Having cured my Someday Syndrome, I’ve shut down the blog to focus on my fiction writing. You can find me over at AlexWorld where I discuss my writing life…
See you there!
I’ve never been a huge fan of resolutions, thinking that creating them all too often just sets people up with unreasonable expectations and too much pressure, but after reading Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, I’ve not only changed my mind, but I created 36 resolutions of my own to follow in 2010.
As you know, Someday Syndrome has three different varieties: Someday My Ship Will Come In, I’ll Get Around To It Someday, and I Might Need It Someday. I’ve found books that I would recommend for the first and the last (The Comfort Trap and Unclutter Your Life), and now that I have Gretchen’s book in my hands it’s become the book to recommend for people who suffer from I’ll Get Around To It Someday.
The book is ideal for those who have a good idea of what they want out of life but don’t really do anything to achieve it. I’m the sort who learns from and gets inspired by people’s personal stories. Gretchen’s twelve month experiment in being happier while not making major changes in her life is exactly what I needed at this moment.
I don’t suffer from Someday Syndrome, having cured it with the help of The Comfort Trap, but I do need reminders periodically to stay on track and to stay mindful of the present. The Happiness Project has inspired me to do just that. And The Happiness Project Toolbox that’s the companion piece to the book and blog provides the additional push to follow through.
Early in the book, Gretchen says that she’s not the sort to look at whys or wherefores. She’s not interested in exploring her past to figure out why she acts a certain way. She embraces who she is and goes from there.
I’ve spent a good portion of my life figuring out why I act certain ways and even created the I’ll Get Around To It Someday ebook to help others figure that out, but at some point it’s time to stop looking in the past and to start doing now in the present.
Gretchen has a passion for research and yet doesn’t bog down her story with lists of facts. I love the book because she’s done the research that doesn’t interest me (yes, I know myself well and research is very NOT Alex). Reading her book gives me all the information I need to create my own Happiness Project without having to do any of the boring background work.
Plus her take on resolutions convinced me to try them out for 2010. Instead of goals to reach, I’ve set up my 36 resolutions in 12 areas of my life as mindfulness reminders – things to pull me out of the future or the past, turn off the autopilot and fix me squarely in the conscious present.
Basically, if you’re the sort who’s inspired by personal stories and love a good read, then go now (yes NOW) and order yourself a copy of The Happiness Project. I don’t recommend things very often, so if I’m telling you to go order it (you have clicked a link, haven’t you?) then you know it’s a good product that’ll rid yourself of your Somedays.
P.S. If you want to see what other books I recommend as Someday-Busting tools, check out my December post over on The Bridgemaker.
While I’m not a huge planner, I do have a twenty year plan for my fiction career and three years into it, I’m exactly where I want to be. This month Melinda talks about how to deal with long term planning and short term detours. -Alex.
Plans are like a road map – they tell you where to go. Not like people tell you where to go when they’re insulting you, maps (and plans) tell you in a good way. So why don’t we all plan our lives, businesses, careers and families more?
Often it’s because we can’t comprehend that far ahead. It’s hard to get our head around planning what we’ll do in 20 years time. Heck, some days I have trouble planning the next weekend!
And there’s also the “I might not want the same things then” along with “how can I plan that far ahead when I know I’m going to change in that time?” See, the thing is, by the time you get 20 years further along in life then it’s a given that you’ll want different things and that you’ll change. If you don’t change then you’re probably dead, in which case you won’t care.
Guaranteed to change
So we don’t plan. We drift. We might plan a year or two down the track, or we plan for tangible results and things we can see. Anyone here got a 30 year mortgage or a five year car loan/lease? Yes, I thought so. What we can’t see is who we’ll be in the future and so we avoid designing ourselves in advance in case it doesn’t fit with who we become on the journey.
News Flash. It’s not going to fit. You’re going to change and your plans are going to change. Guaranteed.
Guess what? In 20 years you’ll be 20 years older
Think about this. In 20 years time you’ll be 20 years older. And some things won’t change. You’ll still have your morals and values. Some things that are uber-important to you now will still be uber-important then, like family – only you’ll probably have grandkids rather than kids then.
Who do you want to be in 20 years time? How can you design your life so your values are still there, only stronger?
Road trip 101
Think of going on a long journey and how you plan it. You look at your map or GPS, and you plan where you’re going – from A to B and the road in between. Which towns you’re going to drive through. Take the faster main highway with the tolls and traffic or the longer but quieter back roads? Where will we stop for food and fuel on the way?
