the gut reaction to the question:

Did I like that?

It’s a harder thing than you’d think. However, it can be very useful to untangle what exactly you enjoy about your Defining Moment.

For example: One of the brutal realizations that I had while working on this was that I don’t like writing. It’s always a struggle, and I’d much rather be reading, eating, watching TV, untangling cables under my desk, washing dishes, or even doing yoga than actually writing. However, I also know that I absolutely love having written. Knowing these facts, I don’t waste time trying to pretend to enjoy the act of writing, because there’s no use lying to myself. I use other methods to motivate that habit.

On the other hand, when I’m done with something, I completely relish the feeling that I have created something. Every blog post is it’s own little Defining Moment.

How do you like that?

Huge shout-out to Karl for becoming my first Patreon subscriber! With his help we’re re-designing the entire system of Love Life Practice rewards. Why don’t you take a look  and see if you feel like helping support the continuing work here. It also helps to spread the word with a tweet or a facebook like. Thanks! 

Part 9: The Defining Moment Arrives

Do it.

That’s all there is to this step. Oh, there’s more stuff to do, but that comes after. In the meantime, you really have run out of excuses. You’ve marshaled your resources, you’ve come up with a plan of action, you’ve not only calculated the risks of failure you’ve also considered the risks of success.

There’s nothing left. There’s nothing else keeping you from it. So it’s time: let your Defining Moment happen.

Don’t Miss Your Moment

One thing you do need to work on, probably, is the ability to be present in the Moment.

  • Don’t tweet about it.
  • Don’t instagram it.
  • Don’t take any pics at all of it.
  • Don’t start blogging/journaling about it in your head as it’s happening (you know who you are)

Just pay attention. Pay attention to everything – the feeling of your body, your emotions, your reactions. Don’t try to predict what’s going to happen – just experience it happening.

Some Defining Moments are easier to do that with than others. If you’re skydiving, for example, then you pretty much don’t have a choice. Gravity works, and this is happening!

On the other hand, using the example of the person picking up my book in a bookstore without even knowing me that is my Defining Moment, well, I have a ways to go, right? And how can I manage to have it happen “spontaneously”? There’s only one way for that to work, and it’s exactly the same as fishing.

The First Step to Catch a Fish

…is to find a lake.

In the “author” Defining Moment scenario, I have to do a lot of things, including writing a book. But even when the book is out I still need to remember to spend the time at the bookstore. Not watching my book! That would be creepy. And a little sad, I think.

No, the point is that I need to hang out in the places that make my Defining Moment more likely to happen. If that’s wanting to see people pick up my book, then that’s the bookstore, right?

No. Not at all. The place I need to hang out is my desk. My computer. The places where I write. I’m going to end up at bookstores anyway – but in order for the Defining Moment to happen, I need to create an environment where it can happen.

That environment is not a bookstore. It’s a bookstore that has books by me. And while technology is a wonderful thing, the books still do not write themselves.

Is your Defining Moment going to happen on it’s own? And if not…then what are you doing to make it happen?

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The Defining Moment Part 8: Resources

Whatcha Got?

If you’ve been trying out these various exercises – figuring out what your Defining Moment is, working out the details of it, assessing the risks of trying for it and then also trying to foresee the consequences of success – you may be pretty excited. I hope you’re pretty excited, anyway! When you look at the composite parts, it’s a pretty amazing thing to realize just how close your dream might actually be.

Time to step back.

That’s right. I said step back. Because now you need to take a moment to figure out what things you need vs. what you currently have that can help you get to your goal.

These resources need four pages of their own, each with two columns: have and need. The resources are divided into four main categories: People, Skills, Tools, and Information. Let’s start with the “Have” columns, because they’re going to be much, much bigger than the “Need” column, and that will feel really good.

1. People: Who do you know? Make a list of your family members, your friends, your business partners, your acquaintances. You might want to branch it into people you’ve heard your friends/family/biz partners talk about, too. Basically this is a list of the people to whom you have some kind of access. Don’t let yourself give any “Oh, but they wouldn’t want to help…” answers. WRITE THEM DOWN. They are (I assume) human beings, endowed with free will, and you do not get to decide for them whether or not they’re willing to help. You only get to decide if you’ve got the guts to ask, and if you’re willing to accept what help they want to give.

2. Skills: What can you do? And don’t you dare say “nuthin’ much”, because if you can read this then you are certainly somewhat capable with computer skills. You probably have other skills, as well, and keep in mind that “skill” falls into the realm of “something you can do.” In this case, yes, you probably want to keep it in the realm of your “Defining Moment” – but let your mind wander. One skill that I have that I used today was putting up shelves. How does that relate to my Defining Moment of watching a person pick up a book I’ve written in a bookstore? Well, perhaps the bookstore belongs to an acquaintance, whose agreed to give my book a premium spot on the shelves if I install them. Stranger things have happened; one of the best authors/illustrators I’ve ever read, Nick Bantock, got his start because of a drunken dart game. So if “inebriated cricket” is in your skillset, put it down. Because you never know.

