I Eliminated the Scary Pile…and It Feels Amazing!

For my whole adult life there has been a pile of stuff on my desk. Its synonymous with how I think about myself.

In the pile could be anything: unopened mail, unpaid bills, paid bills that need to be filed, notes to myself, business cards, old to do lists that I don’t want to throw away just in case there’s something on one of them I may need later, photographs I don’t know what to do with, etc.

Sometimes the pile was tall. Sometimes it was short, but it was always there. I moved with the pile. Every time I moved I would say, ‘Go thru everything in the pile before its time to pack up my desk.’ And every time I would inevitably stuff the pile into a box, move it to my new place and put it back on my desk. This includes five moves in Chicago and my move from Chicago to LA. The pile was my Sisyphean task – or at least one of them. =)

Some days I would get ambitious and devote an hour or more (yes it got so big that I would need to devote more than an hour sometimes) to sorting the pile into stacks to help me plan out how to go thru some of it. This would only happen when the pile got so big it felt like a monster with a life of its own. And sorting it did help, but it never helped enough for me to eliminate it.

I can’t tell you exactly why I never completely eliminated the pile. It was a mix of many reasons: poor time mgmt, busy life, a fear of working on tasks, depression, etc.

The reason I am telling you all this is because today 2/17/16 I eliminated the pile. A few weeks ago I got the pile down pretty small and thought I would eliminate it then, but then I got super busy. I was discouraged. It had been the closest I’d ever come before then and I was bummed when it didn’t happen.

But today I did it. The pile is gone. My life is still super busy and tightly packed. And there are other burdens I still need to deal with, but this one is done. Eliminating the pile wasn’t a miracle cure all, but it’s a huge step for me. And I wanted to take a moment to celebrate it by telling you.

I know the pile isnt gone for good. There will inevitably be times where I have to put stuff in the pile to deal with later. But the pile no longer scares me. I know I can eliminate it whenever I want. It just takes time, organization, a plan and the power to execute it. By conquering it once, I removed the fear.

Do you have a ‘pile’ in your life (either actually or metaphorically)? One thing I’m learning bit by bit as that there’s little to nothing in your life that you can’t master. The control is yours to take. All you need to do is understand that and then you can begin the process of discovering exactly how.

Thanks, y’all!

Life Lesson: Actions Define Priorities

There are several lessons I’ve learned in the last few years that have really changed how I look at my life and more importantly what I’ve done with it. I am not hugely successful at the moment, and I may never be even though I’m working hard to become that. However, I now feel like I have a real chance. And the reason is because my vision and procedure feels very clear to me for the first time. So, I’m going to write posts about what I’ve learned. Maybe it can help you as well.

This first lesson took forever to sink in, but once it did it changed my life a lot

Lesson: Priorities are determined exclusively by your actions. Never by your intentions.

You may feel in your heart that you’re a Broadway singer or lion tamer or whatever. But if more of your waking time is spent playing video games than working on your craft, you know that you prioritize leisure time over your desire to realize your dream. Not to be harsh, but even if you really really want to prioritize your passion, you failed to do so. Your future self did not benefit nearly as much from playing video games as he/she would have from disciplined hard work.

There’s no reason to feel bad about that. It’s your life. You’re allowed to play video games. But if you’re gonna do that, just be honest with yourself. Video games are what you value most. It’s liberating if you think about it. I heard a quote once that said, ‘if you don’t care where you wind up, you’re never lost.’ And that’s pretty cool. Soak up that video game time and don’t feel guilty about it. It’s your right to make it top priority guilt free.

However, if you don’t want video games (or whatever takes up most of your particular time) to be your priority then you have to make a change. How do you do that? I can’t tell you what specific strategy would work for you, but here are two possibilities.

My therapist had me fill out a calendar each week. I would fill it out after I did stuff rather than before. Then at the end of the week I would total up the approximate time I spent on my different activities. It showed me what I was truly prioritizing – Netflix.

This was a good technique to help me realize exactly what I was doing at that time, but it didn’t help me to change my behavior. This simply provided valuable awareness. I had to do something to break the pattern.

What I do now to help me prioritize my time to what I want invovles a very large Google document. Basically, I took some time to write out what I wanted to accomplish, and what specific tasks I needed to do to try to make that happen. Now, every night I write out my ‘action items’ for the next day. I stopped calling it a ‘to do list’ because that verbiage made me feel sad. ‘Action items’ makes me feel a bit better about actually taking action. Now, I spend more time accomplishing the tasks I think will help me succeed.

This doesn’t mean I no longer watch Netflix. There are days where I consciously decide to spend more time on leisure than work. I need those. We all do. But I am in charge of when and how often those days happen. Most other days, I spend my time trying to push myself toward my goals.

In the end, what I learned is that there’s a big difference about what’s in my head vs. reality. For example, in my head I know I’m a talented actor/writer. But I wasn’t spending very much of my time doing either. And no one else lives in my head. So, they don’t know that I’m talented unless they see something I’ve done.

I recently told a friend/colleague of mine that the problem with many of my talented friends is that we’re all way better than we can prove. So, how do we prove it? Go do it. Make something that shows off your acting, writing, etc. Go make a hundred things. Choose to spend your time doing what it is that you know you can do in your head.

Again, the choice is yours. If you prefer a life where you spend time indulging yourself on things you enjoy, go for it. But if you want to become something different than what you are, you need to change your priorities. And that means taking action and doing things differently.

Thanks, y’all!