Then you leave and it’s night time so you turn your headlights on. Tell me, how far can you see? A couple of hundred metres, or as far as the light reaches, yes? Does that worry you, that you can’t see your destination when you leave home? Of course it doesn’t, because experience has taught you that as you drive the road will be revealed in the lights as you move forward.
Your life plans are the same. You can’t see 20 years ahead, but you can see next week, and next month. And as time passes you keep seeing next week and next month, but they keep moving on into the future as you do.
When problems happen – and they will
And sometimes as you drive there’ll be something unexpected. Roadworks. A detour. A flooded road. A flat tyre or mechanical failure. You have to work around it. Take a different route. Try a new road. Fix a problem.
Sometimes these hiccups and diversions lead to angst and frustration. You might get lost and confused. Run late. Costs more than you expected. And maybe you’ll discover something new along the way. Unexpected and exciting. Something you’d never have seen if not for the detour.
And always your headlights are showing just that bit of road immediately in front of you. Yet you still know where you’re headed in the end, even though you can’t see it and the signs may not even be pointing to it yet. You know, you’ve planned the road.
So what are you going to do about it?
You’re eventually going to be 20 years older than you are now. Are you going to allow yourself to drift directionless, going wherever the road takes you? Or are you going to plan who and what you want to be and deal with the changes and hiccups along the way to becoming that person?
Melinda Brennan is a business coach who woke up one day and realised that she was 20 years older and hadn’t notice the years passing. Now she’s becoming who she wants to be and loving a deliberately planned life. Hiccups, detours, roadblocks and all.
Check out what she’s doing at WAHM Biz Builder
I haven’t been happy recently and that’s been bothering me. After all, how can I help you find happiness if I’ve lost my own? In a post on the blog last week, I asked my Lab Rats six questions. I decided that since I haven’t been as happy as I could be, I would answer the questions myself.
If you’ve ever read the About page on Someday Syndrome or read either of my ebooks, you will have learned a bit about my life before coming to Spain. Ever since I was 12 years old I have wanted to write and yet for years I avoided this dream, taking detours in many different directions.
In 2006, I decided to stop taking detours and get on with writing. But then I got started with Someday Syndrome and it excited me. I loved the idea of it and I loved the idea of helping people and earning a living doing so.
However, as the work behind the business began to increase, it took more and more of my energy and focus away from my fiction writing.
Starting a small business is time consuming – hugely so. I’ve recently increased my fiction writing to 3 hours a day at least 4 days a week. That, plus my part time teaching, did not leave much time to focus on the small business while still having a balanced life.
When I stepped back to look at my life objectively I realized that if I was to prioritize the things I do the order came out: writing, Raúl, teaching English, Someday Syndrome. And when things aren’t going well, it’s usually the fault of whatever’s on the bottom of the list.
Someday Syndrome is insidious – it’s no good to chart your course and then let the boat pilot itself. Crossing the Someday Sea requires vigilance and regular course changes.
For me, scaling back the business is one of those course changes. I’m on the verge of letting it become yet another detour away from my writing dreams and I refuse to let that happen again.
Newsletter subscribers will still receive the semi-monthly Someday News, but the blog will go more or less inactive and instead of offering a full range of services, I will provide a limited number of Skype-based sessions (and email support) each month as well as the popular ebooks.
If you really want a Someday fix in between newsletters you will also be able find me on the following blogs each month:
And now for you – what course changes do you need to make to get yourself back on track? What answers do you have to the six questions above?
Since December is Planning Month on Someday Syndrome let’s tackle a Someday Challenge that’s planning related. Specifically let’s look at Angela’s problem with being overwhelmed with everything she has to do.
Angela suffers from I’ll Get Around To It Someday. She knows what she wants but can’t seem to find the time or energy to follow through. She says “Someday I’ll find the time and energy to fulfill my dreams.” The thing is she’s not very specific about what those dreams are. When looking one year into the future however, she’s much more specific saying that she will have implemented some of her programs, have produced the show she wrote and be able to support her children financially.
The problem is that she’s so overwhelmed by the normal anxieties of life that she can’t see clearly. It seems to be so much stuff that she’s paralyzed by all the stuff. She moved her office in-house so that she could work on things 24/7 but that hasn’t worked which isn’t surprising. Bringing the office into the home is likely to create more anxieties not fewer. Without a clear separation of work life and home life the stress and guilt of working or not working 24/7 multiples exponentially. Every moment at work outside of regular hours takes away from family time and every moment with the family is one less moment striving for the work-related dream.
