The power of the pencil

and why your plans and resolutions often don’t work out

Are you already thinking about your resolutions for next year? Or are you reviewing the ones for this year, and it looks like once again you only have been partly successful?

I personally love planning. I plan years and months and weeks and days, novels and projects and experiences and all the rest.

And there is a simple secret that makes many of my goals come true: For setting my resolutions I use a pencil. Because the one thing that makes us not stick to resolutions and goals and desires and words-of-the-year or whatever you want to call them, is life itself.

You can have the best strategy, the most beautiful planner, the coolest outline, the most intuitive plan – life will find its beautiful way to interrupt the whole plan and throw you out of your carefully set up process. It lurks around every corner and has the greatest fun clashing with your strategies and making you do summersaults.

Life is like a child. It likes to surprise people.

Life is like an old friend whom you meet unexpectedly. And who doesn’t like that? Don’t let that friend stand there. Go for coffee! Invite them to your house, however messy it is! Let them drag you to that party you actually don’t really have time for. The benefits are many: fun, laughter, friendship, experience, you name it.

If you are like me and you can’t wait to plan 2015, here are three tips:

1. Enjoy December

2014 is not yet done. The whole Christ-mess is still ahead of us. Family, friends, food – enjoy them. Be in the Here and Now and don’t lose grip over thinking ahead already.

Before coming up with your next best master plan for 2015, just sit back for a while and be still and patient. Take mini steps towards fulfilling the goals that are left for this year.

(But if some idea comes up concerning the planning for 2015, jot it down. My personal list for that already has twelve bullets.)

2.Use a pencil

Then, when it’s time to finally get that planning done, use a pencil (literally use one or take this point as a metaphor for being flexible). As I said: Life will come its way. You will have to rearrange stuff because something unexpected will have happened. Make it easy to erase impossible tasks and put in the new, more possible ones.

3. Time and Steps

Plan between half a year and five years. Dream crazy and then break it down in daily, doable steps.

My plan for 2014 stopped after seven months, because I didn’t know what was going to happen after finishing the Master and moving to Kenya. But I am also keeping a farm project and writing in mind and continue working towards it.

What are your resolutions? Do you set some at all? When, and how? Let me know in the comments below!

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Three simple things I learned on the Kenyan countryside

and the invaluable stories behind it

One week on the countryside is always like vacation. Leaving city life behind for a short while, I got my battery charged again. And I carried three tremendously simple but very powerful lessons from there:

People are more important than work.

We were supposed to go to the field for work that morning. I was ready. Wearing sunscreen, rubberboots, working clothes and a hat, the water bottle filled, and the hoe in front of the door. But we didn‘t leave.

A son to the family had just arrived.  He doesn’t come for a visit often. So people talked. In a language I don‘t understand. They shared stories while the sun rose quickly.

One hour later the sun had already reached a high point. It makes digging hard and uncomfortable. The earlier you start, the better. And yet, cups were refilled with tea.

I was a bit annoyed, but then I realised: This realtive is who counts now. We haven‘t seen him for long, and we want to share stories. We want to settle things that have been lingering and remained without solution. Work can wait! Let us treasure the visitor, while he is still around, instead of stressing about whether we will dig the field or not.

Now is more important than later.

One day later we wanted to visit a girl whom we regularly support. It was a one hour drive and you never know what happens on the road.

I wondered: Would we reach there in time? Would we get into rain? Should we carry an umbrella? Where would we eat lunch? How would we manage to buy things with her in the market? How would she react? How would it turn out?

What if the whole trip was not going to be successful at all?

I thought all that at the bread wholesale shop of Uncle Bread. He has the same light blue eyes like his mother, whom I call Dani, which means Granny. Suddenly I realised how welcome and secure I am in this family network.  We were in Uncle Bread‘s shop, discussing family matters, while I watched children play and ducks pass by and retailers stack their bikes with crates of bread. NOW was important.

Appreciating each other is more important than profitability.

I am paying schoolfees for the girl, and my mentality is that of an accountant. Every single cent I want recorded in a well-organised table.

But there is also the teacher who brings her to the meeting with me. There is her father who knows that I am paying school fees for his daughter, while he is struggling to feed his family. There is her mother who is hearing impaired and doesn‘t understand why all these visitors, including her daughters head teacher, are suddenly sittig in her living room. There are the older siblings of the girl, and a cousin with a baby who stays there, too. They hide in the back of the house because they think it‘s all about the school girl.

And to all of them, we give money. In secret ways, sometimes through the girl, we let them have some notes. And although they are not recorded nor being accounted for, it makes sense to me much later. It’s a way of appreciating them. They know that the girl has gotten money from us. And they will ask her for it, because money is always scarce. But for the head teacher to continue with his support, we must appreciate him. For the father to keep sending his daughter to school instead of asking her to help farming for food, we need to appreciate him. For the siblings to not become jealous, it is better to leave some money than encouraging their questions and jealousy.

It may sound strange and it took me a long time to accept it, because I come from a country where money is not that scarce, but appreciation with payment is not only accepted but a common thing to do here. And it is an accepted way we can thank those people for their continous help and trust.

Meanwhile, the Outgoing Novemeber Challenge continues, and I post photo at facebook.

I would love to find you on my list, too, so that you never miss a post.

Two stunning concepts that made my October

and tremendously changed my perspective towards living a more productive life

Once a month I collect all the lessons I learned and publish them here. But now that I am doing that for almost a year, the lessons repeat themselves. The stuff I try finally works, and there is nothing new to be learned, it only prove true.

Last month, for example, I was once more reminded that doing comes from doing and that things happen in bulk.

But I also got to know two more concepts that worked like eye-openers.

We hear a lot about how to motivate ourselves. So many people, websites and robots promise us that if we join their list and pay them, they will give us more motivation than we ever had. Only follow these 32 easy steps to get more motivation. And here are 7 things you should do to be happy. And the premium programme has the life as you want it – completely outlined for you and to reach with these 10 infallible tools.

But word number one that stroke me last month was DISCIPLINE. This article says it all: Forget Motivation, Remember Discipline.

Word number two: FLOW. I discovered Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s model of flow. What you want to reach is the point of maximum challenge and likewise the highest skill level to get in the zone, in the flow. Brooke from Slow Your Home wrote a beautiful piece about Rhythm that resonates with that: Why Rhythm Trumps Routine.

So while discipline sets you to the start of it, flow carries you through the task.

With discipline you set of, and with flow you reach the end.

Get the discipline to start doing it, and then develop a rhythm to get into the flow and finish that thing.

As I work on those concepts myself, what do you think? Do you struggle more with finding discipline or flow? Let us know in the comments.

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