As I focus on starting my year with clarity and vision, I want to share with you a starting place, a “great beginning of the year” place, but also a “beginning of the week” place and a “beginning of the day” place. It’s a framework for finding focus that I have been using for years, a simple practice of identifying and working with core focus areas. (If you did my Vision Card workshop this year, you’ve got a great head start on this!) Now, it may be simple but it’s not always easy to identify your top priorities but, trust me, it is worth the effort!
Focus areas are simply categories that hold and describe what is truly important to you. They provide a powerful support for creating plans, priorities and actions that are truly aligned with your heart.
Here are some useful questions for starting to find focus and explore your priorities:
- What would you say are your top priorities?
- How do you spend your time?
- What do you notice about the relationship between these two things? (Be gentle with yourself)
One of the ways that I’ve built a more and more congruous relationship between my priorities and my time has been to first name my priorities as focus areas and then to use them as planning tools – yearly, weekly and daily.
I started out with a very general idea of what was important to me mixed in with what happened to be on my plate. Over time, I began to hone in on what came up year after year (even if their particular expression changed) and what was a passing interest. Now, every year when it comes time to make my Vision Cards, I find myself turning to the same 10 or so core focus areas. Their names might shift year to year but their heart remains the same. They provide a core structure to my life, like perennials in the garden. I also have some secondary focus areas that I truly love and that often knock at my heart and ask to be included. Like colourful annuals I enjoy picking a few each year but, truth be told, I find myself simply drawn to the same ones again and again and again.
I thought I’d share with you my focus areas in the hope that it will inspire you to identify yours and to discover how knowing them might guide how you fill your to-do list and your date book in a truly meaningful way.
Core Focus Areas
I’m not referring to a “job,” though that might be a part of it. It”s more, “What is the work that I want to do here in the world?” “What do I want to create and contribute?” “What is the body of work that I want to build and share?” There is something about the way I am wired that makes this a high priority. I have always wanted to be doing, making, creating and this category holds all of that for me.
This focus area is so close to my heart that I can barely put it into words. Ever since I was a little girl I have been in love with spaces and places. To me, home is the place that you can actively create an environment in which you and your loved ones thrive. Home is a place for expressing who you are and what you love. Home is a deep expression of you.
Art and Creativity
I have always been drawn to art and creativity. One of the things I’ve learned over time is that a regular practice of creating myself plus an engagement with music, dance, theatre, art and the like are essential to my happiness. I’ll never forget being a real grumpy pants after finishing up my expressive arts training and not really understanding the relationship between the two until my sister Shannon said, “So… do you think it might be because you don’t have regular creative time anymore?” Yep, that’s it exactly.
This includes things like writing morning pages, meditating, reading, going for walks and on artist dates. It’s nourishing me as distinct from anyone else. Having your Self as one of your focus areas is a great way of making sure that you don’t leave yourself out when it comes to planning and prioritizing. Trust me, you don’t want to leave yourself out of your own life.
For me, this really means Justin. This is a reminder to pay active attention to my marriage and to the loving relationship I have with this wonderful man I live life with. I love Justin and I love our relationship and one of the reasons we have so much happiness together is that we consciously care for one another.
And in terms of consciously caring, I also have a category called Loved Ones and that is, of course, my family and my friends and everyone that is near and dear to me. This is to remind me to make an active effort in connecting with my loved ones and that can be anything from remembering birthdays to planning coffee dates to helping someone with their blog or business.
Over the years I have called this focus area anything form health to wellness to vitality but what sticks the best for me, what holds all the layers while staying the simplest is Body. This is a reminder actively attend to and care for my body– to move, to stretch eat nutrition-rich food, to sleep, to groom.
This names the importance of the sacred in my life, the way it’s important to me to connect with and be at ease with The Universe. It’s my reminder to pay attention to the rhythms of life, to be aware of life around me. At its heart, it means deep listening and responding to the messages that I receive.
This year I’ve named this focus area Prosperity but usually I call it Money. I like simple and concise labels but this year I wanted to add a hint of colour to the mix and that colour is prosperity. Money is a part of our daily lives. It’s one of our resources and I want to pay attention to it the same way I do to my food or my environment. I want a healthy, strong and positive relationship with all of the tangible aspects of my life, including money.
Secondary Focus Areas
These areas are like the accent colours. They show up in varying intensity at different frequencies – but they do always show up.
Experiences & Adventures
This often shows up in the guise of Travel but there are so many ways to honour this focus area! I love life and I want to experience it. That might mean bringing home a new fruit I’ve never seen before and learning how to eat it or it might mean walking along the boardwalk in the Beaches and people-watching or it might mean going out for a night of singing or a summer in Paris!
This is a newly named focus area for me this year, though it’s been a part of me since I can remember. Do Good might be actively volunteering or holding the door open for someone or doing work that makes a positive difference in the world, which I hope I do. I’ve always wanted to be a force for good in the world.
This is one of the most persistent (and insistent) focus areas in my life. In fact, I have to laugh at myself on this one. I consciously tried to leave it off my list this year. I figured since I tend to learn in every category, I didn’t really need to create a focus for learning on its own, did I? Yep, apparently I do.I’m just not happy if I’m not taking a class or learning a new skill or thinking through a fresh idea. (Thank goodness I’m starting guitar again soon!)
I have tried to resist this. I’ve judged it many times and worried about being judged for holding it dear. It was only when I looked back on pictures of me as a little girl and saw my joy in big glam sunglasses and the way I was wonderstruck by evening gowns and sequins and larger than life-ness did I finally let the judgment go. This is just me. I have always loved expressing myself and seeing others express themselves through their personal style. And that’s been affirmed as I delight in my earring choices for the daily Behind the Scenes videos on Creative Living TV!
Pivotal Focus Area
And lastly, a pivotal focus area that I only became aware of in the past few years is one that I often call Mystery. This year Shannon helped me find a word that felt even better: Serendipity. If I look back on my life, without question, all of the very best things that have happened have come from being open to chance, from not insisting that I control it all, that I go only the way I planned to go. Sometimes, quite often I’ve found, the Universe has something far better in mind and I’m going to say yes to it.
What About You?
So those are my focus areas. I wonder what yours might be, if some are the same as mine and others completely different. I hope you’ll take some time to consider what yours might be. Perhaps you’ll find, like me, you have core areas and secondary ones. Maybe you’ll find that you too have one or two that are a little difficult to claim. I hope you’ll take a moment and share where this idea of focus areas leads you.
A long time ago I came to the conclusion that purpose is really centred around two simple things: being ourselves and loving our lives – and by loving our lives I mean actively loving it up as best we can.
Paying attention to these focus areas and building my life around them helps me do just that.
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