Love. Life. Practice.

Personal Development with Gray Miller

Archive for the tag “goals”

creating realistic dreams

Letting Go of Superman

I’m about to commit a cardinal sin of personal development blogs: I’m going to tell you that sometimes you have to let go of your dreams.

Yep. That’s right. I said it. Sometimes you have to let that stuff go. It came up today when I was talking with an old friend who I’ve not spoken to in a while. She was telling me about how her goals and ideals had changed over the years in terms of what she wanted out of life.

Thing was, they had not become any more or less realistic – they had just changed. Frankly, they seemed eminently realistic, completely achievable, and even quite likely.

Then she asked me about my “dreams”.

Writer, blog thyself!

I teach a class about getting what you want out of your hobbies/career/life (soon to come to an e-course near you) which is quite popular within some circles. Inevitably someone asks me “So, this must be what you want to be doing, eh?” The embarrassing answer is that no, this is not what I’d like to be doing. What I’d like to be doing is studying commedia dell arte in Venice right now. Well, that and a few other rather unrealistic expectations.

The thing is, while I know I could go to Venice, while I know I could do a lot of things…the fact is that I am pretty convinced that the dreams that I hold tight to don’t really have a realistic output. I told this to my friend, using the analogy of Superman.

You can have a desire to fly like Superman. You can dream of it, plan for it, and even practice it. Jumping off of buildings, though, can get kind of damaging. Both to yourself, and to the people you land on. So after a while, you might just need to let go of that desire, and enjoy things that evoke that feeling – the occasional plane flight, hang gliding, maybe scuba diving.

But it’s never going to be flying like Superman, and so at some point you have to accept that particular dream as remaining unfulfilled, and enjoy the things that you can have.

It’s hard, letting go. I never claim otherwise. I’m not even sure you can, completely. But if you’re holding fast to a dream amidst chaos and rubble in your life…perhaps it’s worth looking into how much that dream is contributing to the hard times. Perhaps a new dream, a more realistic dream, can make the hard times a bit happier.

focus your power

When Good Advice is Hard to Take

Like most of us, I struggle to balance between my intake of media and the quality thereof. The Gravy Hose is a constant distraction, and it’s gotten to where it’s a triumph when I can make it through a movie or an episode without checking email or some RSS feed. Part of this is because there is always that one nugget of gold amongst the dross, that one thing that makes you go “Oh! That’s good to know!” and somehow justifies the distraction or the multitasking. Somehow you ignore just how much effort and time it took to get to that nugget, and how much more effective you can be if you focus your power.

A Good Problem is Still a Problem

This was driven home to me pretty thoroughly recently on the Art of Nonconformity Blog. I subscribe to Chris’s email updates, and when I got the one about “Revisions” it piqued my interest. Editing is very difficult for me – most of these blog entries are simply written and posted (please, do me a favor and pretend you’re surprised). I’ve actually managed to cultivate a practice that would be the envy of many bloggers – about 3000 words a week, for over a year. I’ve got at least three books worth, more if you count e-books! And I’ve always had the intention of working these entries into a book – I even expressed that intention to my blogger’s support group here in Madison.

In reading the comments for the post on AONC Blog, it appeared that I was pretty exceptional in this trait. Writer after writer talked about how hard the first draft is, how much easier it is to go back and do the second, third (huh?) or fourth revision (you gotta be kidding me!). 

I’m exactly the opposite. The words flow, no problem – in fact, sometimes with fiction I can just get lost in the story and have no idea how much time I’ve been writing – but thousands of words are there on the screen. But going back? Changing them? Making them express the ideas better, getting rid of redundantly repetitive phrases written over and over (see what I did there?), even at times just throwing it out and starting over…this is hard for me.

This is my area of procrastination. I know this. Which is why I added this comment to Chris’ blog:

I hate editing. I’ve been writing an average of 3000 words a week on my blog for over a year – so I’ve got at least a couple of books worth, right? Yet the process of going in and actually pulling out the info, and actually editing it into coherent form…it’s the biggest procrastinative lure I have.

And that’s not even mentioning the novel I’m trying to edit, and the outline for my nonfiction book based on a workshop I teach…oh, and a handbook for conference presenters in my field.

Too much content. Too many projects. Editing is my nemesis.

Any ideas?

Of course, I forgot: Chris has a habit of reading and replying to all the comments.

