There is a certain little thrill I get when the calendar flips to September. It’s not just that football season is kicking off. It’s not that there is just the slightest hint in the air of the fabulous fall weather to come. It is not even that there are new school supplies flooding store shelves, teasing me with their promise of organization and productivity. As yellow school buses once again dot the streets, as I get back to the classroom to teach body image courses at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, as I send my little guy off to preschool, there is a shift that happens within me. It is the awakening of possibility, the realization that I, too, can summon a new beginning.
While I may no longer be a traditional student, I still love the taste of possibility in the September air and so I use that back-to-school energy as motivation for me to connect with my inner school-girl and kick-off a new year at a time of year when it is not wrought with all the pressure of a New Year’s Resolution.
So, with fall in the air, I threw open the front door on Sunday and sat down to think about what I wanted this new “school year” to look like for me. Want to take a back to school, anything’s possible approach to your fall (or, if you aren’t stateside, your spring)? Here are the steps I walked myself through to set my intention and make my plans.
1. Find the Feeling. How do you want to feel this fall, personally and/or professionally? Spend a little time thinking about how you want to feel this fall because that can totally inform your approach to your calendar, the types of responsibilities you take on, and the experiences you seek.
The presuming thought I had was a desire for spaciousness, a pull towards lingering and savoring my personal life. With that feeling identified, I could start making plans for how to shape my fall.
2. Know the Nos. Given how you would like your fall to feel, now it is time to consider how you build a life this fall that allows you to experience that feeling. For me, the ability to savor is really born, first, in knowing what I don’t need to do. So start there (because, I promise, it is so much easier to say no if you have already considered what you might be asked to say yes to). So make a little (or big) list. What will you say no to because it doesn’t allow you to evoke the feeling you most want to have (to be fair, sometimes we do need to say yes to a thing or two that doesn’t elicit the feeling we want to have and that’s just part of being responsible. Here, I am really encouraging you to also think about those optional things we take on that might sometimes get in the way of what we most want for ourselves. Moving forward, mind the list.
3. Consider the Possibilities. Now, it’s time for the good stuff. What do you need to do to give yourself the feeling you most want to have? Perhaps the feeling you want to have this fall is one of forward progress with our professional goals. If that’s the case, maybe your “to do” list includes finding a mentor, attending a training, reading relevant books, etc.
Maybe the feeling you most want is a sense of wellness and so a few of the things on your list are seeing your doctor for a physical, starting a walking routine, and weekly meal planning.
For me, it meant coming up with a really fun list of things to do this fall- things that are worth savoring. My list includes enjoying a hot stone massage, picking apples, and going on a family bike ride. For more of my list, check out my post on the Fall Frolic.
4. Make a Plan. The reality is that goals are only accomplishable when we visualize the steps we need to take to reach them. A lot of times we fail not because of our efforts but because of our lack of planning. Planning for success is the single greatest difference maker in becoming successful.
So, now, you have to make a plan. For each item on your list, you have to figure out when and how it will be implemented. Depending on your organizational strategy, you might want to put items on your to do list or your calendar. Do whatever works for you, but make a plan (you can be flexible with it later but if you don’t try to build the structure from the start, it is far less likely to happen).
5. Work the Plan. Tweak. Enjoy. And now it is time for the good stuff: living the life of your dreams as much as is possible and just relishing that the journey really is the goal.You don’t have to scratch everything off your list of possibilities to insure that you feel what you most want to feel. What does matter is making an earnest effort, enjoying what you can, tweaking as you go, and just relishing in your personal leadership and the reality that you can create the life you want.