3. Tools: As I mentioned, you’ve already proven your ability to leverage one of the greatest tools ever: the Internet. But don’t stop there. Vehicles are tools. Rooms and houses and furniture can be tools. Clothing, machines, silverware…make a list of all your available things that might help with your Defining Moment. I’ve got a computer, a keyboard, a lot of books on writing, and a schedule that I can use to motivate creation. I’ve got WordPress, which enables me to write this book. What do you have? Cars, roller skates, that weird doodad you got from IKEA that looks so cool if you could only remember what it does…they all count. Write them down!

4. Information: This time do not mention the Internet. Why? Because the Internet is where you go to recall or acquire the knowledge you don’t have. What do you know how to do now? Again, put down everything. Juggling. Pancake flipping. Stripping an M16 in less than a minute. Stitching a wound. Wiring a porch light. Prepping a cigar. What do you know how to do? I know how to write a book; notice I did not say I know how to write a good book. So maybe I’ll put the former in the “Have” column and the latter in the “Need” column on the INFORMATION page.

When it comes to needs, don’t worry about it much. First of all, by doing the “HAVE” pages first, you’ll probably find out you already have most of what is required to get to your Defining Moment. As I mentioned, that’s a good feeling. Any time something does go in the “NEED” section, take a moment to ask yourself “Do I really?” Just once, no need to belabor it – but it’s worth double checking if you’re making up “NEEDS” because what Steven Pressfield calls “The Resistance” is trying to keep you from your goal.

I confess, this whole exercise is something that I love to do in group sessions, because invariably someone comes to an obstacle of some kind and someone else in the class – often a complete stranger – will raise their hand and say “Oh, is that all you need? I can give you that.” I’ve seen it happen with everything from private tutoring in Portuguese to the loan of an isolated cabin in the mountains outside Seattle.

If you’re doing this exercise solo, it might be a little more difficult to arrange that kind of kismet. But you might be surprised if you put it out there that you are working towards a Defining Moment – something you are passionate about, something you love, something that will make you smile so widely – at how many people want to help you make it happen. I’m not one of those people who believes that the universe will re-align on a quantum level to adjust to your wishes. I do, however, believe that Fortune favors the bold and Of course the game is rigged – but if you don’t play, you can’t win. Or, as one of my idols puts it better:

…the threads of circumstance that lead to tomorrow are so tenuous that all the fussing and worrying about decisions is futile compared to the pure randomness of existence.

I must admit I like that.

- Nick Bantock

Note:I didn’t get any feedback the last time I created a worksheet to go along with an entry like this. If you would like to have some “Resource” worksheets created and distributed, just let me know.

Defining Moment Pt. 7: the consequences of success

What If It Works?

“You could go with this. Or you could go with that. Or you could go with us!” – Fatboy Slim

Risks are one thing. They are mishaps that can happen along the way to your defining moment. If you want to skydive, the obvious risk is that your chute might not open. But then there are also the risks of the airplane malfunctioning, the pilot making an error, you tripping as you climb the ladder into the plane, having a car accident on the way to the airport – all risks.

But the thing is that our inability to accurately foresee the future makes us forget that even when things do go according to plan, the result is rarely what we expect. The next step in your Defining Moment process is to try and figure out what the results of success might be.

Succeeding is not Success

The purpose of this step is to try and prepare yourself for at least some of the possibilities. For example, let’s suppose that you have a dream (as I have) of going to Paris. I would like to be eating beignets and sipping espresso as I watch the pretty French people walk by with their noses in the air at the scruffy Americain in their midst.

Let’s ignore all the steps necessary to get there and say that I was there. What are some of the possible outcomes?

  • I will discover I don’t like Paris as much as I’d hoped, and lose that dream of a city that never was.
  • I will discover that I love Paris far more than I expected and leave everything behind to live there, probably over the Moulin Rouge.
  • I will miss so much work during my trip that I lose my clients and my living.
  • I will get enough material on my trip to write the definitive memoir of this millenium’s American in Paris.
  • I will contract food poisoning from undercooked beignets.
I won't look anything like this. But I'll FEEL like this.

I won’t look anything like this. But I’ll FEEL like this.

This is a simplistic list, but as much as it varies, it all is a possible outcome of my making it to Paris. Stranger things have happened from milder events. For example, in spite of having many friends who skydive, I have never had the urge – until I recently, on a whim, watched an episode of a spy show where the heroine jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, gleefully, and cavorted around in the sky.

