Showing posts with label life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label life. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Finding Balance in Daily Life

by Dallas Woodburn

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about balance. One of my favorite quotes {which I might have shared on here before, I can’t remember} is from the late, great coach and teacher John Wooden. He said the two most important words in the English language are “love” and “balance.” I think that is so true, and yet balance can be really difficult to achieve. Especially in the fast-paced, multi-tasking-obsessed, constant-communication world we live in these days. It’s so easy to get sucked into the void of doing, doing, doing; more, more, more; faster, faster, faster.

Balance is something I am continually striving for. My work ethic is a quality I am really proud about, yet this is something that can easily slide off-balance. When that happens, I become a stressed-out, perfectionist workaholic. That is not who I want to be or how I want to spend my time!

So I’ve been taking some time each day to focus on balance. Find my center. Close my eyes, take a few deep breaths, and think of all the things I love about my life. I think about who I want to become. The hard work I plan to put in, the goals I want to accomplish–but also the fun things I wish to do, too. The places I want to travel. The fun books I want to read and movies I want to see and concerts I want to go to. The random treasures I want to take advantage of in everyday life: the awesome pinball arcade Mike & I stumbled upon, the nature trail along the river, the plethora of local restaurants we want to try out.

I’ve started to think about balance as a day-by-day thing, something I am working towards each and every day. For me, a good day does mean putting in two or three or four solid hours of work on my thesis draft. But it also means other things, too: relaxing with my sweetie on the couch watching an episode of The Wire; letting my mind wander while I try out a new dish in the kitchen; going for a long walk around the neighborhood; catching up with my family or friends on the phone; laughing till my stomach hurts over a hilarious video on YouTube; making my way through the stack of good books on my bedside table; and on, and on. A truly good day, to me, means a balanced day. I have discovered that I feel the most fulfilled and joyful and content when my life is balanced.

I saw this cartoon in a recent issue in The New Yorker and I wanted to share it here because it seems super appropriate not just to the theme of this blog, but also to the idea of balance. {Many thanks to my boyfriend Mike for helping me when the scanners at school tried to thwart my efforts!}



This cartoon made me smile, but it also gave me pause. I started my new organization blog because I wanted to become more organized in my daily life, while also saving money and time. But I never want organization to become a source of stress, or to feel pressure for perfection. My life and my apartment have become a little more organized in the past few months. I’m making progress. I’m trying new things and cooking more meals at home and flexing my newly developed decorating muscles. But my life will never be perfectly organized. I will never be that woman in the cartoon.

And I think that’s a good thing.

I’m not striving for perfection. I’m striving for balance. To me, love + balance = happiness.

What’s your happiness equation? How do you find balance in your busy life?

Dallas Woodburn is the author of two award-winning collections of short stories and editor of Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three years in a row and her nonfiction has appeared in a variety of national publications including Family Circle, Writer's Digest, The Writer, and The Los Angeles Times. She is the founder of Write On! For Literacy and Write On! Books Youth Publishing Company and is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Fiction Writing at Purdue University, where she teaches undergraduate writing courses and serves as Fiction Editor of Sycamore Review. Many of her short stories are compiled online here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Goal-setting in the New Year

For me, January is always a time to reflect on the old year and prepare for the new one. I love this quote from Jim Rohn: "Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment." That is so true, and great motivation when striving after your goals day by day.

Another thing to keep in mind when setting goals is to be cognizant of all areas of your life. As Coach Wooden said, "The two most important words in the English language are love and balance." With that in mind, I like to break up my goals into different sections: goals for my writing, goals for my nonprofit organization Write On! For Literacy, and general goals for a healthy, balanced life. Here are some examples in each category:

Writing Goals
  • Write 400 words every day.
  • Complete new novel manuscript.
  • Submit to a literary magazine every other week.
  • Write a three-act play.
  • Read at least half an hour every day.
Write On! Goals
  • Send out a newsletter every month.
  • Be a guest speaker at 8 schools/organizations.
  • Create a Write On! DVD.
  • Start a Holiday Book Drive at Purdue.
Healthy Life Goals
  • Exercise three days a week.
  • Learn to cook 10 new healthy recipes.
  • Plant a garden.
  • Do at least one act of kindness every day.
  • Count my blessings every night.
I've heard that the best goals are both measurable and attainable. Instead of saying, "In 2012 I want to write more" set a plan of action of how you will do this. The word "more" is so vague -- how much do you want to write every day? Do you want to measure your writing by time, i.e. one hour every day? Or would you be more motivated by a page or word count? Make sure the goal is attainable -- you don't want to feel defeated or overwhelmed -- but once your goal is set, try to be firm with yourself. Stick to it! Here is a website that I find really helpful and motivating in tracking my progress on my goals: www.joesgoals.com. Even after a long day, I'll put in the work to get that little green check-mark! :)

Something I am trying for the first time this year is breaking down my year-long goals into month-by-month goals. It helps me get a handle on more daunting projects by planning out how I want to move forward month by month. For example, one of my writing goals is to finish the current novel manuscript I am working on. I have a goal of writing a certain number of pages every month.

I am also a believer in daily to-do lists -- it feels so good to cross things off my list! -- but I think month-by-month goals are more flexible for those inevitable times when life gets crazy. For example, maybe I won't be able to write much for a few days during midterms, but then I can make up for it the next week and still be on track for my monthly writing goal.

What are your goals for 2012? How will you make them happen?

I'll close with another of my favorite quotes from Coach Wooden: "The journey is better than the inn." Here's wishing you a masterpiece of a journey in 2012!

Dallas Woodburn is the author of two award-winning collections of short stories and editor of Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing. Her short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize three years in a row and her nonfiction has appeared in a variety of national publications including Family Circle, Writer's Digest, The Writer, and The Los Angeles Times. She is the founder of Write On! For Literacy and Write On! Books Youth Publishing Company and is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Fiction Writing at Purdue University, where she teaches undergraduate writing courses and serves as Assistant Fiction Editor of Sycamore Review.

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