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I'm a writer, a freelancer, a crafter, a nail polish mixatrix, a tea drinker, an unconventional life-liver, a journaling junkie, an introvert, a chronic-pain-sufferer, an idealist, a geek, a TV-lover. Welcome to my corner of the web!

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Today is Evaluate Your Life Day -- here's some ways to do that!

It's no secret that I've been...unhappy, we'll say, with how things are for me. For a while, I just sat in that unhappiness and didn't know what to do about it, and it sort of just left me drifting around until I washed up in a situation I don't want to be in. And then one day, I discovered the wonders of Life Evaluation!

Since today is Evaluate Your Life day, and since lives are crazy-big and often overwhelming, I thought I'd talk a little about some ways to get moving on the whole evaluation thing. An examined life and all that. I mean, I was thinking about doing all the new-year stuff at Halloween* (or, more accurately probably, between Halloween and New Years) so I don't wind up with piles of unclear time right at the beginning of the year anyway. We'll call this the first step!

If you've been following me flopping around on this blog for a while, you'll know I love workbooks. There's something about having someone else who doesn't have the same brain as me, but who wants me to live my best life, giving me questions to work through.

Here's my favs:

  • Danielle Laporte's Desire Map - She starts with how you want to feel about your life and then works backward to help you figure out how to get there.
  • Leonie Dawson's Shining Life And Biz books - These colorful workbooks make it super easy to find and answer hard questions about what you want, and they're all really practical about implementing the plans you create. She makes new books each year, but other than the calendar, the questions are reusable; I sort of frankenstein each new year with my fav parts from previous years.
  • Unraveling the Year Ahead from Susannah Conway - Bonus, this one is free! This is the link to the 2016 one, but it's super useful for any year.
  • The Passion Planner - Even though this is not quite the planner for me, day to day, it's the one that convinced me that using a planner is a good idea--there's so much awesomeness in these pages, and it's so useful even if you use a different planner, PLUS there's the workbook part of it!
  • The Dragontree Apothecary Rituals for Living Dreambook - This is a new one that's super awesome, and I can't wait to use all these pages as I plan out what I want from 2017 and beyond!
The common thread between all these workbooks is that they're based first in how you want to feel and how you already feel. They're heart-centered. And then they're super-practical. I think years ago, before I started using these pages, the thing I was missing was the practicality--there's always been stuff that helps you define what you want, but it wasn't until more recently that I found all the things that help a person get from the wanting to the having!

And once you have your wants, needs, dreams, goals, values, and principles defined, it's way easier to live an examined life; you're not just guessing, you have actual self-defined benchmarks to compare reality to.

I'm super-convinced that Journaling is the best thing that anyone ever invented. It gets all the noise out of your head, gives you evidence of how much you've changed and what things are really like regardless of what they feel like, and it helps you define who you even are. Putting things into words is powerful--that's why so many therapists start there.

I've had a diary since I was ten, when I got a super cute little daily-page one for Christmas, but I didn't keep one consistently until I started mashing up journaling and planning. I think it's because diaries wind up being sort of just a list of complaints and obsessions, while journaling leans more toward self-discovery just by nature. Some stuff to keep in your journal to help you evaluate your life"

  • Lists of your wants and needs and wishes - Either a running list, or a series of right-now lists as things are bugging you
  • Every time you have some realization or make a breakthrough - Write it out and put a tab or something so you can find it again
  • Discussions with yourself about what you want out of life
  • Journaling prompts and guided journal question lists
  • Reminders to yourself of what you want and need and what your goals and dreams are - Because these things get lost really easily in day to day life
  • Morning Pages
  • Daily and weekly planning - Or at least something about what's going on in your planner at the same time

I include the weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly reviews I do in this category. That stuff is a little harder to define, since you have to come up with them yourself based on what's important to you, but you should ask yourself, at regular intervals and in writing, about how your life is going. Just the act of thinking about and talking out with yourself about what's going on day to day brings everything into focus and keeps it where you can keep tabs on it.

I'll admit that I sort of go overboard with the reviews--but I also know that I tend to default to autopilot and tunnel-vision really easily, and looking only at one thing at a time with no thought to the bigger picture is a perfect recipe for winding up lost at sea!

Plus, there's starting to be more and more planner people who are mashing up planning and journaling because it's useful and treats you like a whole, unified person, and who doesn't want that? Here's my favs:

And I think the best thing a person can do to get their life in line and to keep it in line is have people to talk to. People who are also evaluating their lives at the same time, trying to figure out the best way to do it.

Groups are everywhere--see if your fav bloggers have communities you can join; a lot of them do, usually on Facebook. And hit up google and Meetup.com and bookstores and libraries: find the sorts of people doing what you're doing, and see about where there are groups built around them!

It's work, of course. Everything is work. But the benefits of knowing where you are, how you got there, where you want to be, and how to get there are worth the effort. And building a habit of looking at things every week or month or whatever makes it much easier to keep on track and never get so sidetracked as you were at the beginning again.

What're your favorite ways to evaluate your life?

*I don't know how actually true it is, but there's the idea that Halloween was the end of the harvest and therefore the start of the new year in old agricultural societies, and since it lines up with my internal idea of how seasons work so that Winter isn't cut in half by the new year change, I like it. Plus, I'm a lot less exhausted at Halloween than I am at New Years, so...

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