In life, it can be challenging to prioritize our needs and wants in order to reach our dreams and goals. Choosing one path inevitably means giving up another. Taking one action or making one decision always means another choice is left unexplored. This past January, due to unforeseen changes in my domestic situation, I chose to take on new consulting work that required using my energy and attention in ways I never had before and more travel than I was accustomed to. This lead me to certain realizations about how there were limits on what I could give of myself in other areas of my life. My life had turned a corner and I needed to figure out how I could balance my new work with all the previous commitments I had made and with the goals I had set out for myself. I kept wondering, “What must I change to have everything I want?” and “How can I integrate my needs with what I dream of doing?” I began to discover that I’d have to give up some things for others and as I’ve stated before, everything is a trade-off. I want to share how I began to overcome my challenges of having enough time, energy and attention to set myself free, even while honoring those limitations.
First, I want to say that restrictions don’t have to be interpreted as negative. The words “strict” and “structure” have the same root, “strictus,” from the Latin meaning tight or narrow. This is also where we get the word “construction,” to shape or build. So when we feel restricted, or limited, it’s just a narrowing of possibilities or discipline in order to make something more clear or whole. Having a structure or foundation that is set and precise is how we skillfully build the edifices of our life. Dreams and imagination have no real limits, but taking the steps to fulfill them do. Respecting the restrictions you have in moving toward your dreams can actually set you free to achieve your goals. Having a plan of action, with calculated limits in mind, usually proves a winning formula in setting a blueprint for success.
What I have discovered is nothing too new or earth shattering: we all deal with limited resources when planning for our dreams fruition. The main resources we must cultivate, preserve and spend wisely to get the results we want out of life are simple yet profound. Just like your wishes, creativity and imagination are fairly unlimited, there are three parts of being productive that we must honor or enriching ourselves becomes fairly impossible. This is what has come into focus for me lately and hopefully it will inspire you to make better choices, take necessary risks and make the most of the resources you have to get what you want more easily.
1. TIME – Our most limited resource. We’re each given a certain amount of time on this green earth to make our dreams come true. A friend of mine would often say to me, “This is the testing ground and life is a pass-fail course.” That may seem a bit dire, but really it puts matters into perspective. How we spend our time is what determines our success and happiness in life. As an American, we can expect an average of 80 years to leave our mark on the world. That’s a limit we have to respect or we can easily forget to make our lives matter. In minutes a day you can tend to the plans and practice that will generate your success, defining how you spend your life, or you can ignore this resource and have time define you. If you spend most of your life in fear and worry, you’ll avoid your power to overcome challenges, learn and grow and wind up nowhere. If you spend your time bravely, confidently climbing each mountain you find, endless vistas will be revealed to you and life becomes an exciting adventure. Taking time to care for yourself and others, exercise, eat right, meditate, pray, travel, volunteer and enlighten yourself each day will reshape your life in myriad, positive ways. Neglecting such practices by over-working, ignoring your needs and others or abandoning your dreams will only lead to heartache and regret. I’ve come to understand that my time is precious and how I spend it will determine my success or failure, my ambitions being reached or short-changed and the realization of my happiness or misery. Pass-fail, time is your most finite resource and what you do with it freely is what matters most. Check out this video on measuring your life in jellybeans… It will really give you some perspective on how finite our time is to be and do what we dream. I hope it sets you free to make the most of your “free time.”
2. ENERGY – It can’t be created or destroyed; only transferred. This simple law of physics applies to all facets of life. Your cells, the building blocks of your life, only have so much mitochondrial energy to expend before they die. Everyday you are challenged to manage your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual energy to make the most of their life force. If you spend your energy one way, you are limited in how it can be spent another. There’s always a proverbial fork in the road. You can build and spend energy, but there’s not much you can keep for long. Energy moves. It can come in and go out, like a relay, but must continuously be transferred somewhere new. If you spend your energy on fruitless pursuits, what fruit will hang from your tree of life? If you plant, water, trim and feed that tree of metaphorical energy, eventually it will be ripe with fruit. Again, taking time to exercise and play, dream and take action, feed yourself well, rest and relax, refine and shape your body, mind, heart, spirit, relationships, finances and goals will define the energy you have to give, receive and share. Are you an electric or magnetic personality? Do you inspire others or draw them in? Asking such questions can help you get a better feel for how you spend your energy and how to focus it toward what you want out of life. Start putting your energy in one direction and see where that current you initiate takes you. If you have enough faith it will deliver results over time. For me, activity has a lot to do with how energy works in the body and how much I have to do what I want. I’ve found that exercise, no matter how inconvenient at times, always give me more energy to lend to my life goals. Eating and sleeping well also give me more energy to spend. Your health and the love you cultivate are other ways you can increase your energy. Effort can also be seen as a measure of energy and it’s output. We are limited in how much effort we can put into any endeavor and so we must choose wisely how our efforts are spent. The power, force and activity of your life is the measure of your energy. But it isn’t free and how you use it creates your life.
3. ATTENTION – What you focus on grows. As the metaphysical law of increase states, your attention defines what you experience. Attentiveness can seem like an oblique measurement of success and happiness. But, really, it is essential when establishing goals and plans. Attention denotes choice, which is also limited to available circumstances, possibilities and probabilities. And it’s a severely limited resource, too! In this Age of ADD we live in, where distractions have become the norm, where we put our focus and the choices we make become even more crucial to creating successful lives of achievement. If we put our attention on one thing, it can’t be put elsewhere – hence, the failure of the multi-tasking mentality. Our conscious thought and awareness can only be placed one place at a time. Yes, perhaps it can rotate tasks efficiently, moving from one focus to the next in rapid succession. But we are limited in how much we can focus on at once. This is where time and energy come together and help define each other. With limits of the time and energy you have to focus your thoughts and observation, you come to realize that only so much attention can be paid to any one process, goal or intention. Therefore, what you focus on will grow and what you cannot focus on will wither, at least in terms of the time and energy you can spend on its understanding or development. Try focusing on two things at once and notice how your mind switches focus over and over, never truly blending foci. So, if you focus on a goal, with undivided attention and the necessary time and energy required to fulfill it, you will have the increase in awareness and practice needed to achieve it. It’s a great freedom to know you have such limits on your attention so you can learn to focus it toward what you desire more wisely and make the best possible choices.
Realizing you have these limitations can set you free. Also knowing you can only ever control your own thoughts, feelings and actions takes the weight off your shoulders of how others behave while empowering you to use your time, energy and attention to your greatest advantage. Besides your imagination, dreams and inspiration, here are come other unlimited resources that can motivate you to be and do your best: love, joy, peace, prosperity, goodness, beauty, truth, curiosity, healing, kindness and generosity. Let these boundless resources be abundant in your life and honor your time, energy and attention so you can freely be an unlimited success with unlimited happiness.