When I was a little girl, I wanted to grow up to be a princess. Or a mermaid. That was my dream. It didn’t come true; I guess now it never will. Some of our dreams are unrealistic, far-fetched, or ill-informed.
Later in childhood, when I reached third grade, I decided I wanted to grow up to be a teacher. Mrs. Mabel Howard created a warm, interesting world in her classroom, and I knew I wanted to live in that world. And I made that dream come true. That dream was attainable.
And now, nearing my seventh decade, I want to grow up to be a writer. And I’m making that dream come true, too.
Dreams rarely come true by accident. Wishing didn’t make me a teacher. Going to college and doing the work made me a teacher. Hard work and determination did the trick. (I know, I know; same old “hard work” story. But it’s true. Had I wanted to be a teacher and not done the hard work, I could not have been a teacher.)
But how do we know what we want? Out of all the things there are to choose from, how do we know which to pursue? In this age of over 1000 ice cream flavors (I know; unbelievable, but I googled “how many ice cream flavors are there?”) how in the heck do you know which one you’ll like best, much less what career or vocation to go for?
First, I think you must dream of the end. Where do you want to be at the end of your life? What do you want to have done? What do you want to possess? Once you figure that out, you can figure out how to get there. It’s like driving—it doesn’t help to follow a map if you don’t know where you’re going. After you decide on Boise or Madrid or Salzburg, that’s when you need a map to guide you there.
So after you know your destination, you can plan your route. I like the planning tools in Dragontree’s Dreambook and Planner, where you plan what you want to achieve in your life, in the next ten years, the next three years, and the next year; then break it down further into what you need to do each quarter, each month, and each week. I’m finding this useful in planning how to meet my goals. I don’t always do what I should, but at least I know what it is I’m not doing.
I’m going to mention another couple of great planning tools I’ve used. Maybe one of them will fit you perfectly. Brendan Burchard’s book, High-Performance Habits, and the planner that accompany it, are both excellent tools for getting your act together. They are more geared to a business or corporate setting than to my retired, creative lifestyle, but they are really good.
And though it’s been around awhile, Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is still great information on getting things done mindfully.
We’re only here for a little while, y’all. When we’re little people, we think seventy is a thousand years away. I’m here to tell you it’s not. I’m meeting it next August. Only took a minute.
So it makes sense to think about what we’re going to do with what Mary Oliver called “your one wild and precious life.” Otherwise, are we really any different from those cows grazing in endless fields or a fruit fly buzzing an aging banana on your kitchen counter?
I’d like it to matter that I existed. Not in some grand, historic way, like the old explorers or inventors. But in a personal way. I’d like, when I eventually die, if I ever decide to, for people to say, “she was kind,” or “she helped me once,” or “she taught me to read.” I don’t care so much about fame or money (at the same time, I’m not limiting God if He wants those for me) as I do about leaving someone’s life a little better because I was in it.
There is so much pain on this planet, so much poverty and illness. I think each of us should ease the burden of others when we can. We can’t fix everything, you and I, in our little lives, but we can make a difference. One on one, person to person. And I think we should. They say at the end, your whole life flashes before you. I wonder if that includes all the times you had a chance to do something kind or helpful and you looked away.
I’m not saying that we have to fix every problem we see. None of us could do that. I’m just saying that as we see things we can do, that cost us little or nothing, that we do them. I’m just saying Be Kind. We all can do that. The world needs that.
One more thing—Dragontree, Brendon Burchard, and Steven Covey don’t know I exist and do not give me money to mention their work, though if they want to, I think we could work something out…
Just one more thing – would you share a time when you did a little kindness that seemed to mean a lot to someone? Or when someone was unnecessarily kind to you and it made a difference in your day? It’s amazing how much tiny things can matter if you’re having a bad day.