It’s a beautiful new year, full of promise and high hopes! Time to put the past behind us and focus on what’s ahead.
What is ahead? My first and only FULL YEAR in Armenia as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
Right now, I have a lot of extra time on my hands, because my college is on break until February. Filling that time… well, that’s always been a little hard for me. When I have days upon days upon days with no schedule, no work, no commitments, no responsibilities… well, imagine that for yourself! What would you do? Honestly, think about it. Even (or maybe especially) if you are really really busy in your life, working, maybe taking care of kids, full of social engagements and obligations, imagine having a month of “freedom” to do what you want. The first few days are amazing. You can relax! There is nothing you have to do! You can sit and read your book from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed, and no one will bother you.
But after the first few days, you realize you are getting bored. You don’t know how to not be busy. You feel like you’re aimlessly floating around the house, wanting someone to demand something from you, so you have purpose. But there is no one who needs you for anything right now. Your time is your own and you have too much of it. YOU HAVE TOO MUCH TIME. Not always the most wonderful thing in the world.
I have been here before, and have tried different things to get myself moving. A schedule. A daily “To Do” list. Letting the day unfold without direction from me. But, looking back, none of these things has worked for me, and my days would end with me feeling like I wasted my time on unimportant things.
I have not been working toward any goals.
I can break my days into small to do lists, but the lists don’t contribute to any larger pictures, so I feel like a lot of the tasks I do are ultimately worthless. Yes, I can clean my room, call someone, go to a coffee shop, answer email, edit photos, write in my journal, go for a walk, etc., but for what? Where’s the motivation to continue doing this stuff? I need to set bigger goals, so I can keep track of what I’m doing, and be able to tell if I am moving forward. And so I CAN move forward!
I realized this after reading a blog called “Personal Excellence,” specifically the article about “Sleepwalking Your Life Away.” I’m not a total sleep-walker. I mean, I have to give myself some credit for joining the Peace Corps. But #4 on the list, “Engage into non-value added activities,” struck a chord with me. This is why I feel “unproductive” day after day, because, ultimately, my piddly little daily tasks are not adding up to anything. I realized that if I continue on my current path, I will turn sleepwalking into a habit, and I do not want to go that direction.
All this explanation to say, I finally sat down and set some personal goals! I have five of them. They are concrete. They fulfill several different areas of my life I would like to work on. The deadline is April, 2014: about a year and a half after I am finished with Peace Corps. I wrote down my goals with different colored markers and posted them on my bedroom wall, to look at every single day.
Here is what they are:
1. I want to write something significant for other people to read. I feel like there will be many published books in my future, and realize it’s time to begin working toward a concrete topic to keep myself on track.
2. I love being musical. I love the idea of being able to take out an instrument and play to my hearts’ content without being frustrated that I don’t know enough songs or enough techniques to enjoy the experience. The way to get past that? Practice! I have just the book to practice from and give me an attainable goal.
3. This website is important to me. It’s an excellent medium in which to share my stories and photos, and I really hope that other people get something out of coming here. Inspiration for their own lives, hope for the future, ideas for travel, a brief moment in time where they forget the noise around them and dream of faraway places, reassurance that others are in the same boat, gratitude that their lives are pretty good. If this site is worthwhile, I would like to build up my web traffic, so that more people have the opportunity to experience all of the above. What’s a doable number, that doesn’t intimidate me too much? I’m not sure, but I’ll start with 250 a day. Ideally, I’d like it to be much more, but on this one, I’ll start smaller.
4. I never want to be tied down to a job that I have to work in order to have enough money to live. So far, I haven’t been. But I haven’t exactly been rolling in the dough, either. And I have also been trading my time for money–something that I do not want to do forever. So, huge goal: create passive income. This is the one I probably know the least about and have the least already in place to make happen. But I am going to go for it anyway. Increasing my blog traffic will probably be a step in the right direction, if I want to make passive income online.
5. Finally, I need something to satisfy my heart. I just need a little reminder to come out of my shell and help other people. For example, the other day, I was walking down the street and saw a man whose bag of mandarins had split open and were spilled all over the sidewalk. He was bending over to pick them up, and there was another man also helping him. A lady walked past them, towards me and made no move to help. So as I walked past, I just stepped over a mandarin and continued walking. I justified it. Well, she didn’t help, either. I know, terrible of me. I felt bad. What’s 20 seconds of my time, to help someone out? So this goal is a reminder to be generous and giving. The number? Not that important, but if I don’t make it to 100 in 2 years, something is seriously wrong with me and I’ll need to take a good, hard look at myself in the mirror.
With each of the five goals I have listed above, I made another list of things I can do in order to help myself reach them. I also made a list of specific things I want to accomplish every single month, such as write at least 4 blog entries and write 5 pages of my upcoming book. This will help keep me on track towards meeting my main goals.
All of these lists and goals are going to give me rhyme and reason to my daily tasks, and they will help me figure out what to do with my time.
Once I was on a roll, I wanted to keep on making goals: specifically for Peace Corps, for my work at the college, for travel, for just this upcoming year, for my relationships, for my health, for life after Peace Corps, etc. But I was afraid that if I made too many specific goals that I would be completely overwhelmed and unable to work towards any of them. So I stopped at five.
And then, for fun, I updated my “No Regrets” list, to remind myself to have fun in life and not take everything so seriously.
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