Brake Point

Life tweets by faster than an instant message, which is why we need a few brake points to slow us down and help focus our attention on what matters.

Ever gone to the grocery store without a list and returned home to discover you forgot the most important item? It happens in our lives, too, when we don’t take time to “write down” the important stuff. We’re so busy juggling activities, responsibilities, actions, and the like that it’s easy to get distracted. Before we know it a few years (or decades) have zoomed past, and we’ve no idea where they went, or what we did.

Here’s a practice that helps one become more mindful and conscious of those truly important things. It’s an annual review of ten key “areas of accomplishment.” The areas are: health, vitality and personal care; financial wealth and prosperity; romance and intimate relationships; family and friendships; spiritual well being and personal growth; community; philanthropy; and play, fun and creativity.

Setting aside time to reflect on each of these areas has multiple benefits. First, it reminds us to be grateful for the things that we do have—a strong supportive family, a comfortable home, steady income, an ongoing spiritual practice, good health, etc. It also lets us be honest about the things that are not working so well—an unrewarding job, an unhealthy diet, a toxic relationship; and it flags those areas we’ve been neglecting—an intimate relationship we take for granted, time dedicated just for fun and creativity that we never get around to scheduling, or the volunteer work we always thought we would enjoy.

Armed with this information, we can consider what our intentions are for each area and what actions we want to incorporate in the coming year to nurture, enhance or modify each of them. Next comes the fun part. Write a brief summary of each area and identify your planned actions, but write them as if they are already occurring.

Here’s a quick example in the area of Health, Vitality and Personal Care: I am grateful for the good health I enjoy. I treat myself with great care. I honor my body, my spirit, and my mind. When making daily choices, I am careful to consider how the action will affect my health & well-being and to choose accordingly. This year I participate in a group workout class each week whether it’s yoga, zumba or pilates. I manage my sleep, getting seven hours most nights, and I allow myself to take a nap when necessary. I make healthy food choices, eliminating processed foods, especially refined flours and sweets. I make mature choices about my alcohol use.

When you’re finished, tuck them away. You can review them at various times throughout the year, or forget about them. When you do pull them out again, you’ll be surprised to discover that you’ve achieved many of the things you cited. That’s the power of focusing attention on our intentions, even if only briefly.

Now that’s something to tweet about.

Author’s Note: This appeared in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of  Life Is Good Magazine.