On Living Life and Cultivating What Matters

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

I meant to continue with my ’series’ on Reclaiming My Day and Return to Pen and Paper Planner but procrastination and forgetfulness got the better of me and so here I am, two years late but not “outdated” as this is still true now.

About 2 or 3 years back, I was contemplating on the fact that the way I lived seemed to be driven by daily circumstances more than anything else. When I stopped to think about it, really every year seemed the same (other than a few significant years, such as the years my children were born). Before I knew it, years have gone by and I could not really say have I done with the time that God has given me. I know I raised my kids and took care of the home but where was I headed?  I felt a bit lost and a bit out of control.

Around that time, I chanced upon Cultivate What Matters (CWM).  It is run by a group of ladies led by Lara Casey, helping women to set goals for their lives and getting what they want to be done done.  But CWM is not just about setting goals or making new year resolutions but making you think about what really matters to you and years down the road when you are 80, 90 years old, where and who do you want to be?  It is like Stephen Covey’s beginning with the end in mind.  On their website, you can find the coaching videos and tools to walk you through the process.  Their main product, Powersheets Intentional Goal Planner is based on Lara’s book Make It Happen. It is essentially a workbook that you work through to set your goals and follow up on them through the year.

The Powersheets Goal Planner is not cheap.  I was not prepared to pay for the Powersheets unless I know it was going to work.  So I got a cheap, simple notebook that was lying around at home, and started with all the free resources on their website.  It took me hours and days to finally worked through the process. I had to find a good chunk of undisturbed time over a few days to finish the work.  It was not easy in terms of the amount of thinking one has to do, and the level of honesty that was needed.  After spending a lot of time working through the process, I had a clearer picture of what I wanted to focus on for the 6 months ahead. Those were my big picture goals.  At the end of each month, there was a simple guide to help me evaluate the month, what worked, what didn’t.  Then there was another simple process to work on the goals and steps I planned for the next month, all done with the big picture goals in mind.

At the end of the 6 months (which was also the end of the year), I did not accomplish everything that I hope I could but I knew that the 6 months was the most focused and meaningful that I had in a long time.  I made progress and that was more than I could say for the aimless years past.

How is the CWM process different from the usual goal setting or new year resolutions that we make?  I think the biggest difference is the ‘why’.  You are forced to think about what matters to you most.  If done right and if you are truly and totally honest with yourself, you should be wondering about what is of value to you and what is not.  

Usually, when we make new year resolutions, we naturally think of all the good things to work on.  Our health (“Go to the gym more often!”), our jobs (“Find a better paying job!”), our family (“Spend more time with the kids!”), our marriage (“Date night every week!”), our finances (“Pay off all my debt!”).  I know I made the gym resolution when I did not even like to work out.  I only made it because health is important and exercising is a good way to stay healthy.  It is like we make goals based on what we think is good, or what others tell us is good and important instead of what is really important to us.  Surely our goals in life cannot be based on another person’s agenda or opinion, no matter how well-sounding it may be.  So do not be surprised that at the end of the process, the goals look different from the usual goals people make. You may not even have some of the expected categories.  I was surprised at what I found at the end of the process.

The kind of goals that you set if you worked through the CWM process is like beacons guiding you towards where you really want to be years down the road.  An important part of the process is the periodic review.  It helps you to keep your big picture goal in view all the time, which is important if you do not want to unconsciously veer off course and end up somewhere you do not want to be.  As I mentioned earlier, every month, you are guided to review the month past, and thinking about how you can work towards your goal in the month to come.  Every 3 months, there is also a seasonal review.  Goals cannot be changed willy-nilly, but they cannot be cast in stone either.  Life happens to all of us.  Job losses, relocation, pregnancy, death, etc all can lead to some necessary adjustments to our goals.  If we fell off the wagon for a while, the periodic review will enable us to review and restart again.  Like what they like to say in CWM: There is nothing magical about January.

So after my cheap little notebook that year, I invested in a Powersheets Goal Planner.  Did I mention how pretty the Powersheets are?  Then, the year after that, with great sadness, I decided that I could not afford to keep collecting Powersheets year after year because of limited storage space at home.  I really wanted to keep my goals setting process and my planner all in one place, so I did all my prep work in my bullet journal.  So whether you want to use a Powersheets, or just a notebook or incorporate everything into your planner, it will all work.  But the Powersheets make the process so much easier.  All you have to do is simply fill in the blanks instead of writing everything out yourself. You can choose to work through the process using Lara Casey’s book, Make It Happen.  You can also use the coaching videos on the CWM website.  I find the videos better.  

What a year 2020 has been!  During the lockdown and even now, with all the restrictions going on, it is so easy to lose sight of goals and purpose and just be focused on living from day to day, coping with working from home, or children learning from home, or mindlessly binge-watching videos because life seems to have come to a standstill.  Before you know it, months have gone by and all that time seems wasted.  Having the goals in mind really helped me to think about how I could still make baby steps towards them given all the constraints. There may be things that I have to change.    It helped me to avoid mindlessly living a stuck-at-home life.

So when November/December comes, I will once again make time to sit down and work through the Prep Work process.  I will review my 2020 and thank God for all the blessings that I received.  In fact, I am already quite amazed at what He has done so far.  I will prayerfully work through the Prep Work process and set my goals for 2021.  They will most likely be about the same as my goals this year but as I make progress and as the Lord leads, there will be adjustments being made.  I will learn to number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12) and redeem the time (Ephesians 5:16).

Footnote and Disclaimer :

At the point of writing this post, CWM is launching its new 2021 Powersheets, so there will be a lot of frenzy going on.  Their Powersheets Planner sells out within a short time so all the Powersheets users will all be at their keyboard on launch day preparing to cart all the stuff they want before they are all sold out. 

** I am not an affiliate of CWM and do not earn any commission from sales.

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