Wednesday, October 16, 2013

2014 Goals Starting Now: Life, Balance, Simplicity

For 2014, starting in November 2013, my focus is going to be sharply different than in the past. I need to focus on different aspects of my life. I have been spending the last month reflecting on why my stress levels were so high, my creativity was so low and my creative drive was gone.

My life is typically like a pendulum, extreme in one direction or the other. And right now the pendulum has be way off in one direction. It is time to make a real effort to center myself. This means making sure my life doesn't swing in the opposite direction.

So in an effort to find that center, I have three focus points for the coming year; Life, Balance, Simplicity

I will focus more prioritizing what is truly important in my life. My family, my health and my art is where my focus will be first and foremost.

My wife and children are the most important things in my life. And in the last half-decade my wife and children has fallen down on my list of priorities, most of the time coming second or third, and have been sacrificed time and again in the name of other obligations. 2014 is going to see a shift in this prioritization which is going to require me to ensure that happens. This means that my own perceptions of the expectations on me will have to change. This is going to be difficult, but it is something I need to do. Moving forward my family is getting 4 evenings a week of my time; unplugged and not distracted, unconditionally.

Additionally, I was so busy this year that my own backyard went without the maintenance it needs so badly, as did many other household things. If something wasn't left in disrepair it is because my wife picked up my slack. This too is changing. So one day per month is being dedicated to home/yard maintenance. This will be the last Saturday of each month.

Sunday is going to be my day of rest. Rest is important for me. It allows me to recoup from a typically exhausting week. It allows me to vanquish my stress built up from the previous week. A day of rest allows me to prepare for the coming week. This doesn't necessarily mean sitting on my ass all day, it means focusing on healthy aspects of my life; friends, family and art.

My health has gotten to a point that if I don't make a change now, I won't be around for my family and friends much longer. I need time and energy to focus on both aspects of my health; mental and physical. Energy is almost as hard to come by for me as time is for everyone else, so this is going to require me to again shift my priorities to ensure I have the energy to spend on improving my health. I am going to dedicate 1 hour a day, three days a week, to my own mental health and another hour to my physical health, again three days a week, via exercise and meditation/writing. This will leave me with that seventh day for rest.

My art has been ignored now for far too long. Personal projects have been ignored and set aside for other priorities for far too long. This has created an imbalance, because at the heart of my being, creating is simply for me; breathing. I haven't been able to breathe as much as I need to for far too long, I am either out of breath or have stopped breathing altogether for very long stretches. As an example, the last time I picked up my camera to shoot with intent of creating art was in August and my results then were ho-hum. Creating provides me an expressive outlet and a way to release stress and find satisfaction in this world. Creating helps with emotional balance, e.g. mental health. I have projects that I need to get developed, simply for me, and I need time and energy to develop these.

Balance is finding that place in life where things are in equal proportions. My health is poor, my art is ignored, my family is sacrificed and at the end of the day, I am exhausted with no energy for anything or anyone. My life is imbalanced. Balance requires saying yes. At the same time balance requires saying no. No has always been a difficult word for me to use. I love saying yes, but to the point that yes becomes too much, even for me. My life over the past decade has been far too many yeses and in doing so I have been passively been saying no to other, more important things, without actually saying no. In my quest for balance, my yeses are going to based on the following evaluation:
1. Does this yes involve me sacrificing my relationships with family/friends?
2. Does this yes involve me sacrificing my dedication to my personal health?
3. Does this yes involve me sacrificing my dedication to my personal art?

If the evaluation requires a sacrifice of two or more of those three things, the answer will likely be no, but not automatically.

I know that this is something new to consider for some. And while my "No(s)" will obviously impact many people, it will positively impact the people in my life that truly matter my family and friends. Each request for obligation will be evaluated and measured against what is happening at the time, so please don't think that

I need to return to a keeping my life simple. I can't take on these over-zealous projects of epic proportions. I can't physically keep up with the demands of a life that requires me to be on the go for 5 straight months 16 hours a day.

