I think it’s fair to say summer is finally upon us (hearty round of applause). I know what’s on your mind 24/7 from this point on, because it’s dominating my mind too: vacation time. Yes, sitting by some body of water, chillaxin' in swimwear, sipping on your cocktail of choice. I totally feel you. But…before you dive head first into the glistening water of the pool, consider a few other things for which summer time is absolutely ideal.
The summer is characterised by a break from the norm- the kids are off school, the traffic jams thin, the extra dose of sunshine brings smiles to the faces of strangers. It's a time when the normal pace of life tends to slow, during which people seem to get less hung up over the little, pedantic things in life, and seem a lot more at ease. Now's the perfect time for you to take a step back and really do some reflection.
Where are you now?
I don’t mean physically where you’ve planted your bum for the summer vacay, I’m talking about the big picture: where you are right now in your life, and if you are happy there. So, on a personal level, what’s the status of the relationships in your life? Do you have what you’d consider bosom buddies, who you know you can rely on through thick and thick? If you’re married or in a committed relationship, how’s that going? Are you happy with these relationships? Do they breathe life into you, or do they suck you dry? Do you feel inspired and able to take on the world when you’re with these individuals? What improvements could you initiate to make these relationships more nourishing to your soul? Remember, who you keep company with will play a large role in how you feel about yourself and the world around you.
On a professional level: are you working just for the sake of paying the bills at the end of the month? Or do you feel passionate about what you do? Of course, the very nature of jobs is that everything is not always going to be peachy and go smoothly. But if you’re struggling to remember times feeling content in your job, you need to take decisive action.
Where do you want to be?
Do you have long-term as well as shorter-term goals as to what you want to achieve in your life? If not, now’s a great time to make some. There is nothing worse than drifting through life, having the years roll by, while you just kind of take it as it comes, simply focusing on reacting to situations as they arise and solely concentrating on surviving day by day. Self-assessment is key in this regard, and it’s something only you can do through honest examination (sorry no outsourcing here).
Think back to when you were a child – what were your ambitions then? True, with the passage of time and your increased maturity, these ambitions might not at all be what you want to do with your life now. Nevertheless, thinking back to a time when life was simpler and concern about practicality was basically non-existent will help you to see what at the very core of your personality lights you up. After all, it’s been shown that our personalities don’t radically change in actuality from childhood to adulthood.
I’ll share my own example with you. Growing up, I wanted to be an airline hostess. That was my ultimate ambition. Now, it’s not something I would be at all interested in doing (travelling is great, but I don’t like the actual experience of flying!). However, as an adult, remembering that ambition of years gone by has helped me recognise the core reason behind it- I love travelling and exploring various cultures! So now, I’m sure to satisfy that urge I get ever so often. By doing so, I’m not denying that ambition I dreamed of as a kid, but rather fulfilling the motive behind it in a different way. Could your childhood dreams actually be the key to discovering what will give you true fulfillment in your adult life?
Tip: Try not only thinking about this, but also jotting down what you’ve come up. Documenting where you are now and the goals you’ve set are crucial in your growth journey. Why not give this journal a try, designed to make goal setting and crushing, a breeze.
Get to know your kids
Ok, that might sound pretty obvious, but in today’s society when mothers spend on average just 14 hours on average a week (half that figure for fathers), the point is less of a given than might be assumed. Summer time, when kids are out of school and parents generally take some time off work, is a great time to invest some more time in your children. But, research has shown it’s not the amount of time spent with your kids that matters as much as the quality of what’s done during that time.
Ask yourself: Does my child have an idea of what they want to use their lives for? Do I know what my child’s dreams and aspirations are? Am I doing all that I can to help guide my child’s ambitions and chase after those dreams? How does my child feel about the time we spend together? Does he/she feel at ease approaching me to talk about…well, whatever may be on their mind really. I’m not suggesting sitting your children down and grilling them directly on this, Spanish Inquisition style! It’s more to encourage planning activities with your kids that will allow you to talk freely with them and for them to feel comfortable opening up to you in a way that you ordinarily may not have the time/opportunity to during term time.
Help your children to be goal oriented and action driven from an early age. Not neurotic about all the finer details of their young life, of course, but to have some sort of clear direction of things they’d like to do in the future. This will help them (and you) to determine what subjects to pay special attention in school to and which extra-curricular activities or hobbies they should pick up. Bear in mind these goals shouldn’t only be profession-related, but can be things that will help them in becoming well-rounded, responsible and compassionate future citizens. For instance, as a kid I had a liking for languages, particularly Spanish, and to encourage that, my parents enrolled me into summer Spanish courses from I was 5 years old onward. Also, I knew from early on that I liked everything to do with leading a balanced, active lifestyle, so in high school I joined an after-school club that promoted those sort of things through guest-speaker talks, excursions etc. When I was 17, I channelled desire to help disadvantaged people into joining an outreach programme through school which visited disabled residents at a state-run home. Those are 3 things I did as a kid that I still look back at with great fondness. I’m so thankful for all the talks with my parents that encouraged me to do those things.
Tip 1: Pick up one of these handy-dandy journals for your child to start getting his/her goal-setting on.
Tip 2: If your child is interested in learning another language (or in fact if you are too!), there are many free online resources that can be used. Click here if you’d like a list of these sites offering free printed, audio and visual material.
Summer only rolls around once per year. It's a unique time for a lot of reasons, including the change in climate, people's general attitude, the amount of free time you have and the more frequent chances you get to do some introspection and spend quality time with your family. Don't miss out on the opportunity summer gives you to take stock and get a renewed sense of direction.
Tell me, friends, how are you utilizing your summer months? Let me know in the comments.