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on focus

Every few years, when I sense that life may be evolving a bit more quickly than usual, I spend some time re-writing my personal mission statement. I spend a few days reflecting and re-working a short outline of my deepest values and goals in life. It’s about a page long, and the first section reads:

To live a simple and authentic life.
To share my interests in philosophy (wisdom) and photography (beauty) with the world.
To trust my intuition and encourage others to do the same.
To remain focused in order to develop my gifts fully.

The first line sets the tone. The second defines my areas of interest. The third reminds me of my relation to others. And, the fourth challenges me to work hard and stay true to myself.

These four goals are essentially a list of values, interests, gifts, and actions, and I’ve found it incredibly rewarding when I remember to make them priorities in my life. They do, however, require me to make a few sacrifices, because in order to do each of them well, I have to cut certain things out of my schedule.

For example, if I want to live a simple life, I have to remember that “less is more” and that mental, physical, and emotional clutter tends to drain my energy. I have to remember not to buy a bunch of things that I really don’t need or to become distracted by things that other people may want me to have. For me, creating and embracing a healthy sort of emptiness is important and provides me with room to grow. Without the occasional quiet Saturday or Sunday afternoon, I don’t have the time to let my mind wander, or let my eyes see the world in a different way. I don’t have time to digest my perceptions and plan my next projects. For me, simplicity is mostly about doing a few things well, instead of being a busy-body who never accomplishes anything substantial or lasting.

The second thing I have to remember is to share my deepest interests with others – which is hard for me at times. Somehow, over the years, I’ve developed a tendency to hide my favorite things from people. I think the seeds of this bad habit were planted way back in my childhood, and then reconfirmed and legitimized by a few miscommunications as an adult. It seems like I’ve always had competing voices in my head - one pushing me to open up, and the other coaxing me to keep things safely hidden away. But, thankfully, over the years, I’ve learned that risking disapproval or misinterpretation is the only way to find the best kind of friends, the kindred spirits who can relate and understand. I’ve also learned that no matter how self-reliant I have become, a sense of community is still important. And while I’ve slowly accepted that my writing isn’t really all that interesting to a lot of people, simply sharing it with a few friends can be very rewarding.

My third goal is to follow my intuition and to encourage the people around me to do the same. This is another hard one though, because usually when I follow my intuition, I have to be willing to do things that might initially seem crazy to other people. Maybe that’s why following it requires a willingness to embrace one’s eccentricities and risk being ostracized by people who are afraid to be different. It’s funny how, as social creatures, we all have a tendency to conform to the people around us. Maybe that’s why having the courage to follow our intuition may be one of our most powerful accomplishments. After all, what is more important than learning how to guide ourselves through challenges that lead us to making the big, pivotal decisions in life? Isn’t it better to be happy on our own true path than to be unhappy following the crowd?

And finally, my last goal – the title of this essay - is to stay focused and to commit to a work ethic consistent with the content of my writing. Staying focused is one of my primary goals because it’s about achievement, and it’s about remembering to address timeless, universal themes in a writing style completely my own. Sometimes I am amazed by how prolific some writers are, and I’m amazed by their ability to write so consistently and with such regularity. But, then I also remember that other writers may have different goals than I do. They may be trying to write an entertaining story that sells thousands of copies to people who are looking to escape into their imaginations while relaxing on a beach somewhere far from home. Or, they may be writing a blog or a journal about their daily thoughts and activities. Or, they may be writing for a newspaper or a magazine – discussing local happenings or political events. I wonder how many writers are trying to write about our deepest, most fundamental human values. I’m sure that there are more than a few of us, and I’m sure that many are doing it in their own unique way. But, I also know that none of them have lived my life or walked in my shoes, and that’s why my work seems worth it.

While I am thankful for the many different types of writing in the world, I think the kind I’m most interested in is the kind that embodies the goals I hold dear: the kind of expression that is simple, wise, intuitive, and focused. My mission isn’t to be the most popular writer or even the most successful in the economic sense. My mission, rather, is to simply be thoughtful and true, and perhaps in doing so, subtly encourage others to do the same.

Reader Comments (3)


November 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPat

The most thoughful resolutions of have encountered. Your writing makes me contemplate my own existence and purpose.

January 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermary b

Thanks Pat and Mary.

January 3, 2012 | Registered CommenterStillbook
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