A Matter of Scale

So yep, right there was an answer to my question. Chris said:

Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 11.05.13 AMMy first comment is that 3,000 words on a blog per week is great, but blog posts don’t usually combine very well into books. My second comment is that with the blog stuff, the novel, the non-fiction book, and the conference handbook … maybe you should pick one of these to start with. :)

It doesn’t mean you can’t do the others later, of course. That’s my $0.02!

And just like that, my head went ping. Sure, I talk a lot about multitasking on a small scale – chatting while working, texting while driving (don’t!), skimming a newsfeed while watching TV. All the proof is out there: multitasking is less efficient, and bad for you besides.

But what about on a larger scale? We already know you’re only supposed to change one habit at a time…but maybe that applies to the bigger goals as well? Of course it does! Chris was absolutely on the money: multitasking is a problem on both sides of the scale.

The Hard Choice to Focus Your Power

Trying to be a great blogger, a great fiction writer, author a personal development book and a book on Open Space facilitation? Might be over-reaching. Perhaps, Gray, I hear you saying, you could focus your power and skill on one of these projects, and do it really, really well.

It’s a nice idea, this focusing practice. It doesn’t mean I have anything less to do – it just means that the things I’m doing have a single goal, rather than having the effort flying off in multiple directions. It is hard to say it’s ok to let that project go…but with practice, it gets easier.

Word Up

Photo CC Licensed: JulieJordanScott via Flickr

“Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words! I get words all day through; first from him, now from you!” – Eliza Doolittle, My Fair Lady

Yesterday I got an email from Chris Brogan. He reminded me (ok, and about a zillion other email list subscribers) that the time has come for the Three Words. Roughly speaking, they are supposed to be the words that describe the themes you want to focus on for the upcoming year. He’s been doing this for years, and occasionally I’ve tried it as well – “Beauty. Grace. Passion.” was a pretty interesting year, for example. And as you’ll see from the title of this blog, I’m a big fan of the triplet.

I was extra excited when I saw that one of his words for 2012 is going to be Practice. Hey, Chris, have I got a blog for you! He’s written a lot of neat posts about the idea, but in this case he says “And by that, I mean to honor this sentiment: “the practice is the reward.” He has some interesting ideas on how to do that, with weekly, monthly, and yearly challenges and goals.


The problem with coming up with three words to try and sum up your principles and direction for the entire next year is one of accuracy. For example, one of the words I thought of using was “money“. That’s kind of a shallow goal, though, right? Besides, I really don’t have any problem making money; it’s my general relationship with it, one of antagonism and scarcity, that is the problem. After some thought, I decided that “abundance” would be a better word.

Abundance? If you’re like me, hearing that word set off the WooWoo alarms in your head. What does that even mean? It’s slapped on so many different things these days that it can mean everything from the plushiness of toilet paper to the divine grace of the Lord and Savior. If money is too broad, then abundance is too…abundant. Amorphous. Imprecise.

And if I’m having that much trouble with one word, how the hell am I supposed to come up with three? That will last the whole year?

Letting It Be OK

The answer is to remember one of the wisest things a friend ever said to me: you can change your mind. It’s ok to use the word “abundance” as long as I know what I mean by it, because this is my guiding word. I’m the only one who needs to understand it. If I find a better word later on that better expresses my intention, I can use it. If I find that my pursuit of abundance is not working well for me (hey, it could happen) I can always decide on something less , like monster trucks.

I think some of the time we avoid these kinds of exercises – goalsetting, guiding words, any kind of long-term planning – simply because we worry about failure. We worry about letting ourselves down, about saying to a friend “I’m going to lose weight!” and then feeling like we’ve let them down when we’re sharing their birthday cake. For some reason, we seem to think we can foresee what is going to come in the next year, what we and those we love are going to need.

Guess what? We can’t. It’s like telling an early explorer “Hey – draw me a map of that place you’re heading towards. I want to know what’s there, so I know what to expect.” How accurate is that going to be? What you can do is look at where you’ve been, look at where you might go, and express an intention. I intend to cultivate an attitude of abundance – the idea that there are plenty of resources available to me to live a wonderful life. I may do that in ways that look goofy, like throwing my pocket change on the floor, but that’s ok: this is my life, I get to do goofy things with it. So do you.

In case you’re wondering, I’m considering music and practice as my other two (the one because it’s been conspicuously absent in the past year and the other just as a reminder).

What words speak to you?

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