I suddenly realized: I want to cavort in the sky. And so begins the saving of money, the lessons, the tandem jump, and eventually, the cavorting. I’ll let you know how it goes (or, I suppose, someone else will). It wasn’t the military, or a lifelong love of thrillers, or dating the daughter of a U.S. Ranger Parachuting Instructor, or anything else that made me want to take up that risky goal. It was simply the fact that I set, a long time ago, a goal of being a “Location Independent Professional” – that is, able to work and relax anywhere I was.

So when I found myself in an airport, having just finished an article for a client, I treated myself to an episode of Covert Affairs on my iPad. And boom, I now have a new, completely unexpected goal as a result of succeeding at a past one.

Success is a myth, anyway - success as a result of succeeding, that is. Anytime you work towards a goal, you automatically move the goalposts. The moment you arrive, you see somewhere else you want to get to, and the journey continues. Strangely, the only way to reach “success” (the noun) is to stop “succeeding” (the verb). It’s that moment when you say “Ok, this is enough. I can make my place here.”

I think that’s also called “being happy.” Sure feels like it, anyway.

Defining Moment Part 6: how to assess risk productively

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

There’s a great podcast out from the Guardian’s Science Weekly where psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer talks about risk. He makes the point over and over again that first, people spend a lot of time worrying about the wrong risks, and second, even the ones we should worry about are just about impossible to predict.

I’d like you to try and remember that as you go through this next step in the Defining Moment process. You see, now that we have an action plan of getting what we want, it’s time to figure out what are the risks of actually putting it into action.

What if I wrote a novel and nobody read?

We can still use my own D.M. to show this process. What could be the results of actually writing that book so that the person in the bookstore could pick it up? In no particular order,

  • I could go broke because writing kept me from a “real” job
  • I could lose touch with family and friends because I’m writing/talking about the writing all the time.
  • I might get carpal tunnel syndrome from too much typing.
  • I might forget to bathe, contract a skin-eating algae, and die in a puddle of green goo still trying to fix that one verdammt paragraph.

Ok, so that last was a little ridiculous. But go for the ridiculous! Write about all the possible risks you can think of.
Planning session

But don’t stop there. Write about the “good” outcomes as well, and extrapolate them. Maybe I write the book, and it becomes a bestseller, and I become the next Stephen King! But then he got his dream house, and ended up getting run over…but that gave him a better perspective for finishing The Gunslinger saga…but that is something he’ll likely never trump, so it perhaps means the end of his epics…

See what I mean? Try to think of all the possible results. Don’t worry about how to deal with them-as much as possible, anyway. I know that for everything you put down your brain will say one of two things: “Well, that’s not very likely!” or “Well, if that happens, then I’ll…”

We can’t help it. We make plans, and a good portion of what seems to be “people handling stress well” is more “people prepared to handle stress.” Creating this fun Risk List conditions your mind not only to anticipate outcomes but also automatically starts you out on how to solve them.

Prepare to be Surprised

Just don’t forget that second principle: life is inherently unpredictable, from the flip of a coin to the stock market. What that exercise in coming up with the risks of attempting your Defining Moment Action Plan is doing is conditioning your brain to handle new results…and that increases your resilience when that thing that you weren’t expecting happens. Next week we’ll take a look at the strategies that can help you when that happens.

The list is also going to come in handy after you take action, as a possibly entertaining look at how different reality can be from what we plan.

The Defining Moment Part 5: Action Plan!

Make it so!” - Odysseus

In the past few entries we’ve talked about refining that thing that you want – that experience, that achievement, that moment when you feel you will get what it is that’s been driving you. This refining process is a fun one – it’s imagining a fantastic time that you want, then taking it apart to see how it works, and refining it. It’s a distilling process, boiling it down until there’s just the essential parts of This Is What I Want.

So then what? Simple: it’s time to make a plan of action. It’s time to take that thing and say “I’m going to make it happen.” Except that as we all know, just saying it doesn’t do that. I mean, I said, over a year ago, “I want to make the Defining Moment into a book.” But it didn’t get done – even when a table of contents was written, even when I gave the workshop dozens of times, the book did not happen.

“Why can’t the laundry do itself?” – my partner, Natasha Bounds

The problem was, I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a particular method for getting it done. And like laundry, marathons, and gardening, it’s not going do itself. Then I hit on the right method , and here we are, several thousand words into the book. I hit on the plan that finally worked, that is finally making the book get written.

Let’s be real: I’m the one writing the book. But it’s necessary to create the plan that lets me feel as though it’s less a chore and more an inevitability. The fact that you’re reading this right now – whether on my blog, over my shoulder, or on the pages you’re browsing in a bookstore – means that it’s working.

But that’s my dream. My defining moment. We’re talking about yours, right? That shining diamond of experience that you have finally polished up. It’s time to give it a setting and show that puppy off.

What’s Your Plan?

Here’s the thing: I can’t tell you how to make the plan. There are so many ways to do it, because everybody has their own. That Table of Contents? That was a plan, and it seemed like a good one – but it didn’t work.