In our go-go-go world this sense of paralysis is common and it’s something many people suffer from. It happens when you allow your to-do list to get longer and longer which results in panic and paralysis.
Angela mentions anxiety at all the day to day stuff. That especially happens when you keep it all in your head – it builds and each item seems unrelated to anything else. As well, as I said working on things 24/7 is not the best way to get things done. I take plenty of time off and I’m one of the more productive people I know. I focus on relaxing when I’m not working and when I do work I don’t fritter because I know I have time to relax later.
So what does Angela need? She needs a plan. She needs to know what she’s working on when. However, she can’t create that plan until she knows exactly what she wants to work on. Yes, in her one-year-in-the-future vision she hints at what she might work on now, but the ideas are still very abstract. They’re results, not actions.
When looking into the future, it’s important to focus on actions. Outcomes are great, but they don’t motivate well because they leave a gap between the current state and the future outcome. That gap can only get filled by action.
And what actions does Angela need to do? What actions do you need to focus on if you want to achieve your dreams? How can you choose any one thing when there the to-do is longer than a line up to buy U2 concert tickets?
You might just pick one random item and work on that. Or you might pick the top three things that have reached crisis mode.
Or you might take a bit of time to plan out your actions, which first requires some research.
In this case, research doesn’t mean going out and looking up information or talking to others. For this type of research you are going to interview yourself. Using a blank piece of paper or a new document on the computer, write down the numbers 1 to 100 (if you’re using paper, you might need two or three sheets). Now fill in all 100 slots with everything you do during the day – both work and non-work related. Don’t forget as well those things that you want to/feel you should get done but haven’t gotten around to yet.
Why? What will Angela get out of overwhelming herself even more? How will this exercise help you?
Right now Angela feels overwhelmed by all of her to-dos. These to-dos however are only in her head. Just like in last week’s Someday Challenge, Angela needs to clear her head of the overwhelm and getting it out on paper does just that. Plus by giving yourself a goal of 100 items you’ll likely have a hard time reaching the goal and you’ll realize that you don’t actually have as many things to do as you thought, taking off some of the pressure.
By emptying your head of your to-dos you’ll also be able to look at all the items objectively. When they sit in your head they all seem equally important and necessary.
So now you have a list of items that you do (or want to do). How do you take this list of actions and turn them into a plan that works for you, gives you time to relax, and moves you towards your dream?
You prioritize, delegate and delete items from the list. You whittle it down until it fits into a schedule that’s manageable and comfortable.
And no, it’s not easy. In fact this sort of Someday Challenge paralyzes many people.
You need help. You need the outside objectively of someone who isn’t so intimately connected to the actions, someone who can help you decide priorities and what doesn’t really need to get done after all.
You can get that help by filling out a Personalized Someday Assessment. It takes only a few minutes and just might mean the difference between being overwhelmed and being happy.
You know what? It doesn’t matter what you want. It doesn’t matter what reasons you have for not following it. If you’re not pursuing a dream you say you want, then you have to ask yourself the question How much do I really want it?
Marie understands this. Her biggest Someday is finishing her degree she admits to only maybe wanting it. She feels that she should really want it but she’s burnt out and only kind of wants it. That makes any forward progress a chore and the moment something becomes a chore resistance kicks in.
Think about your life – what are you doing because you feel you should want it? Or I should say, what are you not doing even though you feel you should want it?
Johnny, despite saying that he wants a career in clean-technology, lacks confidence and lets his poor work habits and procrastination stop him. Tie that into his fear around not having enough money and bam! he’s completely blocked. He can’t move forward because he’s scared it won’t work out (based on past experience) and yet he wants to move forward because it’s supposed his dream.
What situation in your life is like Johnny’s? Where do you claim to want something but then let fear stop you?
When Michelle contacted me to become a Lab Rat, she mentioned that she fights her weight. She focuses on everything else in her life and ignores her weight. She doesn’t apply for jobs because she’s not happy with the way she looks. She says “it’s not fair!” about her size. And yet she knows it’s a whole lot easier to stay exactly as she is. It’s more comfortable to complain than to act even though the inaction makes her feel resentful and angry with herself. She’s waiting for it to be easy.
What aren’t you tackling because it’s too much work?
