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Vision-Living & Goal-Setting

  

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. –Marianne Williamson

It is my firm belief that the deep and secret dreams we hold (big or small), the ones that we most fear, are the things that we most need to do in our lives.  These are always the things that light up our soul and set our life on fire.  These are the visions we must live in our daily lives.

I believe that we are our greatest enemy and greatest ally when it comes to living our visions, dreams, and goals.  It is usually ourselves that hold us back from doing what we really want to do.  But it is also ourselves who will be the biggest champion in attaining whatever it is we set our minds and hearts upon.  Great strength comes when our mind and heart are in alignment with our actions.  Mind-heart-action symmetry is analogous to living with integrity and authenticity.

I’ve had to learn to give myself permission to chase these dreams and inner visions despite what I think others will think (including that doubting other self that lives within).  I’ve spent a way too much energy making excuses and/or pretending that they aren’t important or worthy of my time.  Now I do my best to listen to that deep wise part of myself.  Following are a few things that I have found helpful.

My simple formula for deciding if a vision, dream, or goal is worth going after is:

how long I’ve thought about doing it + how often I’ve thought of doing it + how many times I’ve thought of doing it + how much I fear doing it

If any of these factors are high then I should probably do it.  If more than one of them are high I should definitely do it.  If they are all relatively high then I have to do it.

I also usually ask myself one other question to really test the desire.  The question is:  When I die what will I regret more?  Having tried this or not having tried it?  If there is any chance that I will regret not having tried it then I really need to get going on it.  Anything that has a chance of being something that I would want to say I’ve done in my life upon my death is worth exploring.

The other thing to note about visions, dreams, and goals is that they are all individually equally important.  It is okay that these things range the entire gamut of human experience among the human population.  We are all called to do different things in life.  And that is a wonderful thing.  It would be a pretty boring place if we were all doing the same thing.

Deep down we all know the things we most want to do.  The key is to give ourselves the permission and freedom to acknowledge what these things are and do them whether or not they make sense or make money.  If we desire it we should at least give ourself the chance to see where it takes us.  We can always abandon it once we realize it isn’t for us anymore.  There is no harm and no shame in trying things.  And if we fall deeply in love with it we can always find a way and a place for it in our life.

I freely admit that my example below is somewhat repetitive and in some ways overkill, but I’ve found the more I spell it out for myself and hold myself accountable the more likely I am to stay on track.

Special Note: If you find any of this helpful you may also enjoy my article on nano-habits.  It was through this concept and practice that I finally began to actually open myself up to pursue my hidden dream of writing (after thinking about it for nearly a decade of course).

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
― Mary Oliver

Vision-Living & Goal-Setting Template

I am committed to making concrete, vividly imagined, growth-minded plans of actions that include what, when, where, who, how, & why I am living my vision. My goals and plans for living this vision will follow these steps:

