A couple of weeks ago, my friend Jean and I were talking about how much life can change in a year.
Sometimes the change is gradual. At other times, it’s sudden. But I feel in my heart that it is best to choose as much change as we can–that’s how we observe, honor and respect the nature of our world, which is in a constant state of change.
When we choose change, we’re all the better for it too. Choose enough change and a year goes by that feels like way longer. You look back on the calendar and might think, “That was only one year ago today? Really?!”
“It’s good that we live one year and it feels like three,” I said to Jean, “It must mean that we’re living full tilt.”
Today, I wish to reflect upon my 2014 “so far” as a practice in honoring personal change and evolution. I encourage you to do something similar, whether in a blog post or in your personal journal. Spend some time looking back on what you’ve done, accomplished and tried so far in 2014.
Celebrate the victories. Honor every challenge and struggle. This is a great practice in gratitude.
And as a practice in gratitude, the point here is not to compare your half-year to mine or to anyone else’s. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of self-comparative thinking, where you might hear yourself say something like, “Well I haven’t done a damn thing this year compared to him or her–what’s wrong with me? My life sucks. Why can’t my life be like theirs?”
No. Stop that!
If you do feel like you want to make changes to your life, you can do one of two things:
- One, observe why you think you want or need your life to change. What are the underlying values, core beliefs, ideas or ideals that seem alluring to you? If you see someone has gone on an exciting trip, the value of “Adventure” may be calling you. If you feel stirred by someone else’s cool creative project, the value of “Creativity” or “Artistry” may be calling you. Identify your values by putting pen to paper and explore the underlying feelings.
- Two, ask yourself how you can start to integrate those values, core beliefs, ideas or ideals into your life in simple, practical daily efforts–starting today. Talk can be cheap. If “Adventure” is calling you, start to practice adventure in your everyday life–you don’t need to hop on a plane this afternoon and head abroad. Start small. Change your daily routines. Go somewhere new for lunch. Take a different route to work. Be “Adventurous” in your own ways.
Below, you’ll find some of my top moments of 2014 “so far,” but with detailed explanations of what underlying values each moment was guided by. These “values” are the core beliefs that I feel personally guided by, inspired by. They are principles and ideals that influence each of us every day–when we strive to live by them, we feel purpose, passion, meaning, alignment and fulfillment.
Without living by them, we tend to feel without purpose, lost, floating or “off-track.”
1. ‘Weekend in the Woods’ Writing and Yoga Retreat
Values Honored in Practice: Service, Community, Artistry
My 2014 kicked off with my writing and yoga retreat, Weekend in the Woods. Twelve souls from two countries and eight states descended upon wintry Rhode Island for a Thoreauean weekend experience, exploring creative principles and deepening their connections to “self.” I had the honor of hosting my friend, the talented and shining Alexandra Franzen, to teach what she teaches best.
Weekend in the Woods kicked off my year on a high note–achieving something that I never could have dreamed of doing a few years ago. We had a wonderful time in the woods together.
This retreat represented several values in practice, which helped keep me on point and inspired throughout the obstacles and struggles of organizing an event like this: service to others; developing community connections and a deep interpersonal experience; and creating a living, breathing, artistic experience.
2. A Fresh Redesign of DaveUrsillo.com by Paul Jarvis
Values Honored in Practice: Wealth, Professionalism, Artistry
The big business investment of my 2014 was the stellar redesign of my online home by an artist, designer and author whom I deeply admire, Paul Jarvis.
It may be tough to part ways with the value of a half of a Hyundai–and, yes, it was–but this investment in my business embodied investments in my values: wealth, professionalism and artistry. I believe you can see all three of these values in the final product, too.
The old adage is true: To make money, you need to spend money. Of course, you need to spend it wisely. Based on six months’ worth of feedback from old friends and new readers, I feel very confident that my new online home represents me and my business very well, communicating values through design and creating a personal relationship with readers as soon as they open the page.
3. A New Home in Warwick, Rhode Island
Values Honored in Practice: Space, Responsibility, Artistry
Another step forward in my business life was moving into a new home–the complement of a healthy, spacious personal life and the creative output I desire.
My new home is a beautiful one bedroom apartment in my hometown of Warwick, Rhode Island.
The summer is here now, and I’m engulfed by light in the windows and trees swaying in the breeze. My neighbors are lovely. And I’ve turned my living space into an object of artistry, itself. There are pops and splashes of color, all intended to nurture my creative side. At home, I want to feel ample space–physical space, emotional space, mental space, spiritual space, creative space. Those help me breathe, relax and create.
4. 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training
Values Honored in Practice: Spirituality, Health, Community
Yoga teacher training has been a formative experience for me in 2014.
Not only has the learning and community experience of yoga teacher training been wonderful, but related themes of alignment, integration and inner strength have poured into my work, personal practices and more.
I’ve made wonderful friends with dozens of people in my local community, have seen a new relationship dawn, and even carried my yoga practice across the Atlantic to Europe where I taught my first yoga session at the Berlin Wall memorial for six friends on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Germany.
5. Parenting Without Children: An April Fool’s Day Prank
Values Honored in Practice: Laughter, Humility, Joy
My April Fool’s Day joke went down like gangbusters, as the saying goes.