One of my favorite planning methods comes from Barbara Sher, who wrote many inspirational books such as I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was. She recommends a big blank wall and a lot of sticky notes and working backwards from your finished goal. That is, put your Defining Moment on the wall at one end, and then write another sticky note with the thing that had to happen just before that. If your D.M. is “Sipping MaiTais in Tahiti on the Beach” then the thing before was probably “Order mai tais.” What happened before that? “Walk down to the beach.” What was before that? “Check into the bungalow.” Before that was get off the plane, before that get on the plane, you get the idea.

Her technique has you break it down like this, backwards, step by step until at a certain point you get that That Special Sticky Note. You know it’s special, because you look at it and say to yourself “oh, hey. I can do that now!” And then you do it. Then you look at the wall, and you know exactly what your next step needs to be.

I’m not saying that’s your way to make the plan. I’m saying that’s one way to make a plan from a pretty neat lady who’s been helping people achieve their dreams for longer than most of us reading this has been alive. So it’s a good bet she’s got some good ideas. Try it out, and if it doesn’t work, you can always try a zillion others.

Don’t Worry About Resources

This is very important: 

When you’re making your plan, pretend you have infinite resources.

It’s really easy to second guess yourself. To get to “Get off the plane” and think “I’ll never be able to afford a plane ticket or get the time off; this is silly.” THIS IS NOT SILLY. THIS IS YOUR DREAM.

I promise you: we will take a very serious look at resources, both those you have and those you need, later on. This is not that time. This is the time where you simply lay out the steps that you need to do to get to your plan. What concrete things need to happen to reach that Defining Moment?

I’ll tell you what one concrete thing is: you need to get out some paper and write at the top: My Defining Moment Action Plan. Here, I’ll make it easy for you: Print this out. Or scrawl it on the paper closest to you and put it in your purse or wallet or whatever.

Step one. Done. What’s Step two?

The Defining Moment, Part 4: How Far?

If you’re late to the party, you can read the rest of the series using the links in the sidebar. It will be updated as the series continues. As usual, any feedback you feel like tossing my way would be very much appreciated, as this will eventually all get refined into the first Love Life Practice book!

Now that we’ve worked out the pieces of the Defining Moment, there is one important factor left to work out. In some ways, it’s the most important factor. It’s the thing that is left out of far too many plans, schemes, goals, and more. Yet it’s simple enough a question; most people just don’t bother asking it.

How will you know when you’ve had your moment?

Depending on what your moment looks like, there could be several different ways you know that it’s enough. It may be a duration of time: I was able to endure this long. I was able to get it done this quickly. It may be a concrete goal: reaching the peak. Making it all the way down. It may be something more ethereal and abstract: This is now a part of my character.

Whatever it is, though, it’s important to know what the benchmark is that lets you know that you’ve had your defining moment. In some cases it may be simply the effort of achieving it that is enough. That’s a nice luxury to have, knowing that you tried, you gave it your all, and regardless of the consequences you have that experience to draw on.

Why Is That So Important?

There are two reasons why this is essential to achieving your Defining Moment. The first is simple: if you don’t know what it is, you might miss it as it goes by! Wouldn’t that be a shame? A big part of the whole process is not only experiencing it, but observing it, analyzing it, using it as a base to move on to bigger and better things (though that’s something we will get into much later).

Tired of Crossfit? That's What You Think!

Tired of Crossfit? That’s What You Think!

The second reason is a matter of safety. You need to know when to stop so that you know that you can. This is something that I find out the hard way, over and over again. For some reason – whether it’s the work ethic instilled by my parents, or some left over “At all costs, accomplish the mission!” from the Marines – it’s a character flaw that leads to diminished returns at best and nervous breakdowns at worst. It’s part of why I find crossfit training to be a dangerous addiction – they promote an environment of “Just one more rep!” and “Play through the pain!

That’s a great philosophy if you are smart enough to know what “just one more” really means. Me, I have this little voice inside my head that goes “Is that all? You really think that was enough? Come on, you know you have more. Keep going!

No Pain, No Brain

This is why I have a brace that I’m wearing on my camping trip. While training for what I had hoped to be my first half-marathon – a dream of a Defining Moment that’s been with me for decades – I pushed myself too far, aggravated an old knee injury, and now I can’t walk without pain. It slowed me down – didn’t stop me, mind you, but slowed me down – and so the Defining Moment has changed from “Run a half marathon” to “Be my daughter’s support team while she runs a half marathon“.

All because I didn’t know when to stop.

Take the time. Envision your defining moment, and ask yourself How will I know when it’s done? With a little reflection, a little analysis, you should be able to work it out to a precise moment. You just have to take the time.

Target acquired? Excellent! Next week we will begin a plan of action…

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