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Step 3 in Designing a Meaningful Life: Become an Architect

Part 3 of a 5-part series on Designing a Meaningful Life

Step 1: Start Where You Are

Step 2: Explore Your Gravel Pit

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Get caught up with all episodes in the Developing a New Focus series.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s grace.”

– I Peter 4:10

Step 3 – Become an Architect

Before designing a building, an architect looks at the status of the soil and determines what things need to be removed and what underground restrictions need to be considered.

Just as an architect analyzes the conditions he or she is working with, we too, need to examine and evaluate what we are working with in our personal life. Our “soil” might be tainted with ongoing anger or bitterness, constant conflict or blaming.

What things need to be removed, acknowledged, or resolved before you can begin building the life you want?

Garden analysis to life project

In a real gravel pit, here are some of the things you want to know before you start developing.

  • What kind of dirt remains? Is it clay, porous, sandy or loam?
  • How stable are the edges of the pit?
  • Is there an underground spring that could erode any building plans? Might it be redirected and used as a source for a small pond?
  • Where would you like walkways or paths to be placed if you are making a garden?

Just as an architect wants to know everything that could potentially impact the design, we, too, want to gather as much information as possible about potential deterrents.

If you don’t believe you can, you won’t be able to.

You are the architect.

Using a similar assessment, ask yourself the following:

  • What is the condition of my life right now? Ex: rocky, shaky, uncertain?
  • What emotions get me into trouble? Ex: quick to anger, unreasonable fear or anxiety, annoyance, etc.
  • What resources do I have? Ex: education, time, support, finances, etc.
  • What difficulties can be turned into an asset? Ex: a time management program can result in productive work and more time to relax; tough situations can teach us patience and resilience.

We are a combination of DNA, personality, childhood experiences and the core beliefs we put in place as we are growing up. They are as varied as the flowers we see and will affect each of us differently. While something may be an irritant to one person, it can be an exciting experience to another.

Step 3 in Designing a Meaningful Life: Become an Architect

Let’s dig a little deeper and look for things that have had a positive effect in your life.

  • What events and/or life experiences helped shape, define and influence who you are today in a positive way?
  • What meaningful experiences have you had and what made them meaningful? What did you gain from them even if they might have been difficult at the time? What important lessons did you learn?
  • Who were or are the role models in your life – people you consider important and who made an impact on your development: as a child… as a teen… as an adult? What characteristics or qualities of your role models do you admire and want to emulate?

If we only see the negatives, we will miss the joys of life.

When we dismiss our positive qualities, we will have difficulty learning to trust ourselves, make thoughtful decisions, evaluate, and eliminate what isn’t working.

Remember the gravel pit that became the famous Butchart Gardens? The same is true for us. No matter how severe, there are things that can be used for good. What we bring from our past can feel like rocks and boulders and puddles of muddy water. But we can find a way to use it to our advantage.

Some things that sabotage our efforts are the continuous use of belittling labels we were given and constant responding to our internal negative critic. Our efforts and accomplishments are then blocked. If these are not addressed, the landscape design for your life will be less than what it could be.

Say “hello” to yourself

How would you describe or define “you” to yourself?

Take a sheet of paper and draw a circle in the center. Add a smiley face and put your name in the middle. Draw spokes leading outward like a sun.

As you consider the following, write on each of those spokes a descriptive word(s) or phrase about who you are. Remember, this is for your benefit based on your definition. Be as honest as you can.

  1. What traits or strengths do you have? Ex: Do you see yourself as strong, determined, thoughtful, etc.
  2. What weak or challenging characteristics would you assign yourself? These change over time as we consider them more thoughtfully. Ex: Difficulty speaking up for yourself, constant worrier, lack of faith in self, technology challenged, etc.
  3. Describe some of your social skills. Ex: Do you consider yourself friendly, shy, aloof, engaging, talkative, social, etc.
  4. What talents and abilities do you have? Ex: artistic, computer savvy, athletic, good planner, etc.
  5. What are your predominant attitudes or mindsets? Ex: dependable, trusting, independent, reliable, loyal, positive, etc.
  6. How would you describe your typical emotional state? Ex: happy, excited, anxious, angry, contented, thoughtful, cheerful, compassionate etc.
  7. What behaviors continue to make it difficult to manage your life? Ex: reactionary, acting without thinking, emotionally driven, hesitant, overly cautious, fearful of taking any risk, etc.
  8. What coping skills do you use to compensate for painful or difficult times? Ex: retreat, overeating, lashing out, alcohol, deny or ignore, thoughtful reflection, time out to relax, etc.

These questions provide a broader and more in-depth understanding and picture of who we are at any point of time.

We are an amalgam of positive traits and those we consider not-so-positive, a wonderful combination of strengths and weaknesses.

We are not either/or.  We can benefit from all of them.

To complete this step, write a brief statement of who you are, how you see yourself and what changes you might want to make.

Who do you want to become?

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