Paula Levin

#coached6 My December to Remember

So, in the last blog, we were talking about becoming aware of the obstacles in the path to our goals. One of my goals in December was to connect more with my daughter Aliya. One major obstacle is that I waste too much time on my phone, trying to chill out and recharge my energy levels (not the right activity for that!) and letting Aliya watch on her tablet so that I can take a break. In December I had been feeling that this had gone past acceptable breaks to swathes of time in the early evening I could not account for. I truly believe that life is incredibly short and precious and every day is a gift. I know enough people for whom tomorrow never came to make this something that I think about almost daily. I also believe that one day I will watch ‘a movie’ of my life flashing before my eyes. How will I feel about all the hours, days, weeks or years wasted scrolling through facebook or the news?!! Missing out on precious moments I could have been connecting with my family. That thought gives me a persistent sense of unease and so I discussed with Sterna that I need a strategy to stop wasting so much time on my phone. 

Sterna prompted me to ask myself, what am I getting out of this? And one of my reasons is to physically sit down! And rest. And not engage. Because I’m exhausted! “Think about what is draining your energy?” Sterna advised. “Remember you have to consciously add things into your life that feed, energize  and recharge you and keep the life force flowing.” So many of us think that these things (like hobbies) are luxuries and if we have extra time we’ll fit them in. That hasn’t worked for me at all, because once all the have-tos are done, I don’t even have energy to do the things that would give me the biggest boost. But I’m starting to see that it’s these very things that fuel the rest. So for example, if you don’t love your work, are you making time to do things that you do love? (I write for a living but obviously I don’t love some of the work I have to do. But blocking off the time to write this blog helps give me the energy to write the things I don’t enjoy. That means it’s not a luxury, or guilty waste of time, it becomes essential.) Don’t wait till you have energy to spend some time creating, drawing, learning or whatever does it for you. Set a time NOW to do something you love and watch how much more energy you now have for life. 

Another obstacle is that a lot of the things Aliya likes to do are too boring for me – barbies, board games etc. Sterna said I needed a list of activities we both enjoy to start creating intentional moments of connection. Finally, Sterna reminded me that “a goal is a dream with a deadline.” Nachana Fishman had given a shiur at shul a few weeks earlier where she explored the fact that December can become ‘hefker’ lost time, as we all head off on holidays. She emphasized that every journey needs a destination, and that even downtime could be meaningful, purposeful and productive. Inspired by that thought, I decided that the end of school holidays would be my deadline, and that connection would be my holiday ‘theme’. 

My very first goal would be to make the December holidays a time to truly connect with Aliya.  I went home after the session and as suggested by Sterna, sat down to create the mindmap of activities. I decided to involve Aliya, to get her thoughts on things we could do together – which in itself would be an opportunity to connect. Together, we came up with about 10 activities. One of them was a daily walk with our dog Rusty, which has been wonderful on these cool summer evenings. Night swims, bananagrams and many other little points of connection. One of them (my idea) was to finally create her baby album, something she had asked me about on and off for YEARS whenever she looked at her brothers’ ones. 

And that is how, over 9 years after she was born, after being on my theoretical to do list for nearly a decade, I finally printed the pics from her first year, dusted off the beautiful baby album I had received in 2013, shopped for scrapbooking stuff together, cut out pictures from cards I had kept from when she was born, and finally made her baby album! Together. We spoke about her birth, her first steps, what her room had looked like and delighted in her cuteness. It was precious and special and connecting. More conscious of the time I had been wasting on my phone I was able to catch myself earlier, and put it down. And I filled up so much dead time that would have been spent on a screen with rich conversations and activities we both enjoyed.  

Baby album, done and dusted! (courtesy)

Then I had the genius idea to link some boring admin tasks I had been avoiding for YEARS to this goal of connection – as a way to get my brain engaged enough to stop procrastinating! For example, my son Ari had been asking me for 4 years to arrange his passport and unabridged birth certificate, and Leor needed an ID and a passport so he will be ready for Yeshiva when the time comes. Sterna had mentioned the power of partnering with someone to achieve some of my goals so I enlisted Adam’s support navigating the eHome Affairs website (which I really struggled with!) And that’s how I finally braved Home Affairs. (It was awful, but all applications are done! And I can’t tell you how huge this has been for me.)

I also created barmy albums for each of the boys (just need to actually order the photobooks) and I’m finally putting up their barmy photos (have ordered the canvases!). In case you don’t think this is a big deal – my boys are already 17 and 14 respectively! These goals emerged organically for me, but were strongly linked to connecting to each child. 

The goal of connection is of course not done and dusted. It takes daily work over a lifetime, and obstacles remain, but for now, becoming conscious of it, coding it into my daily awareness and setting practical, achievable tasks has resulted in significant shifts and tangible wins – and I feel rather proud and encouraged. Thank you Sterna!

Thank you Sterna! (courtesy)

I also set some time limits with iPhone’s screen time and decided to buy a new book to read as a less addictive, compulsive activity which would be a replacement behaviour for when I do want to take some time for myself. Hopefully this year, I will spend time reading more books I choose instead of the random articles that pop into my feed. (If you have any suggestions for amazing non-fiction reads, pls post them in the comments.)

This week I’ll spend some time ‘looking’ at the other books on my ‘shelf’ and working through the goal mining process with each of them. What about your library of books? Which one is calling to you to be opened and explored? Tune in to yourself. Listen. And get goal mining. And remember a goal without a deadline is just a dream!

About the Author
Paula is a wife, mother and writer - based in Johannesburg, South Africa, dreaming of Israel. She is a full-time thinker, part-time copywriter at her husband's advertising agency, journalist and published author. The former editor of Jewish Life magazine, she is now a regular contributor with a passion for contributing goodness, kindness and wisdom to this world.