Plotting with my friend and photographer Bethany O’Connor (pictured top left, editing my ridiculous photos), we created a professional looking “book” that was the “sort of sequel” to my debut book, Lead Without Followers. It was just ridiculous enough to possibly be real, friends told me. The whole point was to parody myself and my book, and riff on some common misconceptions about how much parents receive unsolicited parenting advice from non-parents.
And Parenting Without Children did cause a stir! I received some worried texts from loyal friends (thanks, guys), and the April Fool’s Day prank became the most popular piece on my blog in 2014. “Everyone loves funny,” one former client of mine, Levi, told me in an email.
6. Workshops, Galore — Rhode Island, Austin (Texas), Amsterdam, Brussels and Berlin
Values Honored in Practice: Service, Community, Leadership
At the end of 2013, I decided to commit myself to teaching more workshops. Having never taught a single workshop, six months later, I’ve now taught 7 writing and creativity workshops on two continents for more than 120 students.
Teaching these workshops is all about bringing people together for the inimitable experience of being side by side with people who are just like you. Different for all their uniqueness, yes, but still human at their core–driven by similar desires for love, purpose, meaning and happiness. Being right there with one another is an incredible experience. I love to serve people, and these workshops are an example of standing in the front of the room to lead with heart and soul.
7. Traveling for Two Weeks in Europe
Values Honored in Practice: Self-Challenge, Travel/Adventure, Friendship
At the 11th hour before any big trip, I start to question what the hell I’m getting myself into. It’s a challenge for me to head out into the unknown–a gift of a challenge, of course, and one I’m eternally grateful for.
But the point of these international backpacking adventures is all about challenging myself and facing the unknown, and uncertainty, and fear. I pack up my shit with a little itinerary, no expectations and few plans (save for some workshops, this time). I face myself with these travels and adventures. My trip to Europe this spring was no different.
Remembering that I’m honoring these values is what carries me through the unknown and helps me feel like a champion of my own life when I return home.
8. Six Months of Weekly Blog Posts
Values Honored in Practice: Commitment, Service, Creative Output
With the relaunch of the new design of this site, I decided to recommit myself to a higher level of creative output. I wanted to rededicate myself to serving readers–many of whom are often anonymous visitors who you never hear from–by giving them quality pieces of material, essays, stories, strategies and advice. The relaunch of my fancy new site felt like a great way to kick things off.
After six months, I’ve succeeded in creating weekly content of a high level of value. It’s great to witness your progress over the weeks and months. As a writer or creative or artist, daily practice is vital. And by adding these other core values to the “creative output” equation, I find more and more fuel to keep going, creating, and sharing.
9. Books on the Horizon
Values Honored in Practice: Artistry, Legacy, Love
Yes! Books on the horizon! Hoorah!
I’ve been quietly working away on a few exciting book projects as I rededicate my creative work to the values of artistry, legacy and love–what, I believe, all live in the book-writing experience and the book-reading experience. I feel that books truly capture a slice of humanity in a way that few other art forms can. Books encapsulate humanity and carry humanity along with them.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be publishing my next book, Big Apple, Black Sand and the Midnight Sun–a collection of essays by yours truly spanning my 40,000 miles of travel from 2012 to 2013, with essays on self-reliance, love, friendship, living a meaningful life and much more.
Second, I’ll be releasing a second edition of my book God Whispers on the Wind this summer, featuring the beautiful and original mandala art of Cassia Cogger. I’m incredibly excited to release this expanded edition which will include dozens more poems of “light laughter and love” with incredible, full-color mandalas!
Personal Values + Personal Goals = Making the Journey Your Reward
I was a “B” student for most of my high school and college days. It’s an identity that has long stuck with me. I always found myself doing “just enough work” to get into that meaty “B” grade range, but never so much to “overachieve” and leap into the “A” range. Five years into being a professional writer, I find myself driven by high personal standards and a desire for uncompromised artistic integrity.
I want to be an A student now–but not by anyone else’s standards but my own, to be judged by those whom my work impacts.
I say this to say that achieving through your values and belief system is a beautiful thing. Your values, your beliefs, your guiding lights. After all, it is you who will be the judge of your life, your goals and dreams, your efforts, your purpose and your fulfillment.
We are our own graders–we look in the mirror and assign the letters, now.
Never driven by someone else’s standards, I’ve since learned that you can indeed try, strive, aspire, risk and achieve according to your unique values and beliefs. Is it the same for you? Are you grading yourself based on others’ expectations, assumptions, values or beliefs?
Take a look at this list above and tell me,
How can you shape your next 6 months’ worth of goals, projects, adventures through your values and guiding beliefs?
Have fun with your answers. This is a creative project.
Your life, after all, is a thing of artistry. Treat it as such!
As you learn to shape your goals, projects, dreams and everyday efforts through your values system and core beliefs, you’ll begin to witness your entire life’s journey becoming it’s own beautiful reward.
Ready to take some practical action? Here’s your assignment.
Start by putting pen to paper. Literally write your response out, starting now. Writing is the most beautiful art–we shepherd ideas, thoughts, beliefs, feelings and indeed the very fabric of our soul into coherence when we explore and express it onto the page.
What core, guiding values are calling to you most right now? How do those beliefs or feelings shape the feel of your journey? How, in turn, can you set a small handful of personal goals and projects for yourself–hell, even if it’s just one–that embody/embodies those values, in action?