Falling Down Dream Steps

A big dream is a great leap from wherever you are now.  If you try to clear that gap in one terrific long jump, chances are you’re going to take a big pratfall.

I want to write a book; a great leap from where I am now.  A few weeks ago I read Stephen King’s On Writing, and decided to give up something that was working for me, namely this blog, in order to work on something that is at least two quantum leaps from where I am now, i.e., writing a novel.

So instead of writing a good 300 words a day, I had one day where I wrote 1000 words, and lots of days of nothing.  My confidence went from about a six out of ten to zero.

I tend to bite off more than I can chew.  Instead of eating the elephant one bite at a time, I make like a python and try to eat the whole thing at once.  When it doesn’t work I don’t change my strategy, I look for another elephant.

That at least has been my modus operandi for the first half of my life.  It hasn’t worked.

So I’m back to what was working for me: write one coherent 250 word essay each working day.  And on top of that, I’m now going to add this “dream step:” write 250 words of dialogue each day.  Once I can consistently achieve both, I’ll take another dream step.

The python strategy is for comics books, where Peter Parker can get bitten by an atomic spider and turn into Spiderman.  Michael Phelps didn’t get bit by a spider, or struck by lightning.  He just followed a careful plan of small wins that eventually led to 22 Olympic medals.

Dream steps are the stairway to heaven.

Fallen from Practice

I’m a big believer in practicing every day, at the same time and the same place.

I just don’t do it.  That’s probably why I’m a dilettante and not an expert.

I do try.  But invariably I have a late night out with friends, or take a trip out of town, or just don’t want to practice; so I don’t.

This is where the planning ritual becomes important:

  1. Reviewing my vision reminds me of what kind of person I want to be, of what kind of life I want to live.
  2. Reviewing my goals reminds me of what I want to accomplish.
  3. Reviewing my projects reminds me of what it will take to accomplish those goals.
  4. And reviewing my tasks reminds me of the habits required to complete my projects.

By the end of that process I am generally motivated enough to climb back on my horse and start riding in the direction of my vision again.

I once found it difficult to look myself in the mirror of my plans once I’d fallen out of practice.  It made me feel like a failure.

I’d go for months without looking.  By then I’d be out of shape, out of tune, and feeling a great deal of stress.  The stress would drive me to look for a solution, which in turn would bring me back to my plans and to practice.

I’ve decided I’d rather feel like a failure occasionally than to actually be a failure perpetually.  So I plan – daily.

My Keystone Habit

According to Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit, a keystone habit is one that is tied directly to lots of other habits in one’s life.  Change the keystone habit, and change your life.

I’ve determined my keystone habit to be my daily planning process.  When I do this every day, I generally get my practice done and keep the main thing the main thing.  When I don’t, the crosshairs of my focus gradually move from what’s important to me, to what’s urgently pressing upon me.  And my practice goes by the wayside.

So I’ve been working hard to make this planning ritual part of my morning coffee time every day:

  1. Review my vision.
  2. Review my goals.
  3. Review my project lists.
  4. Review my calendar.
  5. Review my tasks by domain.

You’ve probably seen a list like this before.  I sometimes think I’ve read every self-help book ever written, and you could find a list like this in one of Stephen Covey’s books, or say Dennis Waitley, or David Allen.

I have struggled with every item on the list.  My step-father was and is a successful business man and a great list maker.  He always kept his To Do list prominently in the middle of his desk.  He had a list for every day, for every job, for every work crew.  He was great at getting things done.

I resisted this key insight into successful living into my thirties, and by then it was a tough habit to learn.

Life would be so much easier if only we would learn from our parents.

Your comments and questions are welcomed and encouraged!