Living Intentionally: North Stars and Guilt
Guest blog by Chelsea Kirk
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, some style.”
One of the great themes of my life thus far has been how to handle the burden of choice in regard to how I should spend my time. I recognize that there is an inherent privilege in this statement; how lucky I am to wake up each morning with so many paths I could travel down that day! But the truth that applies to each of us is this: life is short. Sometimes I feel as if I could live one life as a salesperson (my current life), one as a farmer, one as an author, one as a scuba divemaster, and one as a CEO, and I would still feel as though there were things I didn’t get to try out or pursue.
Not only is life short, but there are certain seasons of life that we only get to experience for an even smaller amount of time. Our kids are only little for a few years; we may only live in a certain city for a time; we get a finite number of snowy winter days (I am joyfully watching fat, quiet snowflakes fall as I write to you now!). And so, over and over again, I find myself grappling with this question: in which areas of my life should I invest my time, and how do I make space to truly relish in things that bring me joy?
“Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.”
For me, tackling this question involves two sides of the same coin. First, it is imperative that I know the North Star I am working towards each day. This gives me the direction to which I should focus my attention. And second, I need to make strides towards minimizing the guilt I feel if I am not Everything Every Day, as we so often feel pressured to be. My overarching goal with these efforts is to be exhausted, but not unsettled, when my head hits the pillow each night.
So where to start? For me, having a coach empowered me to make massive progress in both of these areas in a period of about five or six months. To chart out my North Star, Ashley and I used an exercise call the Wheel of Life to take an inventory of how I felt about different areas in my life (e.g., Family, Friends, Career, Community, Spouse, etc.). This gave us a way to see what areas I was happy about, and where I may want to focus in on making some improvement. Then, we could pick one particular area and direct our attention towards that subject for the next month or two. This gave me the clarity I needed to hit the ground running each week. The Wheel of Life exercise also functioned as an impact measure at the end of my coaching; without looking at my first set of answers, I repeated the exercise. Both Ashley and I were so excited to see not just the qualitative changes I reported in our sessions, but also the quantitative changes reflected in my second Wheel of Life.
The second, and trickier, area that we focused on was addressing the constant guilt I felt by not making progress on my myriad of goals every single day. Or even every week, for that matter! For me, improvement on this challenge came in the form of a book that Ashley recommended to me: Pick Three: You Can Have It All (Just Not Every Day) by Randi Zuckerburg. If you ever find yourself at a family dinner but distracted with your mind on work, and then the next day at work but with your mind distracted on that family vacation you haven’t planned, and so on, I highly recommend you read the book as well. I have incorporated a few learnings from Randi’s book into my daily process, and it has given me the structure I needed to be able to set some things down each day, guilt-free, know that I can pick them back up and give them my greater attention the next day.
My hope for you is a life filled with growth and joy, time with the people you love and the projects that fill you up. If something has been coming to mind for you as you’ve read this essay, maybe an idea that’s been on the back-burner or someone you haven’t called in a while, I encourage you to take a small step towards that thing. After all, what is life but a few thousand morning coffees?
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”