How can it be that our break from school is already coming to a close? It feels like we were just finishing up finals last week. Whether we are ready or not, the spring semester is quickly approaching, and with it comes a slew of to-do lists. Some items from mine include: order textbooks, complete the two assignments due for the first day of class, get into a meditation routine (a classic, and one with which I still struggle) and attempt a healthier eating routine – who else has that as an annual resolution?
Speaking of resolutions, raise your hand if yours are actually still going strong. Unlike it would be in past years, my hand is up! It feels like the difference this year is that I have tried to heed the now well-known advice on resolution and goal setting given by Forbes and other global entrepreneurs: start very small. It might sound silly, but when I cross things like laundry, drink more water, and meditate for two minutes off of my list, I feel automatically productive and, magically, motivation to keep crushing goals (both big and small) pops into existence. What are your small, attainable goals for your recovery and your role as a student?
According to NPR reporter Anya Kamenetz, when we write down the things we would like to accomplish, – again, no goal is too small or too big – we are “self-authoring” and our chances of achievement increase exponentially. The study she referred to in this specific report had asked the subjects – 700 students – to focus on a part of their life that “helped shape who they are” in a positive way, and to use those pivotal moments as a guide to design a path for moving toward their goals for the future. At the end of the study, the students who participated in the self-authoring writing exercise had completed more credits and were more likely to have stayed in school (and graduated!) than those who did not participate in the exercise. Coincidence? I think not.
The instructions in this study seem to have hit the nail on the head! In making resolutions, rather than focusing on how far off the mark you feel in an aspect of your life (i.e. poor grades, physical health, lack of spiritual connection – if you are wanting one, etc.), zero in on a specific time when you were on a productive path with any one of those aspects. Plug back into that feeling, the researchers encouraged, and use that passion and drive as your canoe (or kayak, your pick). Start paddling, not to get away from what is behind, but to reach whatever you have placed in front of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson, as he so often does, put it very well when he said, “Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.”
As people in recovery, we may have been instructed to spend lots of time reflecting on the negative parts of ourselves, while being told to use the sick-to-the-stomach feeling that comes with that kind of reflection as motivation to morph into a better person. Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds a lot like the first part of Emerson’s quote. What if, instead, we focused on our strengths (empowerment gurus, you know all about this!) and used those as the driving force to attain our dreams and to show up differently – read: healthier, kinder, gentler – in the world. Now that sounds like something I want to get on board with.
For me, maybe the first step in that direction is to grab a pen and a piece of paper and write down a handful of small, attainable things I want to accomplish, along with some sky-high, seemingly out of reach dreams. Maybe, next to those things, I could write down the strengths I possess that might help me get there. Sprinkle in some support from loved ones, and it looks like I just charted a map that will get my canoe and me quite a long way.
Now, where is your pen and piece of paper?
Life of Purpose Treatment
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