There’s nothing like a good scare to bring what’s important 
into focus.

“Live now. Live well.” If you’ve been following Keola you’re probably familiar with our tagline and what it means to us. We believe in experiencing life one moment at a time. To be mindful of what we do today affects all of our tomorrows.

Although it may go without saying that the ability to be in the moment allows one to be present and in a better state of appreciation. This in turn can reveal opportunities we may not have otherwise seen. But in reality, it’s often much harder to put into practice day-to-day. When we are entrenched in life’s daily grind with demands and distractions coming from everywhere, it can be easy to lose focus on what inspires us. What matters to us. Too often we find that our dreams or goals get pushed aside. It’s a slippery slope. If we are not focused, our aspirations begin to fade. Sometimes those aspirations end up amounting to nothing more than some well-intentioned idea scribbled on a notepad never to be realized. I know I’m guilty of this.

Sometimes there’s nothing like an event to shake your world in a way that brings these aspirations back to the forefront. They can reset us, and force us to reevaluate how we are spending our time.  

I recently had a health scare that forced me to rethink how I spend my time and what’s important. To make a long story short here’s what happened… While out mountain biking I sustained an injury to my left shin. Although the injury was painful, I assumed I’d recovered and thought nothing more about it. A few days later a new pain developed and continued to increase to a point it became very uncomfortable to stand. Having led an active lifestyle since childhood, I’ve had several injuries and surgeries to put me back together. Point is, that I know my body and this pain was different than anything I’ve experienced in the past. I got concerned, so I checked myself into an emergency room. I was rushed into immediate care on the suspicion that I could have a potentially life-threatening blood clot.

Sure enough to my extreme dismay, I had developed a blood clot in my leg. I was informed that I would be going on blood thinners immediately. The next thing I heard was: “NO mountain biking, NO skiing, NO anything that may put me at risk for possible injury.” “For how long?” I ask.” The emergency specialist replied, “I’m not sure, it could be as little as 3 months… could be for life.” 

For life! What? Really? I was like a deer in headlights. Mountain biking and skiing in high alpine environments have been an integral part of my life. In many ways, it’s kept me grounded and grateful. This lifestyle has provided memories too numerous to count. Including experiences that have forged close bonds with my 15-year-old son. Not to mention bonds with friends that I have traveled with together for years. 

I have been in potentially life-threatening situations before. However, the close calls I’ve had in the past involved being exposed on icy mountain cliffs and being forced to make an emergency exit from an airplane that lost both engines on my first (and only) time sky diving. As scary as those moments were, they only lasted for a short time. When I was out of danger, my fears would quickly dissipate and I was back in action ready to go!

Finding out about the blood clot was different. This scared me far worse than other close calls from the past. Different because I had time to think and live with the possibility that my lifestyle as I know it could be drastically altered for life. I had four days before I saw a specialist where I would find out if the blood clot was temporary or a lifelong condition. Four days was a lot of time to think. To reevaluate how I spend my time. To reassess. It brought into clear focus all the unfulfilled goals I had set. I wondered if I would still get a chance to realize them. 

In an attempt to turn this experience into something constructive, I took stock in how I was spending my time up until this point. What was really important? Were those unfulfilled goals still important? If they were, what did I intend to do about them? 

The scare immediately refocused me. I made some changes to how I was spending time. First, I realized that someday would never arrive. I was never going to realize certain goals if I didn’t methodically carve out the time to achieving them. 

I used the following simple steps as a framework to get started:

Look for ways to free up time.
  • I took a hard look at how I spend every day. I discovered that I had more time than I thought. There’s plenty of little distractions I could cut out that simply burned time with no benefit. Little distractions may seem benign, but they can quickly add up to hours throughout a week.
  • For example, I now turn my phone off for blocks of time. Then I can better focus on a task at hand to completion without being distracted. Without feeling the need to responded to every text, email, voicemail, Facebook post, Instagram pic, etc.
  • Block off a set amount of time and respond to all messages at one time. By doing this I actually can give more thoughtful responses and reduce the stress created by false urgencies.

Saying “no” is as important as saying “yes”. I'm a people pleaser, so my first reaction is to say yes to everything. Saying yes to everything can derail my attempts at getting more important things done. (like unfulfilled dreams). I’m learning to create better boundaries by saying “no" more often. Ironically, this frees me to say yes and follow through with important things. This has also greatly reduced stress by creating less urgency to do things that are not aligned with my goals.

Now that I’ve created more time what do I do with it? I used the time first to prioritize what is important to me and why. I broke them down into four areas (these of course are different for every individual).

  • Health: Although I’m physically active, my diet could be much better. I need to improve if I want to remain healthy.
  • Career: Is it rewarding to me? Am I inspired by what I’m doing? If not, what must I change?
  • Being dad: Was I deliberately creating enough quality time with my son? 
  • Getting outside: When faced with not being able to do the things I once did, I decided that if I was to get a clean bill of health after the blood clot. I will intentionally make getting outside a priority. Every week. I will not take for granted any opportunity that I have to enjoy what I’m passionate about. Because it can be taken from you at any time.
Now that I got clear on the areas of my life that I wanted to improve… how do I execute to make real progress now? I’m a strong believer in making a to-do list. But although my lists contain a bunch of daily tasks, it failed to keep my longer-term objectives in focus. So I altered my list and how I construct it. I now create three lists to help better manage my time:
  • Start broad. The first list contains the four areas of my life that I’ve identified that I want to see improvement in. So here is where I identify goals three months out.
  • Narrow my focus: The second list, I create every Monday. I set the objectives I want to accomplish every week. What’s different is that I now incorporate my 90-day goals on the weekly list (so I see them every day) I break those added larger 90-day goals into simple weekly objectives that move me forward. I can then see the progress which keeps longer-term goals in focus. And with progress, they become real. Not just things I’ve written down for “someday”.
  • The daily to-do list. Working backward, I break down my 90-day objectives and weekly objectives into manageable daily tasks to execute from. Having clarity in advance helps me better plan for every day. This also produces personal satisfaction and inspiration knowing that I’m making progress not only with daily tasks but also moving forward with my longer-term goals. 

Although the steps are simple, following through has already made a huge difference. It makes it easier to give my undivided attention to whatever or whomever I’m engaged with, in the present moment. This allows me to listen better, execute better, be more creative. Maybe most importantly, I’m able to better enjoy the time spent with family, friends, and co-workers. To be present. 

To wrap it up, I saw the specialist. Turns out I’ll only be on blood thinners for 90 days and I will be back to normal. However, I believe my life has been altered. For the good. The scare forced me to take a hard look at how I was spending my time and the habits I had fallen into without deliberate thought. And for that, I am grateful for the wake-up call. If you’ve read this far, thank you for your time and I hope this sparks ideas or habits that you may develop to incorporate and enrich your life journey. 


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