Helen has a similar challenge. Yes her life is great, but she lets her health get out of control. She knows that certain foods are bad for her and that she doesn’t get enough exercise, but she doesn’t make herself a priority. Work fills her life and she lets that dictate all the other things she does. Rather than making a conscious choice at every meal to eat well, she goes on autopilot and lets whatever at hand go into her mouth. She chooses the comfortable (although more unhealthy) option of sitting in front of the computer rather than going out and getting exercise. Even though she loves her home and her village, she’s not connected to it the way she is to a city like London which energizes her to be active. At home she curls up in her nest and hibernates.
Are you connected or disconnected from your environment? Are you actively engaged or on autopilot?
Now let’s turn to Joyce who desperately wants to get back to writing. She has had two books published but has writer’s block for her current projects. She says she wants to focus on her writing and yet in her list of Somedays Joyce wants to do a bit of everything, from advocacy work to moving to another part of the country. And with each new idea she takes herself farther away from her writing Someday. With so many projects that seem to have an equal importance to her, all of which are time consuming and emotionally draining, Joyce can’t choose any single one to work on.
How many projects do you have on the go at any one time? How good are you at prioritizing them?
And then finally we have Kristin another Someday-writer. She’s never made the effort to pursue her dream of supporting herself with her writing because she had a secure job that was safe. In her one of her hugely successful writing courses, 25 year writing veteran Holly Lisle says “SAFE never starts.”
SAFE can keep you locked up in your house, never daring to step foot outside the door. It can keep you locked in a job you hate that has no future, just because you’re afraid if you walk away you will never work again. SAFE can kill your hopes and dreams by telling you they were never worth pursuing, that you were never good enough to make them real, that you were only kidding yourself.
Where are you choosing safe over happy?
Basically it all comes down to excuses and because you’re getting something out of your inaction. For every single one of the Lab Rats that “something” is hope. As long as they don’t move forward, as long as they don’t follow through on their dreams they still have hope that the dreams will come true. Thing is, no matter how much hope they have, if they don’t act they’ve already failed.
It’s like being afraid to ask for help. Most people don’t ask for help because they’re afraid the other person will say no, and yet by not asking for help the answer is already no. In Spanish they have an expression “El no ya lo tienes” which literally translates to “The no you already have it.” If you ask or if you try then you have the possibility of the yes. But you have to do something.
So, what could each of the Lab Rats do? What could you do?
What are you not doing even though you feel you should want it?
Do you really want it? And if you don’t which is the “lesser evil”? Stopping or seeing it through? Sometimes you’ve reached a point where dropping the project makes no sense. On the other hand you might think it’s worth finishing when really you’re just flogging a dead horse and it’s time to accept your losses and walk away.
Where do you claim to want something but then let fear stop you?
Stand up and shout “I want this!” Or drop it and go find something else that you’re really passionate about. Can Johnny actually say that about his career in clean-technology? Think about people like Madonna or Gandhi (yes, I’m actually putting Madonna and Gandhi in the same sentence). Neither one accepted no. They wanted to fulfill their dreams so much they went out and did what they had to do (guided by their moral compasses) to achieve it. Of course, not everyone wants the same sort of world-influencing dream, but if you can’t say with 100% confidence “I want this” then why are you wasting energy, time and money pursuing it?
What aren’t you tackling because it’s too much work?
Human beings are inherently lazy. It’s a blessing in many cases. If it weren’t for our laziness we’d still be living in caves working hard all day long just to get enough to eat. However, there’s a dark side to laziness – inertia. It’s always harder to get started than to keep going. So, despite our desire to change we stay on the same path, repeat actions that do nothing to advance our dreams (or even hinder them) and then complain that we’re not seeing progress. If you truly want to change, you have to get active. Put your laziness to good use and find a way to create a new habit that will carry you to your dream in the same way your current habits carry you away from it.
Are you actively engaged or on autopilot?
One of my favorite phrases here on the blog is “life is choice” – from the decision to get up each morning through to going to bed at night (well for me the last one isn’t that much of a choice – my body just shuts down at some point and I get no say in the matter). Helen lets circumstances dictate her choices. It’s easier to go with the flow than to make active choices that might inconvenience other parts of her life. Getting out and getting exercise means not working quite so much. Taking time from work means the renovations on the house take longer and vacations can’t be as exotic as she would like. And so on and so on. If you grew up in the 1980s you might remember a series of books called Choose Your Own Adventure. Life’s like that – full of choices with consequences. Are you going to decide what action you take or will you let some invisible author make those choices for you?
How many projects do you have on the go at any one time? How good are you at prioritizing them?
