The introduction to Step 9 needs to start with a story from my life, but it is a story that is hard to talk about, so I’ll spare you the details. A year ago, I was caffeine-addicted, not exercising, and frankly, probably not spending enough time with my kids. Life was a whirlwind. To be honest, I can’t remember much of it. I think I was on some kind of “yes” auto-pilot. I never said no to anything. (Short story, right?)
I needed some space. I needed some clarity. I needed to be able to breathe again. I needed to renew.
I can’t claim any originality on the concept of renewal. Stephen Covey outlined it better than anyone ever really could in his book (and one of my favorites), The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. (And seriously, if you haven’t read it, you should.)
The practice of renewal is simple: make time for yourself. You have to be a priority at some point in life. If you aren’t, you’re headed to burnout city.
In the Seven Habits book, Covey explains that there are four categories of life that require self-renewal. I’ve outlined them below, along with some personal suggestions on actions you can take that will help lead to renewal.
- Eat the right foods. You’re fueling your body, mind and spirit!
- Get enough rest. Sleep is your first line of defense to tackling anything.
- Exercise. If you don’t like to sweat (I don’t!), hire a trainer. They’ll help you focus on the right strategies for building endurance and falling in love with physical activity. If you can’t afford a trainer, download an app to track your progress and ask a friend to hold you accountable.
- Take time to review your values. Spend time focusing on how you are living your values, and recommit to execute on those that have been neglected.
- Take quiet time to study and meditate. My faith is a huge part of helping me get through tough times, and I always do better in rocky spots when I take solitary time to listen deep within to Scripture. I love the verse that challenges us to thing on positive things: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
- Reflect. This is an important part of the purpose process. Think the deep thoughts. Where have you come from? What have you learned in the process? How have trials built you into the person you are today? Can you find reasons to be grateful for those?
- As a momma, if I find a quiet moment without kids, I remind myself to turn off the TV, close my laptop, put the phone away, and just enjoy a cup of something: tea, coffee, really cold ice water on a hot summer day. Let the crickets chirp.
- Examine your motives: if they don’t hold up transparently, work on changing them.
- Write it down and throw it away. If you find yourself focusing on anything that isn’t true, noble, right, pure or lovely, document it, in ink, and then shred it or burn it. Get it out of your mind so that you can focus on admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy things.
- Read. Expose yourself to great minds and great ideas. My best “pick up where you left off” conversations with old friends are almost always about books.
- Journal. Writing things down has a healing effect on the heart, and a challenging effect on the mind. I’ve loved writing since I was very young, and blogging over the past several months has helped my spirit considerably. If you’re considering blogging, face the fear that it comes with criticism and it isn’t always easy to get started, but them jump in and just do it.
- Organize. A messy desk is a messy mind. Creatives tend to work well in chaos, but need to remember that a healthy chaos involves finishing things, and an important part of finishing great creative projects is tidying up. If you’re like me and tend to live with twelve projects on your plate at any given time, try implementing the daily discipline of the ten-minute tidy. Or, better yet, turn the task of organization into a creative project, and slow down and enjoy the process.
- Plan. If you’re not a planner by nature, realize that great plans start with extraordinary visions, come to life in realistic goal-setting, and are successfully executed in small increments over time.
- Volunteer. There are needs all over your community, and some of them don’t take that much time. Go serve a meal at a soup kitchen, or take out a neighbor’s trash.
- Get involved in a cause bigger than you are.
- Plan fun things for the weekend, that you can look forward to: a date night, a family outing!
- Surround yourself with positive relationships. Schedule time with friends. I have three incredible best friends. They all live in different cities. Getting together with each of them requires effort on all of our parts, but it is so worth it.
- Allow yourself to feel. I’m throwing this one in there as a reminder to myself. On personality tests, I always test out as highly analytical, which means I can over-think things (just a bit). It is easy for me to replace emotion with logic (and seems so logical to do that!) Emotions can be healthy, though, and I believe it is important to work on finding this balance.
A few other things I believe create renewal, but don’t fit specifically into one of the categories above:
- Turn work off. As a creative entrepreneur, I love working. I love it! I hate leaving it! It’s so important to find stopping points and walk away though. Finish a task, create momentum, and then go have a tiny evening celebration. Don’t work again until the next morning. (No evening emails!)
- Go on an adventure. One of the most amazing trips of my life was in the fall of 2003. I hopped in my car with a friend, and we drove to Colorado for a week. We had no idea where we were staying each night (we found bed and breakfasts along the way), and we put ourselves on some kind of crazy budget so we wouldn’t over-spend. We were there the weekend the aspen trees turned, so every bend in the road revealed more of nature’s beauty (I’m not a nature girl, so that’s saying a lot).
- Create “Stop Lists”. If I start to feel overwhelmed, I find some quiet time and write down EVERYTHING that comes to mind: projects I’m working on, things I need to follow up on, places I’m supposed to go, people I’m supposed to meet, things I’m supposed to do. I force myself to prioritize the items on the list, putting a focus on renewal for myself first. Then, I can cautiously eliminate other items that might be causing burnout.
I know all that sounds totally delightful, and some of it sounds easy to start! Don’t set yourself up for burnout on renewal, though: we have to remind ourselves that to be successful, renewal takes commitment, just like any thing else. Walk into the process of renewal focused on making it a new priority in your life. We get so busy sometimes, that we often forget to place a value on stopping. Commit to pausing. If you don’t stop and you don’t renew, you’ll lose everything. Find the courage to take time for yourself.
Worksheet time! Click image below for PDF download.
Whether you are following along in the Finding Purpose series (and thank you to everyone who has let me know that you are!), or you’re just now stepping into the series, here is the list of previous steps for your reference:
- Step One | Discipline By Design
- Step Two | Fear: Face It
- Step Three | Faith + Fire: Find It
- Step Four | Envision Extraordinary
- Step Five | Go Ugly Early
- Step Six | Gratitude Changes Things
- Step Seven | Choose To Say No
- Step Eight | Finishing Things Creates Momentum
I can’t wait to talk about the final step, and bring this whole series full circle!