Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Be The Architect

What if this beautiful new year, you woke up and realized that you have way more control than you ever realized to make your life and relationships really satisfying? Many of us don't fully understand that in many ways, we are each the architect of our own life. I find this a similar dynamic to how we use very little of our actual brain capacity. Many times, people drift along at work, in their marriage, with their children, and in their own life path. You might feel silently slightly sad, or complain to others, or be aware of a sense of longing which calls you to a higher level of being alive. Sometimes the disappointments and difficulties in our lives discourage our spirit and flatten our dreams. The fresh start of a new year is the perfect time to dust off your hopes and dreams, and figure out what you want now.
This could be your year to commit more fully to the lifelong development of yourself, and to having deep and loving relationships with those closest to you. Life is passing by, and you really shouldn't settle for a mediocre life or relationships. You have to take an active role in making positive upgrades in your life-- it's an inside job nobody else can handle. You can start by taking inventory with the different facets of your life. How is each area working out for you? Here's a check-list to begin with:

Marriage/Primary Relationship
Spiritual Life
Physical Health/Fitness
Living Space
Intellectual Growth/Learning
Hopes and Dreams

Take a few minutes to reflect on the list of life components, and identify the one or two where you feel most stuck. Day-to-day life responsibilities and routines can crowd out our ability to focus on what REALLY matters. If you can think of yourself as the architect of your life, this review is like viewing your life from above in a helicopter, and deciding which aspects of your world merit some remodeling this year.
One important mobilizing next step is to do something different (and hopefully better) in the one or two areas you care most about improving. If you keep handling that issue the same way this year, you are likely going to get the same results. Baby steps are a good way to go here. How about a few examples of doing one thing differently?
If you are not happy about your handling of money, you could commit to writing down all your expenditures for a month, asking your partner to do the same, and meet to go over what you discover and set a shared budget. Being good stewards of our finances, and not wasting money, increases the sense of self-confidence, and makes a couple feel closer. Set a written budget together.
If you and your partner are drifting apart, or you are feeling resentful, carrying anger, or are bored, get moving to make improvements as soon as possible. Most people would hire a mechanic to fix their transmission, or a brain surgeon to do their neurosurgery if needed. A few sessions working with your partner and a good marriage and family therapist can do wonderful things to help guide you and your partner into better ways to work through differences, and ways to help make sure you both get what you really need. Be proactive, rather than suffer silently while your relationship is headed for an iceberg. An action step, like inviting your partner to go with you to counseling to make the relationship better and closer, is an incredibly loving and brave action that helps you both move out of fear and complacency. Over half of all marriages end in divorce. Many others aren't happy. Raise the bar and take responsibility for being the co-architect of one of the special marriages that is different: more loving, mutually supportive, encouraging each other to be your best, and being each others' best friend and lover all along the journey. Another positive step? Plan weekly date nights with your partner.
What if you hate your work? Think about one action step you can take. Take some career assessments at your local college (UC Irvine Extension has such a class here in Orange County, California). This is an affordable way to get some systematic, objective feedback on understanding your preferred skills, strengths, values, and work environment. Update your resume. Join a professional networking group for your desired industry. Information interview a few people who are in a position to make suggestions about how you could upgrade your skills or make yourself more marketable. Think about how you used to play as a child, as there are often clues there about the work you would most enjoy.
In any area you select to upgrade your life, there are many right answers about positive and courageous ways to do one thing different this year. Remember, life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. Realizing that only you can be the architect of your best life, and dusting off your dreams and resetting the course is empowering. Find other like-minded people to encourage you and keep up the pursuit of your life lived fully and well.

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