I've moved away from setting specific tasks to accomplish, contrary to the goal setting system, in favor of making life pattern adjustments. That is, I have finally found a rhythm that allows me to accomplish vague goals such as "keep the house cleaner" or "spend less time on the computer" or "simplify wardrobe." This new mentality is about improving one's life every moment instead of focusing on planning out every detail. A lifetime is made of moments, not of larger goal-driven sessions, and thus adjusting life patterns requires a more generic approach.
This path seems to work better for me because I have found that I will spend far too much time detailing my plans for improvement and I won't necessarily do anything. The focus of these efforts is simply stated as my recently evolved mantra: be the person you want to be, right now. Too often have I planned to do something and it goes on a list and never comes off, frequently because I get caught up grouping it with some larger task or objective. When I see crumbs on the counter, I should just wipe them off and not wait until I have a chance to do the dishes or deep-clean the kitchen.
The reason the aforementioned goal setting system works is because it focuses on the achievable; the same theory applies here. Instead of specific tasks, however, I've created some overarching themes. Rather than consulting a list or time-line to gauge improvement, I automatically do a mental check when I step out of harmony with these themes. The ideal is not to check these things off, but to always feel good about the ways I am spending my time. The themes are guidance for balancing out my life a little rather than create hard and fast rules. Generally, they are values that exist as motivation for some of my actions that I would like to extend in some way or at least understand better.
Physical over Virtual
This isn't about favoring the physical over the mental or spiritual, it refers to spending too much time on the computer, being technology dependent, and thinking about a task rather than doing it. An example of a thought that would trigger a mental check would be the urge to find something to read; in response, I would favor books over blogs.
Creative over Consumptive
The idea here is that I feel happier when I am being productive: doing my mending is a better choice than drooling over the new Burpee or Williams-Sonoma catalogs.
Independence over Reliance
There are many directions I could take this, but I'll simplify it to two ideas: I should not impose on people when I can do something myself, and I should favor producing and maintaining my own possessions rather than outsourcing. The former is all too natural for me (see the next block for more discussion on this), and the latter is also fairly easy; when I check myself for this one, I am usually looking to enlarge the scope of my knowledge for producing/maintaining goods.
Community over Isolation
As an antidote to the extremes of independence, community involvement is probably the single most challenging thing for me. Again, I take two directions: that of being interdependent within a small community or family and that of dedicating time to a larger local sphere. I desperately want to be involved with my local church, but I find the activities to be dull and often pointless. Similarly, I want to help those in need living around me (both within and outside of church), but sometimes I feel that the manifested necessities are not sufficiently essential enough to merit my concern (which can in turn make me feel guilty for thinking that). Basically, I want to do be able to exchange and interact meaningfully and productively with a local group and also do some regular hard-core volunteering, but I can't find a good direction for these energies. For the former, I acknowledge that I am in a new area and it takes time to cultivate those kind of relationships, but for the latter I am currently at a loss.
Simplicity over Clutter
We're back to the more straightforward: in this case, culling possessions and keeping things organized and clean. Lately, I've been literally starting in a corner and working my way out. I started with my bed-side table, organizing it and getting rid of things that I don't need. Every day, I tidy up what has already been ordered and work outwards: from the table to the dresser, closet, bathroom, and on. Outside of the already organized space, I spot-clean as I notice things. This gives me the liberty to both order/sort things and clean without attempting to totally revamp and cover everything all at once.
Stimulated over Numbed
Quality entertainment is essential; if I can both relax and feel enlarged at the same time, my time has been well spent.
Appropriate Use and Reuse over Waste
This includes the obvious: recycling of materials and reusing items or parts of items. It also includes being frugal and spending time wisely.
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There are many more values that I could include, but that covers the desired changes that I've been pondering of late. No matter what direction one chooses to pursue, I have learned that we need to be the people we want to be in each moment we can or else we will never be that person. Who would ever have thought that goal-setting makes some things harder to accomplish?