Multitasking has gotten a bad rap in the past century. Ever since the industrial revolution specialization and finding your niche have become the ideal to pursue. However, not everyone is so single minded. Some people have so many interests and so many brand new ideas every day that they can’t function trying to be specialized. And because no one has ever taught them to deal with all these ideas flooding in, they become paralyzed and so do nothing. Fortunately the author Barbara Sher has brought back the renaissance approach to life in her book Refuse to Choose. If you’re someone who likes to do it all, this book provides a way to handle all the ideas that throw themselves at you like a group of puppies in full play-mode. Joyce sounds like she needs this book. How about you?
Where are you choosing safe over happy?
Sometimes safe is important – for example in the basic needs of life, but beyond that safe does nothing but block our desires. Don’t risk, don’t stand out, don’t be different from anyone else. As long as you choose safe over happy then you’ll always feel unfulfilled and happiness will always remain out of reach. Happiness requires risk. What are you willing to risk to gain happiness?
How did you do answering the six questions above? Are you as blocked about your life as the Lab Rats are?
If so then it’s time to do something about it. It’s time to reach out and ask for help. You want to live more and to achieve your dreams. You don’t want to live on autopilot. You don’t want to go through life on autopilot and unconscious.
It’s time to wake up, take control of your life and make the changes you want to make.
By doing nothing you already have your no, so why not try for yes instead?
All you need to do is fill out the Personalized Someday Assessment and I’ll help you bust your Somedays and create the life you want.
Did you know that December is National Write a Business Plan Month? Now, I’m not a big fan of business plans (actually I find most of them useless documents that sit on the shelf and never get looked at). And many of you have no need for a business plan as your Somedays are not business related. However, I’m a big fan of small plans, of deciding on actions and then following through on implementation and in the end getting something done. To kick off this month-long look at planning, Jonathan Beebe of Develop Minds takes a look at the quick way to come up with a plan.
When you set a “goal”, your subconscious mind tends to place it into the “someday” category, even if it’s a short-term goal you have every intention of completing. And while you may complete it as a short-term goal, the chances of failure actually go up when you label it as a “goal”… despite the fact that it’s good to have goals.
Stop for a moment and think back to the last time you went on vacation and enjoyed yourself. Beforehand, what did you do? First, you thought of what to do, and then you planned the big day. When it came up, you went out, had fun, and it felt good right?
You had an idea based on your desire, and you successfully executed it at some point in the future. Same as a goal right? The difference is, your mind is used to following through with plans, but may need much more training to follow through with “goals”, despite the fact that they are basically the same thing.
Plans may change, but so do goals. In fact, I’d say goals change quite a bit more than plans because of the fact that they are more long-term in nature. Change isn’t always a bad thing, however. If you’re continuously growing, many things are bound to change about yourself, such as your interests, and maybe even your passions. Likewise, your goals and plans need to change in order to accommodate your changes, and that of course isn’t a bad thing.
It’s all about getting what you honestly want out of life, and as humans, what we want can change from time to time.
Let’s do a quick exercise. All you’ll need is a pen, a piece of paper, and your mind.
Take one of your big long-term goals that you hope to accomplish “someday” and that’ll be the only thing we label a “goal” for this exercise, and write it down on the top of your paper. Now, the sub-goals, or what would be called the short-term goals leading up to your big goal are going to be labeled “plans”.
Write down your new short term “plans” and decide when they should be executed, and give an estimated time-frame. Put tentative dates, and make sure to plan on executing some of them very soon, in fact, as soon as you can. If it’s honestly a goal you really want, you won’t want to wait anyway.
Below is a simplistic example plan to illustrate the exercise I just described. It’s for someone who’s always wanted to start their own online business but has previously put it into the “someday” category in their mind.
Goal: Start an Online Business
If you take the above example literally it will obviously have some flaws, but it wasn’t meant to help you start an online business, it’s purpose is to show you how to simply change the “goals” you need to accomplish as soon as possible into plans, so your mind actually queues the actions you need to take, rather than just letting them remain stagnant in the “someday” bin.
You can always modify the template to be more effective, especially if you already have a working system set up for getting things done. And if you currently had some pending goals, the “goals to plans” method I described should give you enough of a push to get started on them right away.
Once you start accomplishing the little things that work towards your big goals, you’ll be taking steps toward the life you honestly want to be living, and remember, you can be given all the right information you need to accomplish anything you want to, and be taught everything you’ll ever need to know, but it’s all useless if you don’t put it into practice.
Make it your plan to get started immediately.
Jonathan Beebe is the author of Develop Minds, a personal development blog focused on providing information on how to increase your consciousness, your intelligence, and how to significantly improve your life by making the most out of it.