My “Stop Doing” New Year’s Resolutions

I woke up this morning before sunrise, heart pounding, my breathing rapid and shallow, and stress like poison spreading down my back and into my shoulders. I leapt out of bed – so much to do! Meditate, journal, write Brazil chapter of book, plan October writing workshop, shop for food at the organic market, hang out with friends, call son, run my accommodations business (bookings, call assistant, update advertisements, etc.), write blog, update website, manage my finances…

I ran around doing a little of this, a little of that, my mind a misfiring mishmash of Should Do’s and Which One First?

I sat on the edge of a chair to hurriedly scarf down a bowl of oatmeal while simultaneously reading emails before I would run off to the organic market, and that’s when I read this and stopped.

“Best New Year’s Resolution? A ‘Stop Doing’ List”
by Jim Collins
http://ow.ly/Uivc

…It is the discipline to discard what does not fit — to cut out what might have already cost days or even years of effort — that distinguishes the truly exceptional artist and marks the ideal piece of work, be it a symphony, a novel, a painting, a company or, most important of all, a life.

This would apply to the book, I think to myself, that I am writing about my search for a country – the Leaning Towers of Pisa stacks of notes which follow me around the world, because there is just SO much information, so many stories…What can be cut out?

What is left, will be the story.

“…Suppose you woke up tomorrow,” Collins says, “and received two phone calls. The first phone call tells you that you have inherited $20 million, no strings attached. The second tells you that you have an incurable and terminal disease, and you have no more than 10 years to live. What would you do differently, and, in particular, what would you stop doing?

He suggests drawing three circles that encapsulate the following qualifiers.

1) What are you deeply passionate about?
2) What are you are genetically encoded for — what activities do you feel just “made to do”?

3) What makes economic sense — what can you make a living at?

Assess which of your activities fall within these circles. Which overlap. Drop all activities that fall outside the circles and emphasize those activities which overlap all 3 circles.

Wait, you mean I can pare down my To Do list instead of adding to it?

Almost immediately I begin to relax.

What would I do differently if I got those two phone calls?

For starters, I’d start breathing again. I would put on the brakes and flip off the ignition while I reassess.

What am I passionate about?
Travel, story telling, connecting people across cultures, learning, friends, community, family, love, spiritual evolution.


What am I genetically encoded for ?— what activities do I feel just “made to do”?
See above.


What can I make a living at?
Now there’s a tricky one. So far the accommodations business and the workshop business support me financially. But to gain credibility and maintain and grow both, I need to write a book. And so the book moves back up to the top of my To Do list.

What will I cut out in 2010?
1. Daily facebook jabberwocky.
2. Hanging out with people who do not advance my growth and love factor.
3. Doing administrative stuff which I hate and am bad at. Hire it out.Things like website maintenance, promotion, editing, home maintenance, finances, cooking and cleaning, workshop promotion and planning, travel planning, bill paying.
4. The accommodations business in Turkey…. Do I have the courage to cut out the one thing that is currently putting money in my bank account? The thing that gobble, gobble, gobbles up so much time?

What are the things that I am passionate about, that I feel I was put here to do, and that will earn a living?

Whadaya know? My list shrinks from pages and pages of scrawlings to these 4:
1. Telling stories – in books, articles, videos and live.
2. Facilitating writing workshops around the world.
3. Time with family and friends and time in my life and space in my heart for a lover. (True, time with family, friends and the lover piece are not money makers, but… wait a minute…If I just found out I inherited 20 million, isn’t the “what makes economic sense?” question irrelevant?)
4. Continue maintaining my health and fitness with daily movement, yoga alternated with weight lifting and dance. With healthy food and more sleep and daily meditation. Because without my health nothing else is possible.

What would your list of To Do’s look like if you received those 2 phone calls?

2 Responses to My “Stop Doing” New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Scott January 27, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

    Hooray and bully for you, Robin. As a long time fan of your writing, I’m pleased to hear you state that life is more about meaning than anything else. I would miss the chance to use your rental agency, but trust that you’d sell it to a worthy successor.

    “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return”

    Be well and keep writing!

  2. Robin Sparks February 3, 2010 at 11:03 pm #

    Thanks Scott!

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