I LOVE LOVE LOVE birthdays–especially mine. I love my birthday so much that I don’t just relegate the celebration to one day, instead I’ll celebrate all week and sometimes all month. It’s not because I’m self absorbed or selfish, it’s simply because I LOVE being alive. In my job as Executive Director for a nonprofit breast cancer support center, I have witnessed far too many precious lives be cut short due to disease. That harsh reality has given me a much greater appreciation for the incredible miracle that is life and a joyful anticipation for each new day, week and year that I am blessed to live.
This week is my birthday week. In a few short days I will turn 45 and I am ECSTATIC about that. I mean–there will be cake, presents, cards and text messages from friends–what’s not to be ecstatic about? Yes, there’s the whole getting older bit, but I’m okay with that. I’m actually thrilled with that. I have seen women younger than myself not have the opportunity to get older so I absolutely refuse to complain about aging. I believe with all of my heart that aging is a gift. Oh sure, I’ll color my hair and slather on eye cream like nobody’s business, but overall, I am in love with the idea of getting older and I am thankful to have the opportunity to do so.
One of my favorite things about my birthday (besides the presents–I LOVE presents!) is the opportunity that it presents for me to take a good look at my life and reassess the direction in which I am headed. I always set my intentions for a given year in January when everyone else is making resolutions, but since my birthday is roughly mid-year, I like to use it as a time to check my course, evaluate my progress toward my goals and make any course corrections that are needed. I refer to this process as my annual Life Audit.
Now, I realize that the idea of being audited on your birthday might not sound like a lot of fun to most people, but my audit process is one that I genuinely look forward to every year. I try to schedule it as close to my birthday as possible and block out 3-4 hours for the process. This year, my birthday falls on a Sunday so I will be performing my audit on my actual birthday–in between bites of cake.
My Life Audit process isn’t anything complicated or something that I had to learn about at some over priced weekend seminar–it’s just something that I put together on my own as a means of keeping my life on a positive and upward trajectory. I’ve tweaked my process over the years but I’ve come up with a formula that works for me and…if it works for me, I’m convinced that it will work for you as well. All you need to get started is a block of time, a notebook, a pen and a desire to kick your FabYOUlousness up a notch.
My Life Audit process has four main components: evaluation, incorporation, elimination, and celebration.
The first step to an effective Life Audit is evaluation. This is also (for me at least) the most difficult and time consuming step.
For this step, you first need to establish the areas of your life that are the most important to you. These areas should be the ones that have the most impact on your daily life and therefore are the ones that will be audited. For me, I have six areas that I evaluate. My areas are 1.) Marriage 2.) Family 3.) Physical Health 4.) Emotional/Spiritual Health 5.) Professional Development and 6.) Financial/Material Wealth. This might seem oversimplified considering the fact that I am (and you are as well) a multi-faceted individual with many different interests, relationships, desires etc. However; I’ve played around with these six categories enough over the years to discover that nearly every aspect of my life fits under one of these umbrellas. For example–I don’t have a category for friendships because I include my relationships with my friends in the “Emotional/Spiritual Health” category, nor do I have a separate category for personal development because different aspects of my personal development might fall under the “Emotional/Spiritual Health category while other aspects might be covered in my “Professional Development” category, etc. There is no magic number as to how many categories you should have (though I would suggest keeping it to six or less for simplicity sake) nor any right or wrong when it comes to specific categories. Simply take a look at your own life and determine what areas are most important to you and have the biggest impact on your level of satisfaction with your life.
Once you’ve determined the areas of your life that you are going to audit, it is time to get out your pen and notebook and start journaling about all of the good and not-so-good things that are happening in your life within each category. I prefer to write essay style but maybe you prefer to make lists of the positive/negative aspects of each area of your life. It doesn’t matter what form your writing takes, all that matters is that you get your thoughts down on paper so that you can come back to them later. During this part of the Life Audit process, it is vitally important that you are 100% honest with yourself. If things are not going well in your career, write down the things that you’d like to change. If your marriage is on the rocks, write down the things that are bothering you. On the flip side–be sure to highlight all of the things that are going well in each area too. Don’t edit yourself, don’t gloss over important issues and don’t hold back. No one is going to read this other than you so don’t worry about what other people might think.
Once you’ve written out the good, bad and ugly for each important area of your life, it is time to revisit each category and write out your ideal vision for each area. For my categories, I write about how my ideal marriage looks and feels, how I envision my ideal family relationships to be, how I define ideal physical & emotional health, my ideal vision for my career and my ideal vision for my financial and material abundance. These ideal scenarios for each category are what you will use to establish your course and mark your progress as you work to make these ideal visions into your reality.
The first time I did this process, it took me quite a while to complete. Now however; I’ve discovered that I don’t usually have to re-write my ideal scenarios for each category because they don’t change all that much. I simply add a few tweaks as necessary. Nonetheless, having a clear idea as to your ideal vision for each critical area of your life is important because it will provide you with something by which to evaluate your current situation.
