Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"Five P's for Dealing with Life's Challenges" by Dara Lehner

Having recently returned to college to complete a yet unrealized goal, a professor called me a “Renaissance woman.” I laughed and commented I often feel like I am the king’s court jester juggling so many balls if I stop I’ll bounce one off of my head. He replied how easy I made it look. If he only knew how hard I work at it.

We often stand back watching fellow writers, envious of how they have it all… the time for family, friends, work, and most of all God. How can we juggle it all? My friends, family and professors at times have looked at me in that light. I caution them what they see is not always the true picture, and I too have to guard myself against the ugly envy monster. Don’t fall into that trap.

I hope to share some of my tried and true tips which have worked for me. Each of us must find what works best for us. There is no magic formula, we all juggle. With my many interests and responsibilities, I found I have to stay organized. My friends call me the “queen of time management.”

As a retired marathoner, I still have days where I feel as if I am running a new marathon, my running times are off pace, and in marathoner’s speak have “hit the wall.” I can’t see the end of the race. I can’t see any way to juggle, church, family, my day jobs, school, and writing. How does everyone else manage?

First, we can’t compare ourselves to others or put them on a pedestal. They will fall and shatter our romanticized illusions of a writer’s life. Writing is hard work. Rarely, does it come in the “overnight success” package. We are each God’s unique creation. We have talents and skills no one else has, share yours and learn from others.

Writing, as with any of my marathons, requires discipline, sacrifice and planning. Friends ask how I do it all. I don’t. I can’t. No one can do it all. I don’t try to be perfect, because I know how imperfect I am, and it is a waste of time to keep up that facade.

So how does one wade through life’s marathons? I call it the Five P’s …Planning, Patience, Persistence, Play and Prayer. I think these five things will get us through most of life’s challenges. Writing is a challenge.

Planning for me is key. I am a list maker. Whenever I start my day, I have a plan listed. I prioritize and organize all of my goals; some may have to slide to another list. The unexpected has a way of creeping into our lives. Take a deep breath.

Modify, adapt, and overcome is another mantra I have incorporated into my marathon life. Plan each segment of your life. I have plans for my day, my week, my month, my year, and my five and ten year goals. Dream big, and then work out an organized plan to achieve your goals.

Patience is truly a virtue. My patience, or lack of it, for myself continues to be on my list for improvement. I am very patient with others, but could kick myself at times for not accomplishing a goal in the manner I envisioned. We need to give ourselves a break. If no one is around to give a pep talk, do it yourself. Remember, we are not perfect and must be patient. No procrastinating, we must work our plan patiently and we will succeed.

Persistence. If we are patiently and consistently working our plans we will reach our goals. There are times when detours will arise. We may have to modify our plan when the unexpected threatens to derail that plan. Our persistence will pay off.

I have a friend who believed in her book and revised and shopped it for 13 years. It found its home with a large regional publisher and is being released this June. She now also has a multiple book contract. If she had listened to all the naysayers she would not be off on a book tour. I can’t celebrate enough for her because I know how hard she has worked to accomplish this goal. Don’t give up. If we don’t try, we are certain to fail. If we don’t persevere, we can never taste the sweet rewards of our persistence.

Play. Allow oneself some down time. Be spontaneous, go dance in the rain or a sprinkler for ten minutes. Jump on a trampoline, roller blade, or skateboard. Do something that will make your family and friends think you are a bit crazy; or we can incorporate something a little more sedate, like walks in the park or a picnic. We must give ourselves permission to do NOTHING. Sit quietly under a tree; but watch out for the irate squirrels hurling nuts, and the blue jays dive bombing your appearance in their serene world.

Prayer. Meditate and ask God for guidance and wisdom. There is nothing wrong with a failure or with being mistaken. We must learn from these trials, the unexpected that creeps into our marathon life. God provides these times as opportunities to learn, to modify, to breathe and yes, to even laugh at ourselves. Take your concerns to God in prayer, but also don’t forget to take your praise and thanksgiving celebrations to Him as well.

I hope these few nuggets helped someone. I’ll be sharing more in our three different workshops:
  1. Hurried, Hassled, and Hopeless No More: Time Management for Writers,
  2. Keys to Using Photography to Increase Your Writing Income, and
  3. Writing for Children’s Magazines.
I hope to see you in one of them, if not please stop by and introduce yourself. You can’t miss me; I think I’ll be the only skate-boarding juggler bouncing balls off my head in attendance.

Visit our website for Dara's bio and more information on her workshops. Go to Dara's website for more on her writing and photography. Register by June 10th for meals guarantee. Details on the registration page.


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