Making Connections

Zowie! Ever since the last issue lit a fire under me (Jan./Feb., Action Plan 2004), I’ve been on kind of an action rampage.

pilar-gerasimo

Or whatever the editorial version of a rampage is: mostly attacking piles, returning calls, reviewing copy, planning future issues, getting to the bottom of my giant “to read” list. I know: Yawn. Very dramatic. But still, for me, this winter has been surprisingly invigorating.

One thing that helped me get the year off to a good start was getting encouragement from our resolutions experts to work with the energy of the winter season. Both Jane Alexander and Cat Thompson talked at length about the importance of recognizing winter as a time of dreaming, contemplation and planning — and not so much a season for launching bold large-scale commitments. They advised individuals working on resolutions to commit to doing only what energized them, even if those things seemed small, quiet and contemplative.

That advice led me to take a weekend away in January for a little writing retreat and career-visioning workshop with my younger sister and a good friend, and boy did that turn out to be an amazing experience.

It was just the three of us, tucked into this friend’s comfy cabin beside a frozen lake up north. We had set aside a single Saturday to get a bead on where we wanted to take our work, how we might best nurture our skills and how we’d most like to see the coming year play out. The overarching goal was for each of us to come away with a vision and a plan to which we could commit wholeheartedly.

Technically, I’m not sure one can refer to a tiny, three-person event as a “monster success,” but it certainly felt like that. The efficiency of the thing was stunning. We divided the day into two parts: In the morning we did an extended creative-visioning session (facilitated by yours truly); after lunch and a walk to clear our heads, we came back and did the more linear, logical work of goal setting and task mastering.

During the right-brained visioning session we used our intuition and imagination to help us identify the components of our ideal work, to identify what aspects of life and work needed bolstering, to see more clearly what we most wanted out of our professional lives, and to understand how we might best overcome the stumbling blocks in our way. We also got in touch with our core motivations regarding our work, and got clearer about how we could be of the best and most powerful service to others.

Later, during the left-brained analysis and planning session, we harvested all the juicy stuff we’d written during our visioning sessions and used that information to distill a central goal. Next, we spent some time generating some supportive objectives and tactical plans. We brainstormed about the things we could do to nudge our key objectives forward. Finally, we shared our lists and helped each other refine them until each of us had our marching plans: a pared down collection of defined, realistic action items that got us jazzed. We set target dates and everything. Not bad for a day’s work.

By the time we finished, we were all shining with excitement and appreciation. We were eager to get home and implement our plans so we could report back, as agreed, a few weeks later (a nice built-in accountability structure). We were also all excited to return with a larger group and do the whole thing again as a formal workshop. Or maybe a funshop? Either way.

Whenever I think of the word “integrity,” I think of integration — the interconnectedness of things. I think about how integration is always about a bringing and fitting together of parts, ideally to make a harmonious whole.

It was inspiring for me to discover how seamlessly my dreams and plans could fit together if I let them. And I guess if there’s any core message I took away from this issue, it’s that one — that integrity, at its best, is really never so much about us battling a bunch of warring instincts and choices; it’s more about identifying and melding together our most central and compatible ones.

Pilar Gerasimo is the founding editor of Experience Life.

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