Having more members in our group not only helps discourage bears and other critters from coming too close, it also creates new friendships and opens our minds to new stories and ideas. Our hike this week was close to six hours, so we had plenty of time to get past the pleasantries and onto some more interesting topics.
Pam is a great outdoors enthusiast. She didn’t share everything she does, but we could easily tell from her additions to the conversation that not much moss grows under her feet! She did share she is a sticker enthusiast, and in her words, ‘Give me a sticker, and I’ll do anything!’. She keeps a calendar of the things she does to keep active. At a quick glance, she can tell when she’s a bit short on stretching or strength building. She doesn’t put pressure on herself to do a certain amount of anything. But I strongly suspect that not one week, likely not many days, go by without a rainbow of different coloured stickers being put on her calendar!
It shouldn’t have been a surprise then to find out about the gift she created for her brother to celebrate his retirement. He had told her what he was looking forward to once his work commitments ended. He wanted to spend more time skiing for pleasure, after having been a ski instructor for years. In fact, he wanted to ski fifty times in the first season. He wanted to golf fifty games in one year. He wanted to hike fifty times. And he wanted to enjoy the beautiful sunsets and holiday in one of his favourite southern states.
So, Pam gave him a large jar, and four bags, each containing fifty different coloured poker chips. Each time he participated in one of his chosen activities, he added the poker chip of the corresponding colour to his jar. In theory, by the end of the year, the little bags would be empty, and the jar would be full of colourful chips! It came as no surprise to me that it was.
Since our Tuesday hike, I’ve been imagining a jar on my desk. First, as a little data gathering experiment, I thought it might be interesting to simply set it out and let it reflect what I am currently doing. I could add different coloured beads or poker chips to represent things I do. Then, seeing the visual of the life I’m creating, I could make adjustments. As I pondered my plan, I could already get an image in my mind. It wasn’t very pretty!
I was imagining how my jar would fill up quite quickly. The trouble was, there would be an awfully lot of ‘neutrals’ in there. There are a lot of things I need to do in a week that don’t fall into the category of fun. Some of them even feel, and look, like work. I would likely use dull colours to represent these. I’d hate to use a turquoise blue bead to represent dishes! As I continued to think of all the ‘boring’ beads I would put in my jar, I recognized that while I’d end up with a full jar, I’d missed the point Pam so eloquently made.
Every one of us has more jobs, responsibilities, and obligations than we have hours in the day. These, while completely necessary and important, are not the things that fill our jar. The jar-fillers that Pam recognized for her brother, are the things that give our days joy. They are the things that bring us closer to who we long to be deep down. For some of us, a beautiful bead might represent an entry in a journal, or a dessert created. For one man I know, a blue bead in his jar would represent time spent with the gorgeous bluebirds he bands and monitors. My dad would have had a fish shaped bead for every day he was able to put his rod in the river. My sister might have a musical note-shaped bead for every day she has the chance to sing. There was a time, not so long ago, I would have loved to put a running shoe-shaped bead in every time I completed a run.
I’ve wisely given up the idea of using a jar to get a snapshot of my current life. I don’t need it. I will, of course, continue to do my ‘must do’s’. Instead, I want to borrow a page from Pam’s book of stickers, and her poker chip jar for her brother, and find a way to document the ways I honour the bead-worthy things in my life. Whereas my jar of jobs depleted my enthusiasm, the idea of a jar to document the time I spend honouring my passions is exciting. It’s also a system for keeping me accountable to myself. If these things really are my passions, it would be nice if my life could reflect this.
I will find coloured beads to represent dancing, hiking, and singing. I’ll have special beads for the days when I am lucky to have time with Ben and Andy. Now that the weather is turning to spring, I’ll pick a bead to represent biking. I'll have one for reading. And sewing. One for quilt-creating and one for kitting. And one for meditating, camping and adventure- seeking. I’ll need a bead for days spent in nature. And a particularly beautiful one to represent time spent with our children. And another for time with people who fill my bucket.
I loved that Pam’s brother knew how many times he’d like to do each activity. I don’t know this exact number for any of my activities. However, I think there is substantial value in choosing some number, rather than just allowing my life to unfold, and hoping I am sprinkling in nice beads. I’ve noticed the years slip by when I’m not paying attention. I think I’d rather have to buy a bigger jar, than get to the end of the year and notice the beads in my jar look lonely.
Oh yes, I’m also, absolutely going to buy a few extra beads, some not assigned to any particular activity. They will be a spectacular colour. These will be for my yet-to-be-discovered passions, and perhaps for those I thought I was too old for. What a year I will have had if I see some of these beauties sprinkled throughout the collection in my jar.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What beads will fill my jar?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations and for conducting leadership reviews. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to choose the beads for your jar.