You did everything right: you were nice to others, you went to school, you thought before you spoke, and you followed the Golden Rule. But somehow, things still seem off.
You know that the little things in life are what matter- things like being grateful, smiling at strangers, and being happy for any gift that someone takes the time to share with you. No one has to remind you to listen to the birds singing. Watching the sun set is a highlight of your day. You smile at the babies in stores and wave at them.
But somehow, you feel like life is passing you by. It's happening for everyone else. Except you. You are right where you've always been.
It's not a bad place. Though, you did hope that you would like things were getting better, especially when it seems like everyone else is just zooming by you on the happiness train.
What's Your Strategy?
A few years ago, I was at a business conference. I was excited to be there, but I felt like a fish out of water. Everyone else seemed to have it together. They were doing circles around what I was doing. I felt so intimidated.
Over and over, I kept hearing a phrase, “What's your strategy for _________?” They were talking about places to market, like Facebook and Twitter and the like. I heard them talking and thought, “Strategy? What do you mean? Don't you just share? Don't you just post something and hope it takes off? Isn't there luck involved?”
I never got close enough to hear what their strategies actually were, but I knew I needed some strategies myself. I had no clue where to start. But by golly, I was going to have some strategies, too!
Time passed, and I was overwhelmed by the things I had to do. I still wanted to have a strategy, but I put it to the side…until I started playing solitaire to escape from some of the pressure I was feeling.
Discovering My Strategy
Solitaire? I know, I know. The default game on every single device that you purchase. The thing that you click and click and click and hope that you are dealt a good hand of cards.
I would get so close to winning, but the cards just weren't happening. No matter how many times I kept going through the deck, I couldn't get those cards to all match up and bounce all over the screen so I could win.
I put down my tablet, and went about my day. That evening when I grabbed it again, I saw those cards. Oh, so close. Shaking my head, I went to click to deal the cards again, when I noticed an option I hadn't paid attention to before, “Replay.”
You mean I could try again? Maybe I would do something different so I could win this time?
Eagerly, I clicked and after several retries, I won.
This became my new quest: to not give up, no matter how crappy the hand was that I was dealt. I was going to replay as many times as it took to win.
Before long, I came up with new things to try. And in the back of my mind, I heard this faint whisper, “What's your strategy?”
Over and over, I clicked on the cards, trying them here and there.
The whisper grew louder, “What's your strategy?”
“WHAT'S YOUR STRATEGY?”
Soon, I realized that my entire life, I had been playing solitaire based on luck alone. However the cards were dealt, I would simply turn them over and either put them in the lineup, or return them to the pile to be cycled through over and over again.
That wasn't a strategy.
It was just turning cards over. Three-year olds have more of a strategy when they are trying to match shapes than I did playing solitaire as a 30-something year old woman. Sheesh.
As I got bolder testing out strategies, that phrase continued to run through my mind. Each time, I paused and told myself that if I could come up with a strategy for solitaire, then I could come up with one for Facebook.
And one for working on my unfinished sewing projects.
A strategy for organizing the house.
Even one for living my life.
What's Your Strategy for Living Life
Soon, I could see how I did have strategies in my life, I just didn't think of them that way. I clearly had a strategy for organizing the dishwasher. And for folding towels and sheets. And for the days I did certain tasks in the house.
At work, I started noticing how I was guiding my clients towards developing strategies in their lives. From getting out of debt, to healing from heartbreak, to losing weight, to improving communication skills, to lowering anxiety- there were strategies everywhere!
As I sat down to create my goals for the year, I took my recent realization and started working those strategies into the things I wanted to accomplish. Boy, has the change been freaking amazing!
Here's How to Develop Your Strategy for Life
- List the things that aren't going the way you wanted. You might have a few things here. The key is to make sure they are specific, not broad. Something like “getting better grades” or “improving my health” or “being happier” is too big. Instead, try: bringing up my chemistry lab grade 15 points, lowering my cholesterol 30 points, or planting the flowers that make me smile.
- Choose ONE. Only one.
- Brainstorm all of the ways that you can work on this. Write down everything, no matter how silly it seems or if you wonder if that idea can even work. These are all of the possible strategies you can try.
- Pick a time frame. Maybe the end of the month, by your next doctor's appointment, or the following spring.
- How will you track your peformance? Will you record how much time you spend on chemistry each day? Maybe keep a list of the amount of cholesterol in the foods you eat? Possibly you could design a time frame for ordering seeds, planting bulbs, and watering the flowers?
- Use #'s 3-6 to design the plan. Know how often you are going to work on this. Daily? Weekly? Monthly? How often will you check in to track your performance? Decide if cheat days, sick days, or vacation days working on this are allowed. If so, pick a number to limit them. Maybe if it's a holiday, you cut yourself some slack on choosing low cholesterol foods, but you stick to choosing healthy options if you go out for lunch with a friend.
- Put it into action. If you find yourself trying to talk yourself out of it, take note. Is skipping it today the right thing to do? Is there a way to break it down so you can still take a rest, but also do something to make some progress? This is the step when the strategy comes into play. As long as life is going according to plan, it's a lot like just sliding those solitare cards over into the right piles. Not a lot of thought or manuevering at all.
- Take note of your progress. On those days that you decided to check-in and reflect, this is another chance to check your strategy. If your cholesterol didn't go down as much as you had hoped, maybe you add in another brainstorm that you listed in #3. Try those YouTube videos you discovered with tidbits about chemistry instead of just reading your textbook for an hour three days a week. Instead just just avoiding red meat, maybe you increase your fiber. Go to a different nursery and buy seedlings instead of starting them seed yourself.
- Give the new twist a try. Keep repeating! Celebrate each success along the way.
Viewing life as one that you created a strategy for, instead of feeling like you have the worst luck in the world does wonders. Not only does it move you from surviving to thriving status, but it also helps you to feel in control of your life. Feeling like you're at the mercy of whatever gets handed to you keeps you feeling down, and like nothing is changing.
And even better, you'll start to see things shift! Before you know it, you'll create strategies for doing things just for the heck of it! It's a lot of fun!