One Day (a time-left exercise)

Sleeping with Butterflies

Sleeps with Butterflies, a pencil sketch, 2010. All rights reserved.

“One day I’m gonna write a book…”

“One day I’m going to create a workshop…”

“One day I’m to send a query…”

I like having friends of all ages, and it’ll amaze me sometimes that people who qualify for senior bus passes are still talking about One Day. If I’m in Tough Love mode, I tell them to do it now, or to set a deadline.

Put it on the calendar. Prioritize life around it. Make a list. Break it down into little steps. Sometimes, I’ve been on the receiving end of the tough love, and I’ve always been grateful for it.

Grateful because I recognise that I am responsible for putting in the effort and making what I want to happen, happen. If my friends involve themselves enough to remind me, I can accept that reminder and do something about it.

Either I recognise that the desire I expressed was just pie-in-the-sky dreaming, or it really means something, and I have to follow up. It’s one of those two things.

Ready for a weird story?

snow-white-disney-witch

Like this but not like this. First, he was male, and second, he was dressed for the office. I know. Weird.

A door-to-door fortune-teller once came knocking, and, because I was suffering from boredom and cabin fever, I entertained him. In hindsight, everything he said probably had been for extracting more money. But one thing stuck: he said that I’d live to 79, and he delivered the news acting as if I should have been disappointed with that number.

I didn’t know why he expected disappointment. The figure was average for women (in first-world countries). In fact, with my health history, I thought the number was quite satisfactory, even if it wouldn’t reach the crazy nineties that my grandparents lived to. I was also well aware of cancer rates, chronic illnesses and how suddenly life could be taken away. Being given over 40 more years of life (if one believed him) was absolutely fine by me.

Especially now that I’ve lost friends and loved ones—talented friends, creative friends—who never reached 40. And a talented writer whom I knew, just 2 years my senior, succumbed to cancer within the last week.

When I’m reminded of our mortality, the words “one day” no longer fly. I set deadlines, even if they’re years ahead. I write them down, I ask for help during meditations, and slowly, I build. (And I do not assume I’ll live to 79. Though it would be nice.)

The Exercise

From the excellent Psychology of Success, it starts off with a simple diagram that will take 2 seconds to draw. Assuming you’ll live to 80, you shade the boxes to represent the time you have left to do whatever you’ve been pushing to One Day. Sleeping, eating, working and entertainment time get subtracted as well.

Time exercise from Psychology of Success

The above exercise is one I go back to whenever I’ve lost motivation or think I have time to spare. It may be exactly what some of us need. Whether it’s a dream vacation, degree, career or business idea we want to pursue, I think such exercises force us to weigh which wants are Burning Desires, vs Nice Daydreams. (And it’s OK to have daydreams, but it helps to know whether they’re temporary indulgences, vs continual distractions that we’re clinging to to Avoid Failure.)

Not Yet vs One Day

If you’re ambitious (or crazy like me) there may be several big things you want to get to. I don’t let the combined enormity of them keep me from starting. Instead, I line them up like dominoes. I see one step leading to the next, and though I know the going may not be that simple, imagining them as steps at least lets me focus on one thing at a time.

If all goes well, ten years from now, I’ll get to the fifth thing on my list. Having the time frame is different from One Day.

Have you started, or are you still hesitating at the first step?

If you’re still hesitating, when will you start?

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  1. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend recently.

    I value this tough-loving reminder post Janet. And the drawing is enchanting… as is everything I have seen you make.

    Thank you for all the ways you courageously live your creative heart out into our world.