“When I start building, I don’t set out to build a beautiful wall. My intention is a lasting structure. Throughout the day, I apply my efforts to the basic principles of dry stone construction. If I follow them successfully, I’m likely to leave behind a pretty good looking wall.”
– Dan Snow, In the Company of Stone
What does a quote about building stone walls have to do with personal development?
I came across this quote in a book I am currently reading and it struck a deep chord. I printed it out and hung it above my desk; it will remind me that my intention in building and living my ideal life is to create something lasting by applying my efforts to the basic principles of creating a meaningful life and hopefully, in the end, I will have created a thing of beauty.
While the ideal life and how we define success can vary widely from person to person, there are some fundamental practices that we can adopt that provide the structure our success and the life we want for ourselves is built on. Those practices, when applied day after day, and on the really tough days, moment by moment, become the basic principles that guide our choices, our decisions, and ultimately determine our success.
We are frequently unaware of the structures that underlie and guide the decisions and choices that we make as we go about the business of living. One of the kindest and most loving things that we can do for ourselves and those we share ourselves with is to become aware of these structures and to intentionally modify and improve the ways they function to support and sustain us. My four favorite tools for creating lasting structure are:
Reflection: Taking time each day to reflect is a key practice of success. Reflection allows us to find clarity about what is arising for us in our current circumstances. That clarity gives us insight into what we need more of and what we need to let go of. Reflection puts us in touch with and prioritizes our inner voice. It connects us to gratitude for the abundance that is available to us even when life is hard. We begin to make decisions more intuitively because we are more aware of what is aligned with our vision for ourselves and our lives.
Reading: Over and over again we encounter the fact that the most successful people read. A lot. Reading expands our perspective and our awareness. It introduces us to ideas, viewpoints, and concepts we might not otherwise encounter. It can deepen our empathy and broaden our understanding. Reading can inspire, delight, and awaken us. Read. Then read some more.
Planning: Without effective planning we can’t make progress toward realizing our dreams or actualizing our goals. Effective planning reduces large projects and big goals to easily executable actions. When we plan effectively for the achievement of our goals and meeting our obligations and responsibilities we start to see that there is room for everything. We keep all the metaphorical balls in the air and we do so with greater ease. Effective planning helps us to hone our discernment; we more easily differentiate between the truly important and the seemingly urgent, between activities that resource, enlighten, and enrich us and those that distract, deplete, and derail us. Careful and effective planning will move us toward our desired outcomes more efficiently than any other single tool in our toolbox.
Prioritization: Learning to prioritize what is truly important can be one of the most difficult concepts to master. Often it’s the urgent and seemingly urgent, the obligatory, the annoying, or distracting that receive the bulk of our time, energy, and attention while the truly important things sit on the back burner. Until we learn to identify the difference between the important [the things that move us toward our goals and dreams and help us to manifest our ideal life vision] and the urgent [paying the bills, getting an oil change, the mundane must do’s of ordinary life] we will make little headway in attaining our desired outcomes. We will continue to feel adrift, to live with the sense that some profoundly important thing is missing, and to struggle to find meaning and fulfillment in our lives.
We are all seeking lives of significance; and we long for meaning and fulfillment, we attain it by creating lasting structure that supports and sustains us and hopefully, in the end, we will have created a thing of beauty.
Some deepening questions to consider when evaluating your current structure and tools:
- What tools are you using to create a lasting structure for yourself?
- Are the tools you are using supporting and sustaining you even when life becomes difficult?
- Are any of your tools holding you back?
- What are some improvements you could make to your current structure?