Once you’ve taken the time to journal about your current situation and your ideal visions for each area of your life, it is time to compare the two to see how far off your current situation is from your ideal. Don’t get discouraged if the two seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum–that happens. The important thing is that you now have a clear idea as to where you are and where you’re going. This process of evaluation has provided you with a road map of sorts and has given you valuable insight as to what improvements might be made in each area of your life.
The second step in my Life Audit process is incorporate. This is where I come up with strategic steps that will move me closer to my ideal vision for each area of my life and incorporate those steps into my daily routine.
Don’t let this step in your Life Audit discourage you if you look at your ideal vision for a particular area of your life and feel as though your current situation is light years away from your ideal. That’s okay and it’s normal. That is precisely why you are taking this step. Yes–you may have a long way to go in order to get from where you currently are to where you want to be, but remember what the ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu said, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.
To begin this part of the Life Audit process, simply start with one area of your life and start making a list of things that you will need to do/change/have/be in order to live your ideal vision for that particular area. Once you’ve got a list created, pick a few items from the list and break them down into the tiniest baby steps that you can. Then, once you’ve got a few baby steps identified, it is time to start incorporating these baby steps into your everyday routine. For example–if your ideal health/fitness vision for yourself has you losing 30 pounds, you can begin taking baby steps such as replacing one soda per day with flavored water or taking a five minute walk outside every morning or taking the stairs instead of the elevator at your office. These baby steps might not sound like much, but enough baby steps taken day after day after day will get you closer to your ideal vision, plus the momentum that you gain from taking your baby steps will help to propel you toward your goal even more quickly. Yes–it might take some time before you start to see results, but you will start to see results. Don’t worry about the time–it is going to pass whether you take any positive steps or not, so you might as well use the time to move yourself closer to your goal vision.
Go through each of your different life categories and make a list of baby steps that you can begin taking today and then incorporate these baby steps into your daily routine. For more information on how to make this process work for you click here.
This third step in my Life Audit process is all about eliminating the things, people, behaviors, habits etc. that no longer serve you and are not moving you closer to your ideal vision for your life.
Admittedly, this is an area that I struggle with–especially when it comes to eliminating toxic people or bad habits. However; just as a skilled gardener must prune her prize rosebushes in order for them to produce their most beautiful and fragrant blooms, so too must we be willing to prune our own lives of the rubbish that prevents us from being our most FabYOUlous selves.
To begin this process of elimination, first take a look at your ideal vision for each area of your life and see if this truly is your vision. Is there any part of your vision that needs to be eliminated? If this is your first time going through this process, your ideal visions might not need any pruning. I have discovered however; that after doing this process for several years, there are sometimes things that I need to remove from my ideal vision because they simply are no longer important to me. My ideal visions for the different areas of my life don’t usually change much but as I’ve matured and grown as a person, there have been a few things that I’ve eliminated from my ideal scenarios because they no longer held any appeal for me.
Next, take a look at your current state within each of your life areas. What people/objects/thoughts/behaviors/beliefs etc. need to be pruned in order for your full FabYOUlousness to bloom? It might be scary, but it’s time to take out those garden shears (NOT REALLY!!! I’m speaking figuratively here–don’t want anyone to end up in the hospital) and get rid of any hindrances that are impeding your progress toward your ideal vision. Sometimes this means limiting your contact with a particularly difficult individual, or eliminating the clutter that has been piled up on your desk for three months. Other times it might mean eliminating a bad habit that you love even though you know that it is ultimately killing you. Don’t be ashamed if you have a lot of pruning to do-we all have things in our lives that are not good for us–it comes along with the territory of being alive. We can however, use this Life Audit process to assess those things that are truly standing in our way and then help us to take strategic action to systematically begin removing those negative aspects.
One word of caution when it comes to this process of elimination–don’t try to eliminate too much too soon. For example if your ideal vision for your physical health is thirty pounds lighter than you currently are, don’t try to eliminate all sugar, carbs, fats and sedentary habits all at once. You’ll become overwhelmed, hate life and give up. It is important to make eliminations that are sustainable for the long haul, therefore it is best to eliminate one negative at a time and then replace that negative with a positive. Once one elimination is no longer painful or difficult, you can move on to the next item.
This process of elimination is one that never ends. No matter how many negative influences or aspects you eliminate from your life–there will always be others to contend with. Don’t let that get you down–you will never be perfect but that’s okay–you absolutely can be FabYOUlous.
Whew! This Life Audit process can be quite an undertaking. It can also be eye-opening, sobering, motivating and life changing. If you’ve made it through each of the previous three steps, it is time to do some celebrating! Celebrate the fact that you have committed to creating the most FabYOUlous year of your life and that you are now moving closer to your most ideal FabYOUlous life. Also celebrate all of the wonderful and positive things that you have going for you in each of your important life areas. Take yourself out for a nice lunch, buy yourself a little treat or indulge in a nap–you deserve it!