(Again, if you’re not my family, this writeup probably doesn’t apply to ya! 🙃)
So, maybe an example (or 11) of ‘themes’ might be in order. Basically, what you’re looking for is something that resonates with you, something to keep your focus on things in your life you want to change or improve, that you can apply to the decisions in your life more broadly. Here’s some I’ve found that others have used, with a brief example or two of what decisions might follow from it:
… of Communication: Talk to relatives more. Learn a new language. Make new friends. Start journaling. Get therapy. Become more involved in work/school.
… of Exploration: Find a hobby. Travel somewhere you’ve never been. Learn something in depth. Get some therapy. Change up your relationships. Create some art. Write a short story. Find some type of exercise that you enjoy.
… of Transition: Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Move. Drop a habit of yours that you hate.
… of Independence: Start a business. Leave a painful relationship. Move. Drop activities you don’t enjoy but do because others want you to do them. Learn to do things that others normally do for you.
… of Foundations: Create systems to organize work/school. Control the chaos. Start journaling. Create to-do systems. Track your time. Streamline your life. Spend focused time discovering what is most important to you.
… of Human: Slow down at work/school/etc. Delegate when possible. Develop basic ‘human skills’ ala learning to cook, exercising, reading. Travel. Chat with strangers until it become more normal.
… of Career: Commit to improving your work life. Figure out if what you’re doing is what you want to be doing. Improve skills needed in your industry. Educate yourself (formally or informally) further in whatever field you are in.
… of Energy: Find things that give you energy. Do them more. Find those things that do not. Drop/limit them. Find friends that energize you. Limit friends that do the opposite.
… of Conscientiousness: Get more organized. Be more reliable. Have better self control. Be more thoughtful in how you respond. Deliberate your choices more.
… of Being Present: Stop multitasking. Be present when with people. Be engaged with the task in front of you. Don’t just consume mindlessly (eating, entertainment, shopping, etc). Fully enjoy your food. Fully commit in your relationships.
.. of Less: Pare down your life to those things that you really want. Stop being guilty for not doing things you do not want to actually do. Do more of those things that you enthusiastically want to. Say no more often to others’ requests. Split your attention among fewer things.
Themes are not there to set and forget. They are there to nudge your decisions in an intentional way.
For example, with a theme of Less: yet another call for one of your special skills arrives, and if you move a few things in your life around you could squeeze it in. But you are not really enthused to do it, and moving things around to do so will put a limit on those things you really want to do. Informed by your theme, pass on the request. And as much as possible, do not feel guilty about it. There’s a reason you picked that theme!
Now, if your theme was, say, Service, you would be nudged in the other direction.
A post I stumbled across in reddit gives you a more fleshed-out use of those journals I bought:
The journey of life is like the Marble rolling around the labyrinth of the old Marble Madness game, pivoting one way or another on the whim of some cruel unseen forces.
Every night I answer these questions in my Theme System and track which directions I’d traversed - what decisions I’d made, for better or worse, throughout the day. And every couple weeks, I tally up totals from the points I’d awarded or deducted and look at the trends.
Then, before I turn the page to the next set of 15 days worth of circles, I look for where I went astray. I find the decisions I’d made that I’d prefer to avoid and I start cutting and gluing strips of sandpaper down to the Marble Madness board along those paths.
Trying to eat fewer carbs? Alright, I’ll lose a point if I eat bread on any given day. Want to be more intentional with my time? Alright, I’ll lose a point if I tap “ignore” when my screen time warning pops up for the Reddit app. I’m not building blockades that can’t be broken asunder - I’m just applying a bit of friction here and there to help steer the ball away when things start to pivot tomorrow morning.
Then I think about the paths I want the ball to follow, and I break out a can of WD-40. Want to make sure I have focus time with the wife? I get a point if we share a coffee sitting together. Struggling with resistance working out? I get a point if I just make it to the yoga mat at all. Still having trouble? Make it TWO points. Spray down the paths I wanna follow with some WD-40.
Then throughout the day, when I’m rolling towards an intersection of the labyrinth, I can do whatever I want - but one choice has some friction built in, and the other has resistance removed… and along I roll.
And hopefully, at the end of your time with that theme, you will see your life further along the path you pointed it at than if you’d just reacted to life willy nilly! 🤷🏽♂️