How do you plan when life brings surprises? This can be especially difficult when daily living with a chronic illness.
At first, I was skeptical. That’s cute that you think that I can change much in my life, but Amanda Warfield started a book club reading Cultivate by Lara Casey. I groaned, “That’s great to make plans and execute them if you are always healthy, but I have had many times where I have made the perfect plan and had to abandon it because I was having a Fibromyalgia flare. This is a terribly depressing cycle, and I don’t want to go through it again.”
I realized through reading Cultivate that something about my plans was flawed. I hadn’t surrendered them to God. The Bible chastizes those who are trusting in their own plans (James 4:13-5). Instead, all plans must be “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” It is terribly silly to think that any of my plans would work if God is not behind them.
In Cultivate, Lara talks about having a tending list as a way to cultivate desired habits and attitudes in your life. This tending list is writing down little things that you can do to form habits in a checklist. I decided to give this technique a try.
I had made a much longer list before this first try but felt too overwhelmed just looking at it to use it. Lara mentioned how she started small herself with only two things on her first tending list: pray and read the bible. I added thanking God for at least one thing a day, a habit I learned from Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts that truly helps to combat my anxiety and get my mind in the right place.
As you can see from the chart, I was able to do all three things on my tending list each day. They are starting to become habits and require less discipline as time goes on.
My second tending list was a bit longer. I only added one thing, but it has taken quite a bit of discipline to continue to write every day.
By putting writing on my tending list, I had to ignore my inner writing critic which can cause me to spiral into inaction due to depression. I had to write, even if it was just a sentence, every day.
My difficulty has always been getting started, and this reminder helped to encourage me to start.
I also added some weekly goals to my tending list that I had been tentatively trying out the week before. I have found that, if I do a trial run of my goals before I actually write them down, I am able to find out what is a reasonable and achievable goal.
I accompanied this new tending list with a prayer, something I had neglected the first time I wrote a tending list. This laying of my plans before God has spared me the tears and frustration that I had with my first tending list. My husband summarized my experience well, “You always get upset when you make lists.”
I wondered why this was the case. Why do I always get frustrated, even cry when I create to-do lists? In order to find out, I had to ask myself why I make to-do lists in the first place:
- I forget things, a lot. (Thank you, Fibromyalgia.)
- Lists give me a sense of control and order.
- They give me direction.
These aren’t necessarily bad reasons to make to-do lists, but, for me, they seem to come from a sense of fear. This fear held me back from truly giving up my tending list to God.
There is a marvelous tension between planning and surrendering. I do not pretend to completely understand this process, but I am thankful for it.In surrendering these plans in prayer, these goals become motivating rather than intimidating. Click To Tweet
Things That Have Helped Me Plan Well
This is a completely free app! Nick and I started using this when we started planning our wedding and have used it ever since. It is a shared calendar, so we remember when we have shared events or so we don’t double book ourselves. TimeTree can be accessed from the phone or computer.
Nick gave a Fitbit to me for my birthday this year, and it has been so helpful! This phone app helps me keep track of my goals for water, eating, and exercising without much effort. You can use the app to record these things even if you don’t have a Fitbit!
This is an amazingly uplifting and helpful video by Lara Casey that focuses on finding out your priorities and making your schedule reflect that. “Where do you want to be when you are 80?” is a focusing question that I have now put as a sticky note in my planner. She talks about looking at your life in the long run instead of getting short-sighted.
“Do a few things well.” – Lara Casey
After about an hour of coaching with Susan, I felt encouraged and hopeful for the new year. She asked me to do three things before our phone conference: 1) Write down my accomplishments from this year. 2) Write down what goals I had planned but not completed in the past year. 3) Write down what I want next year to look like. We discussed my accomplishments. As someone who is always looking to improve, it was beneficial for my mind to actually dwell on what I have done well this year. Susan also helped me delve into what steps I could take to make my goals for next year actually happen.
I hope that these tips help you to feel encouraged in your effort to make this new year the best yet! I am rooting for you!
Please comment with any other ideas you have for how to make this new year great! I would love to hear your thoughts!