  1. Set goal (decide upon a new realm of possibility)
  2. Plan means (action-tasks + schedule) for achieving goal (new realm of possibility).
    • Include the answers to:
      • What: What exactly are you doing?  The more you write out the steps the easier they are to follow.
      • When: When are you doing it?  If you set a time/day for the “what” to be done and write this down, the chances it will get done are infinitely higher.
      • Where: Where will you be doing the “what” and “when”?  It is good to know this so if your goal is location dependent you are in the right place at the right time.  If it isn’t location dependent, even better.  Then you can give yourself permission to do the “what” and “when” anywhere. For some people this is liberating.  For others it can be better to set a routine “where” that empowers you to accomplish the “what” on time with the “when”. Writing all of this down somewhere (longhand or digitally) will reinforce all of this happening.
      • Who: Who is involved?  Clearly list out the people involved even if you it’s only yourself.  By clearly stating who is responsible for the “what”, “when”, & “where” you enable clear communication and clear action. Again, writing this down so that it is clearly stated to each “who” empowers everyone to do “what” they need to do, “when” and “where” they need to do it.
      • How: How will it be done?  This is where we tie the “what”, “when”, “where”, and “who” together in one written down statement.  This can be somewhat redundant to the “what” but I’ve found that repetition and clarity leads to action.
      • Why: Why are you doing all this?  Most people have a deep conscious or subconscious need to know and understand why they are doing anything.  Clearly stating this in written form allows you to close the loop and reinforces the driving energy behind it all.
  3. Begin acting on plan and living new realm of possibility.
  4. Nurture plan (action-tasks + schedule) and new realm of possibility with patience & persistence.
  5. Complete tasks (individually scheduled actions) and reward/recognize/honor myself for each completed task.
  6. Repeat steps #4 & #5 until goal is achieved and new realm of possibility is being lived (note: this could go on indefinitely).
  7. CAUTION: I realize that in creating a new realm of possibility (or along the way towards a goal or living a vision) I will have setbacks and breakdowns. With each setback/breakdown I will forgive myself first, then promptly take renewed committed action towards the goal/possibility/vision. Every setback and every breakdown is an opportunity for growth, healing, and transformation. I can only have a set back if I am moving forward. I can only have a break down if I am moving up.
In practice and in example it will look as follows:
  1. Goal and new realm of possibility: Manifest & live my vision of myself as a transformation artist & leader.
  2. Plan means (action-tasks + schedule):
    1. Write every day (500+ words).
      1. What: Write every day (500+ words).
      2. When: Every day.  Usually this happens every morning immediately following my meditation.  If it doesn’t follow my morning meditation I will create other time throughout the day in some way, shape, or form.
      3. Where: Wherever I am. Most days this in my room/creative-office, but if I am traveling or away from my usual writing environment I will use this as an opportunity to renew my commitment to my daily writing in another environment.
      4. Who: Justin David Carl.  I am the writer.
      5. How: I, Justin David Carl, will sit and write on my MacBook Air (named Fragarach – Irish mythological sword also known as “the answerer”) until I have reached 500 or more words.  I will do this every day no matter where I am.  It does not matter what I write about or how good or bad I think it is.  I can work on a previously-started piece of writing, begin a new piece, or mix working on previous writings with new writing.  I can even type out hand-written journaling or other people’s writings.  My only obligation and commitment is to write until I have reached 500 words or more.  There are endless ways that I can achieve this and I am committed to giving myself the freedom of expression in however these 500+ words choose to manifest themselves on a daily basis.  I will let “Creative Force” take care of the quality while I take care of the quantity.
      6. Why: Because this is mind-heart-action alignment that is in accordance with my vision of living as a transformation artist & leader.
    2. Publicly publish one piece of creative work on my blog or Facebook Page each week.
      1. What: Publicly publish one piece of creative work on my blog (www.lifesrake.com) or Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/LifesRake) each week.
      2. When: Every week by Saturday before 3pm.
      3. Where: Wherever I am.
      4. Who: Justin David Carl.  I am the artist.  I am the writer.  I am the blogger.  I am the creator.  I am the publisher.
      5. How:  I, Justin David Carl, will choose one piece of my writing or creative work to publish and share on my blog or Facebook Page every week by Saturday before 3pm.  It does not matter which piece of writing or creative work it is.  It does not matter how long or how short the post is.  It does not matter how good or bad I “think” it is.  It does not matter what I think people will think of the writing or creative piece.  All that matters is that I stay committed to my commitment of publicly publishing one piece creative work each and every week by Saturday before 3pm.  I will let Creative Force take care of the quality while I take care of publicly publishing my creative work.
      6. Why: Because this is mind-heart-action alignment that is in accordance with my vision of living as a transformation artist & leader.
    3.  Share my weekly post on at least one of my social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, email list, etc.).  I will give myself bonus points if I share it on more than one social media platform or any other way of reaching an audience.
      1. What: Share my weekly publicly published creative piece.
      2. When: Every week on or before Friday at 10pm.
      3. Where: On one of my social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, email list, etc.
      4. Who: Justin David Carl.  I am the artist.  I am the writer.  I am the blogger.  I am the creator.  I am the social media strategist.
      5. How: I, Justin David Carl, will share my weekly creative work on one of my social media platforms every week on or before Friday at 10pm.  It does not matter which social media platform I choose.  I can share it with accompanying words and/or explanation.   Or I can just share the link.  It does not matter how well it is received.  It does not matter how many likes, shares, reposts, etc. it gets.  All that matters is that I am actively sharing my published works each and every week before Friday at 10pm.  I will let “Creative Force” take care of the quality and public reception while I take care of actively sharing what I have created.
      6. Because this is mind-heart-action alignment with my vision of living as a transformation artist & leader.
  3. I, Justin David Carl, will  act on this plan and new realm of possibility now (today) and every day going forward.
  4. I will nurture this plan and this realm of possibility every day and every week with patience and persistence.  I give myself permission to be scared.  When I face and embrace my fears I am abundantly rewarded.  I know this as fact as I have seen it countless times in my own life and in the lives of others.  I will remember that my fears are my friends for they are always guiding me towards the highest path of growth, healing, and transformation.  I give myself permission to have any and all emotions, however light or dark, calm or fierce during any and all of this.  And despite these ever-changing and ranging emotions I will continue to take committed action with patience, persistence, & integrity.
  5. I will complete each task each day and each week.  With each completed day of writing 500+ words I will take a sacred pause to consciously congratulate myself, show appreciation for the ever-burning Creative Force that lives within, and acknowledge that I am living my vision and dream each and every day.  With each completed publicly published creative work I will take a sacred pause to again congratulate myself, show appreciation to the ever-burning Creative Force that lives within, and acknowledge that I am living my vision and dream each and every week.  With each completed sharing of my weekly publicly published creative work on one or more of my social media platforms I will take a sacred pause to congratulate myself, show appreciation to the ever-burning Creative Force that lives within, and to acknowledge that not only I am living my vision and my dream but that I am given the deeply sacred opportunity to share my vision, dreams, and creative expression in service to others.  I will take all the love, joy, magic, appreciation, gratitude, wonder, and awe that is produced from living this possibility and jubilantly share it with all aspects of my life.
  6. I will repeat major steps #4 and #5 every day and every week.
  7. I realize that in creating a new realm of possibility (or along the way towards a goal) I will have setbacks and breakdowns. With each setback and breakdown I will forgive myself first, then promptly take renewed committed action towards the goal and possibility.  Every setback and every breakdown is an opportunity for growth, healing, and transformation. I can only have a set back if I am moving forward.  I can only have a break down if I am moving up.
    • I also realize that due to the ever-changing process of living life the exact schedule may be modified as needed. The key commitment is writing 500+ words daily, publishing one piece of creative work each week, and taking action to share my creative work every week.  I give myself permission to be flexible with this creative process with integrity as needed.

