Sunday, February 15, 2009

Focus on Essentials

“Anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant.”
— Stephen Covey

Does this sound familiar? There is something you say you want to do that’s going to make your life better, but you never seem to get started at it. You find yourself saying, “I’m going to __________ [your resolution] as soon as I get all of this __________ [other stuff] out of the way.” Since the supply of “other stuff” is endless, your resolution gathers dust in some corner of your spirit. The more time passes the less you want to look at it because doing so makes you feel like a loser.

Or maybe you are making progress on the exercise routine, the work project, the financial plan, your resolution to be more present in your relationships, a healthier diet—the things you know are going to enhance your ability to live the life you want—and then WHAM!, you’ve lost the path and are into the weeds and you don’t even know how you got there.

That happened to me recently. I had started work on the website for my coaching practice, Life Turned On, after having put it off for months. For a few days I was excited about designing the pages, writing the copy, and finding images to use. I was in the “flow”—that happy place where I feel connected to my truth and wildly creative, vibrantly alive.

And then … I lost my way and the project languished, nagging at me while I fell further and further behind on everything—work, contact with friends, self-care, housekeeping. I had gone from surfing this enormous wave to struggling in the undertow, exhausted and frightened of drowning.

Good news! When I stopped to reflect, I was able to see a number of things I had thought I should do that are not congruent with who I really am. I dropped them and resumed work on what gives me energy. I discovered a new way to publicize my groups and got that up and running. I finished the essay you’re reading. The website will be online this coming week. I’m back on the wave.

How can we stay aligned with our best lives, our “North Stars,” more of the time? Here is a place to start. See how it might work for you.

1) Stop

This is crucial. When you find you’ve lost your way, stop what you’re doing. Just stop. Even—especially—if you’re feeling a sense of urgency to keep going. Running faster in the wrong direction isn’t going to get you where you want to go. Step away from what you have been doing and go somewhere where you can be quiet and let things settle.

2) Embrace yourself

OK, this might sound corny, but so what? You’re a human being, having a human experience. I’ve never been successful at beating myself into becoming a better person. I doubt you have either. Take a step back and look at the person who is trying so hard. Hold her or him in your heart and say, “I am with you.”

3) Make a list of what’s really important

Quickly write down four or five things you value. Keep the list short and don’t spend a lot of time mulling this over. This is a work in progress you can always edit later. Right now, it’s time to get oriented and start moving again.

What do you love? What feeds your spirit? What are you good at? What does the world need more of?

Here is what I came up with: connection with the people I love, meaningful work, creativity, health, and spiritual practice.

Consider reserving one or several days sometime soon for a personal retreat to review your life and goals and create a more comprehensive plan. As a friend of mine says, “Be sure to put yourself on the schedule.”

4) Focus on essentials

Make a list of what you think you need to do right now, then cross off everything that doesn’t come under the heading of the essentials above. Let go of behaviors, thoughts, beliefs, possessions, commitments, and relationships that don’t move you in the direction of a life you want to wake up to every day.

Simple, yes. Easy to do, no. Worthwhile, absolutely! Don't be deterred if you hear a voice telling you it's too much. Start small and work from there, but start NOW. As golf legend Ben Hogan is quoted as saying, "Every day I don't practice is one more day it will take to get better."

Today, once again my life feels like a tremendous gift. May the same be true for you.

My best to you,


Practice opportunity: Wild Life
Saturday, February 21 • 1:00–3:00 PM

Ready to go further? We’ll explore more methods to Focus on Essentials, including concentrating on fundamentals, prioritizing your day, rituals to get and stay oriented, and eliminating distractions. We’ll have a lively discussion about how we can practice staying focused on what’s really important and, hopefully, even find some things to laugh about. Feel free to contact me if you have questions.

Cost: $20 for the mini-workshop and discussion

To sign up at click here (There is no cost or commitment to join the group on

For directions to the meeting place: click here