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Igniting the Back Burner: Keeping Your Mind Active

     At the end of the day, after everyone’s bathed and brushed, parents find little energy for creative pursuits.  The promise of career prestige and fame gets bunked after the bills are paid and the dishes are done.  Where does the time go?

     The demands of adulthood and parenting can throw even the most organized person into distraction for years. I hear harried moms refer to their personal achievements in “before children” and “after children” terms, sometimes with a wistfully regretful tone.  If we aren’t careful, our life goals – God-directed goals – can get flipped over like mindless channel surfing.

     Concerned about my own back-burner priorities, an e-magazine subject headline caught my eye – “Take Care of Your Mind: Your Mental Health is Important to Your Family’s Health.”  I clicked in, and just as I suspected, the article suggested I make a mission statement for my life. I’ve heard this message before, and now as I’m nearing mid-life, I’m starting to tune in.

     The article summarized a chapter of Professionalizing Motherhood by Jill Savage.  In her book, Savage asks:

What is your mission in life? A good way to begin to answer that question is to ask yourself, ‘When I leave this earth, what legacy do I want to leave? Where do I want to have made a difference?’ Now go through and list your priorities. Then take your mission statement and your priorities and begin making some goals: lifetime goals, annual goals, monthly goals and daily goals will enable you to fulfill your mission. Your mission, priorities and goals should be related. Now you have a grid to help you make decisions about your ‘best’ activities.

     I find Savage’s advice very helpful in mid-life.  Recently, for example, her strategy saved me from accepting the “prestigious” position of PTA president.  As a person easily distracted by the flattery of nomination, a child’s homework project, or even church activities, I see the importance of setting clear goals that drive my daily decisions. Identifying lifetime goals is quite hard, and fighting to maintain those goals as the top priority during the busyness of life is even harder.

     I have written just one of my own personal goals below and have threaded that goal through Savage’s time grid from annual to daily. So, when I get distracted, and consequently frustrated, I can redirect myself back to home base. If the process appeals to you, I challenge you to write your own list.

A Lifetime Goal

     One of my lifetime goals is to become a children’s book author.  Blending my love of writing and drawing from my teaching and parenting experiences, I know this accomplishment will bring me deep satisfaction.

An Annual Goal

     One way I can work toward authorship is to attend an annual writers’ conference.  This may help establish steps toward reaching my lifetime goal and help me build a network of colleagues to cheer me along.  Perhaps another annual goal is to send one manuscript to a publisher.  I must make sure all my smaller goals point to the lifetime goal.

A Monthly Goal

     Deadlines are critically important for writing projects.  Otherwise, those projects just keep simmering on the back burner.  I’m thankful for www.MyFriendDebbie.com for providing a sounding board for my writing ideas, and a monthly writing deadline to hold me accountable to my lifetime goal of publication.

A Daily Goal

     Looking over my list, I ask myself, “What activity can I do daily that will move me toward all of the above writing goals?”  My answer is sustained silent reading – not just snippets of minutes here and there without concentrating, but dedicated quiet time to absorb information.  Reading a professional journal, a guide to publishing, or literature even for 15 minutes a day will move me toward my goal. 

Back-Burner Strategies

     Managing and directing daily activities can help a person feel good about pursuing back-burner dreams.  What are your goals?  Use the following template to start a lifetime journey of putting first things first.  You may find that your wildest dreams really aren’t that far away. The biggest priority, spiritual growth, is listed for you.

Lifetime Goals:

  1. Seek a relationship with God.
  2. ______________________________________________________________
  3. ______________________________________________________________
  4. ______________________________________________________________

Annual Goals:

  1. Take a personal spiritual retreat to pray and contemplate my life priorities.
  2. _______________________________________________________________
  3. _______________________________________________________________
  4. _______________________________________________________________

Monthly Goals:

  1. Enrich my knowledge about the Bible through a local church program.
  2. _______________________________________________________________
  3. _______________________________________________________________
  4. _______________________________________________________________

Putting it into Practice – Daily Goals

     This step of the process is the hardest one.  I have made lists in the past with all the best intentions, only to find my motivation waning after just a week.  What’s realistic for you to accomplish in a day: One report at work? Cleaning or cooking? Helping a child read a book?  Calling a friend to discuss a problem? 

     Women must remember that faithfulness in not-so-glamorous daily tasks can yield a lifetime fruit, depending on attitude and lifestyle choices. The back burner can still be cooking, as long as the front burners are carefully tended.

Copyright © 2008-2015 Julie Strohkorb

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