Open your eyes and look around
Take a long look at the guys standing around you. Look at your brother, your friends, your father, your coworkers. Then see if you can get some insight into what makes up the fabric of their lives. I’ll tell you what I see more often than not. Middle aged guys like myself who robotically go to a job that pays the bills. Monday through Friday, 8AM – 5PM. Get up, get ready, and head out the door to work. Then they go home and run around doing things for their kids. Sometimes they play golf for a 1/2 day on the weekend. Dinner at a restaurant once or twice a week. Mow the yard, clean out the garage, coach baseball. That’s pretty much it. This is what I refer to as the hamster wheel of life. Work to pay bills. Do laundry to have clean clothes for work. Eat to have energy to go to work or do chores. Go to the grocery store to buy food to consume. Get up and do it all over again. On and on and on and on….
It doesn’t have to be this way. The purpose of this site is to provide resources, tools, ideas, dialogue to create a whole life plan. To create a rich and full life consisting of a wide variety of pieces that each in their own way provide value to the total picture that is yours and my life. I got this idea from the wonderful book “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers, Pd.D. This book was written in 1987 and besides being a great all around inspirational book also introduced me to the 9 box concept as a way to build a rich and full life.
How whole is your whole life?
Chapter is #8 and it’s title is “How Whole is Your Whole Life?”. In this she goes on to discuss how many men and women who spend their entire adult lives emotionally tied to their work fall apart when they retire. Or women who make their children the totality of their existence then feel lost and empty when their children leave the house. Or the spouse that puts 75% of their energy into a marriage and then has their partner divorce them. In each of these situations the major factor in someone’s lives ends and they are forced to deal with a massive black hole in their life. And it can be devastating. So the way to combat this is to have 9 categories that make up the major components of your life. Put your energy into these different boxes and if something horrible happens to one of them and it goes away you have many other things in your life to be thankful for and engage in. It impacts you but so much less.
She uses the following categories: Contribution, Leisure, Family, Alone Time, Personal Growth, Relationships Friends. This is her example and works well for her. When I made my own several years ago it looked something like this: Work, Kids, Health, Self Improvement, Marriage, Friends, Family, Fun, Volunteer (my version of contribution). Now I’ve always been good at Health and working out so that I actually cut back on to some extent. I’ve always been a very engaged father to my 2 daughters so nothing had to be tweaked there. Same thing with self improvement and marriage, I’ve always put consistent ongoing effort into both of these. Now where I was lacking was developing and strengthening male friendships, spending more time with my family (specifically mother, father, and brother) and was kind of on autopilot at work. So I consciously reached out to some of my guy friends to do things on a more consistent basis as well as worked to develop new male friendships. I started having lunch and/or coffee with my mom and dad on a regular basis. My brother and I stay in touch much more often. And I took control of my work environment and created something much more satisfying to me both on a personal contribution as well as a monetary level. I defined what was important to me, identified where I felt I needed to make changes, and made them. Now sometimes I try to do too much but that’s always been a problem of mine. But the end result is I have a very well rounded and full life in a wide range of areas. If any one thing goes away for one reason or another, I’ve got many other areas I enjoy and engage in. I’ve created a whole life plan for myself. In your own 9 box you may have some things that I do and probably different ones. I strongly encourage you to give good thought to what your own 9 box (or 6 or whatever works for you) looks like and make the changes requirement to round out your life to have a more whole life plan.
If you are familiar with the band The Faint one of my favorite songs of theirs is called “Agenda Suicide”. My favorite lyrics go like this:
As I lay to die the things I think
Did I waste my time, I think I did
I worked for life
As I lay to die the things I think
I don’t want to regret what I did – and work for life
Sadly that is what many, if not most of us do. We get into a haze of sorts and just sort of coast through life. We do the things that are expected of us – go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, work, retire, die. And as middle age men it’s easy to look up and suddenly become aware all you have in your life is to do things so you can work so you can do things and keep the hamster wheel of life spinning until you realize that wheel isn’t leading you anywhere inspiring. So take a look at your life and ask yourself – how whole is it?
All my best!