Tick-tock. Tick-tock. I keep looking at the clock, and the calendar, with now just 85 days left until my fiftieth birthday. I don’t mind getting older. And I’m not freaking out about turning fifty, either. A lot of people tell me it’s a big deal, and keep asking me how I plan to celebrate it. And then they’re left speechless when I tell them I have no plans. Because my focus is on today, this moment, and what I need to do to make my dreams come true.
Looking Back to Go Forward
Since the beginning of the year and even a little before that, I’ve been trying to clear away the clutter in my life to make more space for the things that matter. Time is limited and precious, so I’m a lot more conscious about how I spend it. Throughout my life, I’d done a decent job at writing—and being, in general, creative—around a day job. But with my current one, something has always been off that I haven’t been able to pinpoint. It’s just been, or feels, harder to get other things done. And when I took a closer look at how I was spending my time away from work, that was when I understood I was caught in a pattern that, if allowed to continue, would defeat me and my dreams.
The Lesson Begins Here
Time is infinite, life is not. It’s cliché to say (even thought it’s true), but there’s no guarantee of any of us being here tomorrow. If we continue to delay taking action on our dreams, if we procrastinate, if we let others dominate our time and attention—or deplete our energy—we may not get a chance to make our dreams come true. Imagine, in your final earthly hours, that you’re reflecting on the life you did not live. How would that make you feel?
Our dreams, no matter how big or small, require that we take action. And sometimes that means giving up other things in the pursuit of that dream. In Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable, Tim Grover writes, “Ask yourself honestly, what would you have to sacrifice to have what you really want? […] What are you willing to sacrifice?”1
How to Feel Productive
What makes me feel productive may be different for someone else. To feel productive when I first started writing, I followed the advice I’d found online or in books on writing to set a daily word quota. I ended up trying to meet a daily word quota that didn’t necessarily mean something to me. As a result, what I often wrote didn’t always jive with my writing goals.
It’s easy to forget that there are many different parts to the writing process. Sometimes it was better for me to spend two or three hours editing than trying to get down 2,000 new words. Other days it might have been better for me to spend time on research or book marketing. And then on other days, being productive meant getting in that 26k run in preparation for the marathon I’d signed up for.
And while writing is a big part of my life, I also have other interests as well. True, the majority of my daily tasks are related to writing. So now, when I try to measure my level of productivity in a day, I ask myself: “Did I accomplish what I set out to do today?”
Moving in the Direction of Your Dreams
I’ve written about it before on my blog: how I’m working to become a digital minimalist and, consequently, scale back my use of social media—and my online presence in general. To have what I really want, social media is something I am willing to sacrifice. I couldn’t find a way to ‘balance’ it—creating and posting content—with my day job and my writing without feeling overwhelmed.
To live more intentionally, I am willing sacrifice (cancel) my subscriptions to streaming services; and, as a result, I’m reading a lot more books. To focus on getting better sleep and managing my energy level throughout the day, I am willing to sacrifice coffee (caffeine withdrawal is painful and giving up coffee isn’t easy). And to lose weight and live an active, healthy lifestyle, I’m reducing my sugar intake (even though I love to bake and the sugar cravings are still strong), working out every morning for the last 100 days and counting (even though I hate it), and eating more vegetables and fruit.
What Will You Sacrifice for Your Dreams?
Take a moment to ask yourself what you really want. Then think about what you need to sacrifice to get it.
Are you willing to make the necessary sacrifices to get it?
1 Grover, T. (2013). Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable, New York, Scribner, p. 165.