Please feel free to use and share this vision-living & goal-setting template.

In service & gratitude,

Justin David Carl

P.S. If you found this useful you may also like Gratitude Evolution — a living resource on the practice of living in gratitude on a daily basis.

Mining Sorrow For Brilliance

By Justin David Carl

Someone I loved once gave me a box of darkness.  It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift. -Mary Oliver

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Failure. Abuse. Betrayal. Separation. Death. All part of the darker side of human experience. I’ve had my fair share of encounters with them. We all have. However, it’s up to us to decide how we let the ensuing sorrow run its course. It can be done with grace and equanimity, mysterious decay, or fire and destruction.

All the best lessons in life come from dark experiences—setbacks, breakdowns, reversals, unfulfilled expectation, separation, and death. These all produce sorrow in varying degrees depending on the level and intensity of the dark experience. Even minor dark experiences produce minor sorrow. Sorrow is the the expression of grief, regret, sadness, disappointment or the like. We often try to avoid or suppress our sorrow as if it is taboo to have darker feelings. But suppression just pushes the emotion into hidden stagnant energy that we end up storing in our body and the hidden recesses of our mind.

We need not be afraid of sorrow. Sorrow is beautiful. And unconditional sorrow is powerful when we embrace it. The great liberator. Through the expression of sorrow in whatever form we choose to let it flow we can find purification, renewal, and regeneration. If we can allow ourselves to feel the sorrow in all its glory then we are reborn. We are cleansed of the experience. And after the cleansing we can reflect and begin to mine the experience for the precious diamonds that will be born it.

No matter the size or scope we can find revolution and brilliance from all sorrow if we choose to be open to it. This isn’t easy for humans. We are often fearful creatures by habit. Being open means being vulnerable. Vulnerability is scary as hell for most. And being opens means letting feelings pour out in an unconstrained and respectful way. Feelings are also another forbidden realm for many. Nonetheless, honoring sorrow doesn’t mean you have to burst out sobbing during the middle of work. It means giving yourself permission to feel the feelings and let them run their course in a safe environment. If it’s small, you can have a brief compassionate conversation with yourself. “Well, that was unfortunate. And that is okay. It’s okay for me to have these dark feelings. I trust that in some way, shape, or form it was meant to be. I give myself permission to have and emote these feelings. I have full faith that the more fully I allow them their expression the sooner I will find self-regeneration.” We can have this same conversation with bigger sorrowful experiences. Then we can give ourselves the love and respect to find a quiet and protected place to have the big cry if the situation calls for that level of renewal.

