Thursday, February 20, 2020

Try It On For Size

Once you’ve taken the time to examine your life and to determine what aspects you want to keep, what to alter, and what to totally eliminate to create a life that is more authentic, more what you want and can be most productive in, you might feeling discouraged or even apprehensive.

As you look at your blueprint, what you want may seem impractical or even impossible. Maybe you’re simply not sure the steps you need to take — and can take — are the right ones, and you don’t want to burn any bridges. 

That’s completely understandable. And there’s a solution to your dilemma, a way to find out if a proposed change is right for you. 

The majority of changes people contemplate can be tried on for size. Some may take a little ingenuity, but every proposed change people have ever shared with me has been doable on a smaller scale or on a trial basis.
If you dream of selling your 4-bedroom, 3-bath home and moving into a tiny house now that the kids have moved out, for example, you can easily try the tiny-house lifestyle without selling your current home and making such a drastic move. 

If, for example, you are absolutely sure you want to downsize but just aren’t sure a tiny house will be big enough, experiment a bit before you list your home. Determine a square footage you’re comfortable with as a starting place. Measure a space that size within your existing home and mark it off with electrical tape (on the floor). Put everything you plan to sell or give away in a bedroom, the basement, or the garage, and move everything you want to keep in the space you’ve marked off as your new living space. Live in that space for 30 days — or more — to see if it’s doable. If you find that the area you’ve marked off to live in is more than adequate, adjust the tape to make it smaller and try for another 30 days. 

If you find that at this point in your life you can’t live within the square footage of a tiny house, you at least know how small you can live in comfortably. List the large house and look for either a smaller home or an apartment that is as close as possible to the size you were most comfortable in as you experimented. Who knows? Maybe after living in a 2-bedroom apartment for a year, you will find that you’re ready to go even smaller. Experiment again and see if that’s the case.

You may not want to use electrical tape to create imaginary smaller rooms or move to a smaller space, only to move again into a tiny home at a later date. You can always rent a tiny house and live in it on your next vacation.

Do you dream of retiring in 2 years to travel around the country in an RV? You can try out that lifestyle by renting an RV on weekends and on vacation and taking mini-trips. If boats are more your style, rent a houseboat for a weekend or several weeks at a time. 

What if you dream of quitting your stressful corporate job and developing a home business? Unless you have a really large nest-egg to live on until the home business produces the income you need, it’s probably not feasible to leave your current job. But you can “try on” being a small business owner. Determine the type of home business you’d like to develop and get started, working the new job an hour or two every evening and on weekends. At the same time, put as much of your income as possible into paying off any debt you have and squirrel it away for a cushion when you do quit your day job. Sell off any unwanted items sitting around the house and put that money into that account as well. 

Or perhaps you simply want to change careers. Consider what you’d rather be doing and look for either a part-time job or a way to volunteer in that field. A former colleague was, after 15 years on the job, unhappy in her job as a high school secretary. She began volunteering several hours of week at her local public library; 7 months later, she applied for and was hired as an assistant librarian in the reference department. She’s currently taking online classes to earn her library science degree and hopes one day to be a head librarian. 

Another friend is planning to retire January 1, 2021. She has always dreamed of working with children in underdeveloped countries. She has completed the application and screening process of a well-respected volunteer organization that utilizes adults of all ages in its program, and she will be using her 3-week vacation this summer to volunteer as an English-language teacher to children overseas. She shared with me that if this experience goes well, she will apply for a short-term assignment that begins right after her retirement.

These are just a few possible changes and a few ways to try them on for size before making a commitment. 

Look at your blueprint for life redesign. For each change that is perhaps a bit bigger than you’re comfortable making all at once or that involves something totally new to you or that you’d like to try out first, make.a list of ways you can do that and then try out one of them and go from there.

Trying on something for size is a great way to see if a proposed life change is the right one for you.

I’d love to hear about how you’re going to try on a life change or about your experience doing so! Please share via a comment. And if you can’t think of a way to experiment with something on your life redesign blueprint, please share. Perhaps someone in the community has an idea or two that might work for you.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Decisions, Decisions

We do it 35,000 times a day. 2,000 times every hour. Once every 2 seconds.

We make a decision.

Some we make with little thought, and rightfully so. We see a stop sign, and we slow down and then stop before entering the intersection.

The problem is that we make far too many decisions with little or no thought at all.

We are such creatures of habit that even when we have options, we often select the same one over and over, even if the consequences are less than ideal. For example, for many years I didn’t eat breakfast. I knew that starting the day with something healthy with protein was what I should do, and even though every once in awhile I promised myself I’d eat whatever healthy breakfast food I put before my children in the morning, my “breakfast” of choice was usually a soft drink consumed while driving to work. When it wasn’t a soft drink, it was a Snickers bar!

If we aren’t acting out of habit, we often make choices on the spur of the moment. We don’t take the time to consider the options available to us, and their ramifications, until it’s too late and the damage of our collective poor — or just not-best — choices catch up with us.

No matter why or when or in what situation our choices are made, they add up. As Jean-Paul Sartre said, "We are our choices."

It's important, then, that as we make decisions, we make not just good ones, but the very best ones.

But how do you do that?

It’s really not difficult; in fact, making the best possible decisions involves only 4 steps.

First, it’s imperative that you know your beliefs and values. You may be tempted to quickly skip this step because you’re confident that you know what you believe and what your value system is. Do you?

Let’s take a quick test. Grab a piece of paper and jot down your top 2 values, or priorities. If you’re like most Americans, you’ll list God (or faith), followed by family. But write whatever 2 things you value above all else. Now, look at your planner/calendar and your checkbook. Does the use of your discretionary time (the time left over after your job, necessary chores around the house, and sleep) and your money (after true necessities) indicate that you truly value what you wrote down? If they do, good for you!!

When I was challenged a few years ago by something I read to give myself that quick test, I could no longer ignore the fact that I was not making choices that were aligned with what I claimed to value. I wasn’t alone. Several studies indicate that over 90% of Americans use their discretionary time and/or income for something other than what they say they value or, at least, not in proportion to their values.

Second, you must have a clear picture of the life you want to live. If you don’t, work through the Life Redesign Blueprint I wrote about a few weeks ago or read any number of books on life redesign available at your local library, local bookstore, or online bookstore. Whatever route you take, make sure that when you finish, you know what you want and don’t want in your life from this point forward.

Third, be more aware of the opportunities you have to make a decision; in other words, be more intentional in noticing when you have options. Of course, not all decisions required that you go on to step 4. Wear brown socks or black? That one doesn’t require you consider much more than what color pants and shoes you’ll be wearing. :)  But if you recognize that your decision has some true consequence, move on to step 4.

Four, pause and consider every option available to you. Weigh each one first against your own belief system. If more than one option remains, ask yourself which one is the one most likely to take you to the life you want to live. I realize that someone may be pressuring you to make a decision; their may be a deadline involved. Tell the person you need time and, even if you must work through step 4 quickly, that’s an improvement over not evaluating the options at all.

Simple, yes.  Easy, no.

It’s going to require a change in your habits. It’s going to require that you stop acting out of habit and reacting mindlessly.

It’s going to require intentionality.

It’s time for you to join in the discussion. What decisions do you tend to make without pausing to consider the consequences? Do you have any suggestions or tips to share with others that struggle with this? Any examples of how this has worked out in your life? Please share your questions and/or thoughts via a comment.