Simplicity for me is about having time away from the demands of others. Time where I can just sit back and not stress about what isn't being done and who isn't doing it, what needs to be done and why it needs to be, and being available to everyone all the time via text, email and phone. This will stop. If need be, people can wait a day or two before I get back to them. I have to accept that and own that. This doesn't mean that people can't contact me, it means I own how and when I respond to them. See how simple that is?

In my quest to find simplicity I am going to let go of my self-applied pressures to go big or stay home. I am going to hand ownership of things to others. I am going to tell myself I don't have to be everything to everyone all the time. I am going to focus on those individuals and projects that are important.

Big Question
So the big question on everyone's mind, including my own, is what does this mean to SDPG? It is obvious that SDPG is important to the community that it serves and it is important to me. But at the same time it has been a source of much of the imbalance in my life. It has also been a source of rewarding accomplishments, valued friendships and tremendous growth for me.

I won't be abandoning SDPG, but my involvement will change, which means my role will be redefined. I will let go of some of my "ownership" of the group. I hope that wasn't read wrong. I do not own the group? I have never owned the group, but I have taken a personal ownership of the success of the group and that is the ownership I am referencing. I want to make this clear; SDPG is not my group. SDPG is a group that I belong to. Five years ago I joined the group to grow my photography skills and meet like minded people to learn with. A few months later I was unwillingly thrust into a leadership role within the organization.

Now I realize that I used the words "unwillingly thrust into a leadership role". I know that this could come with some misinterpretation so I would like to clarify what I meant.

I didn't know enough about photography to lead a photography club. I didn't know the first thing about leading any club, let alone a photography club. I was not a people person. I was not a public speaker. I was unreliable as hell. I was simply a person who found something special in the SDPG. I was simply a person who didn't want SDPG to go away when the original leadership needed to focus on the health of his family. I was asked to take on a leadership role in the organization and stepped up to ensure it would be around for a little while longer. And my first order of business was to recruit six others to help lead the group, two of which were previously helping lead one aspect or more of the group.

As a result of my role, I learned more about photography in the first year than I had in the previous 16 years combined. Why? Because I had to teach others, so I needed to know what the hell I was talking about. As a result of my role, I learned about how to run a small organization (mainly through trial and error; and boy did we make a lot of errors.). I learned about how to deal with growing pains of a group as its size grew at a rapid rate. As a result of my role, I learned how to deal with my anxiety around other people. As a result of my role, I learned how to publicly speak and be comfortable with it, mistakes and all. As a result of my role, I learned how to be reliable by meeting my commitments.

I have learned so much from SDPG and for that I am eternally grateful. But alas, I have taken the group as far as I can take it. I have hit a barrier as far as my own capabilities and availabilities. The group needs more, deserves more and is eager for more. There is the catch. My availability doesn't match the growing needs of the group. I have stretched my rubberband of time (availability) and stressed it to the point of breaking. This summer is when I felt that rubber band snap back and bite me; in a alarming way.

I talked with my friend, and one of the fellow leaders of the SDPG, Rick, and together we decided I needed to take the entire month of October off, which happened for the most part. And during this time I reflected on what I can do for the group moving forward and equally important, what I won't be able to do for the group to ensure I can meet the three objectives for 2014 outlined above.

So I will be working with the group to establish boundaries. I will be working with the group to identify additional leaders who can step in and take on events/tasks that I won't be able to do next year. I will be working with the group to get others to own planning and executing events. This requires me to let go, to hand off, to trust. The needs of the group are simple; teach/learn/shoot/often. All the group needs is people that find the group as important as I did five years ago.

SDPG has a strong membership with quality people who are as passionate about the group and photography as I was when I started with the group. It is time for those members to be given the chance to step up and help take the group to the next level.

So as I head into November; life, balance and simplicity will be my modus-operandi.

Hello. My name is Steven and this is my art. This is me breathing.

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