In my own life all the darkest deepest most terrible experiences have led to the biggest leaps in the revolution of my life. They have lead to immeasurable healing, growth, and transformation. Some of my highlights in no particular order are: not getting into Stanford the first time I tried, going through a drug addiction, going through suicidal depression that followed my drug addiction, being physically and sexually abused as a child, taking a 7-year leave of absence from Stanford, ending relationships, ending jobs, ending business partnerships, ending careers (ending anything seems to be particularly challenging for me), and the list goes on.

Most of these experiences plagued me for large parts of my lifetime until recently. They manifested in subtle and destructive ways. Causing problems, stress, confusion, and more. It wasn’t until I began to acknowledge them in the last few years that I finally began to unravel their chains of enslavement. As I brought them to the light of my consciousness I saw that I was both the prisoner and the jailer. Then when I embraced the power of unconditional sorrow I began to find power within the darkness. I discovered that grief and sadness are purifying. I realized that disappointment was simply an opportunity not met, not an indication of my personal worth or value. And I learned that regret was just pointing to where I still had forgiving to do. Ultimately, I have found that by opening and reopening to any dark experience that has been hidden away and giving over to the bottled up sorrow I could be freed and find personal revolution. This is alchemy. Taking base material and turning it into gold.

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I am still going back to many of these experiences as they resurface. The darkest experiences of our lives tend to stay with us indefinitely. This is okay. There is a reason they happened. Though the reason isn’t often obvious at first.

I often come upon new experiences in life that trigger old dark experiences. Each time I resist letting the dark experience resurface it persists until it finds a way to the top. Usually it shows up as some sort of breakdown or setback in some seemingly unrelated area of life. But when I finally compassionately turn and face the darkness again I am able to see the connection between the old experience and the new. Then I am able to see that the old dark experience is simply quietly asking to be honored once again. So with patience I allow myself to feel the sorrow. Emote. And be renewed again. Each time I find additional brilliance from the experience. I discover new opportunity that the experience is pointing to. I deepen my forgiveness of others. I forgive myself again. I purify, renew, and am recharged by my compassionate awareness, acknowledgement, and acceptance.

Even though some of these experience happened a lifetime ago I am still able to go back. There are always new diamonds in the dark to be unearthed. No matter how old or new, harsh or polite, the darker experiences are infinite mines to be plied again and again.

With every respectful visit with sorrow we are able to reclaim power and energy we have locked away from ourselves. Unconditional sorrow is a way of honoring our dark experiences in a way such that we are both released and empowered by them. It seems counter-intuitive because it is scary to be with our darkness because of the associated pain. Once we realize the fear of pain won’t kill us we can begin to accept the transformation the experience is offering up to us.

In contrast, when we suppress these darker experiences or try to hide them away they just suck our life energy away. They will find a way to manifest. No matter what. If we keep them hidden in our deep dark closets without sorrowfully honoring them they will find a way into our worldly experience. And it won’t be pretty. They will cause disaster, pain, stress, chaos, and destruction. Often we don’t even realize where it came from because we are still not willing to acknowledge what we hid away. So life will seem cruel and heartless. We play the victim role. Poor me. Pity. Pity. Pity. But at some point the pain and destruction will become strong enough and finally we will bring to light to what was once hidden. Finally, we will connect the dysfunction or disconnect in some aspect of our life to something we have stored away. Either way, sorrow will have its day.

We can choose compassion for our dark experiences and actively embrace them with consciousness or we can hide from them and let them haunt us. It is up to us whether we choose self-oppression or liberation.

In Gratitude, Alchemy & Service,

Justin David Carl | LifesRake 🌒

P.S. After reading this you may be wondering if every day is magic, rainbows, and unicorns for me… More days than ever are now, but I still have my down days too. And I believe it is important to emote on those days so that you can be cleansed by your own emotions.  See this article on sorrow for the other end of the spectrum.


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Furious Love: A Poem on Anger

by Justin David Carl


The fury stormed and raged. 

Soul patiently watched, unmoved.

It was frightening, the fire and lightning.

It was glorious in its might,

Soul observed.

Beauty and power bursting in chaos,

Soul witnessed in awe.

Savoring the experience,

Soul drank it all in.

In a flash it was transformed,

Reborn as the greatest gift.

Illumination of love bloomed; infinite.