At the start of every New Year, I develop my curriculum for the School of Life. After I have reflecting on my previous year and setting goals for the upcoming one, I make a list of books, films, software, workshops and other media that might help me toward achieving them. Finally, I prioritize about ten to twelve and aim to complete them at a pace of one per month. Although I’m particularly fond of self-help/workbooks – those that assign tasks, contain questionnaires, etc. – I sometimes include novels, sacred texts and other kinds of literature that might be inspirational. Some books might be holdovers from the previous year, and some books I occasionally reread. Here are some additions to my SOL curriculum for 2012.
Once upon a time, I use to perform standup comedy. I often miss it and hope one day to give it another whirl. While that’s not a priority for me in 2012, becoming better at staying the present and saying, “Yes,” more frequently are. I can’t imagine a more fun way to do that than through the practice of improvisation. Plus, I get to build my comedic chops and lay the groundwork for my return to standup.
One of the books on my 2011 curriculum was a guided journal called Exploring Your Sexual Self by Joan Mazza. I made some discoveries that lead to more questions. Which of my desires were authentic? What can I do to fulfill them in ways that feel safe? And why the hell is this so hard anyway? In the nick of time, Jaclyn Friedman has written an affirming and interactive book that will motivate me to answer these questions and take (not to mention get) action on my terms whatever they may be.
This is a holdover from last year’s curriculum. Formerly known as The Fire Starter Sessions, this is more than a book. It’s a multimedia course for creative entrepreneurs who want the work that feeds the soul to also pay the rent. I recruited two friends to complete The Spark Kit with me. Every week we complete a worksheet and share our discoveries with each other. Because of its holistic approach, my friends and I have also grown closer from doing this together.
As a person who is most comfortable with words, I have been pushing myself to explore other means of creative expression. Wanting to expand my visual sense and satisfy my craving for more physical and tactile activities, I have rediscovered paper crafting and taken up mixed-media art journaling. Enter The Right-Brain Business Plan, a guide to creatively process and document the insights and plans that come to light after I finish The Spark Kit.
Last year I tried to read A Course in Miracles, attempting to do one lesson each day. I didn’t make through January, and whatever I had done, I didn’t grasp at all. But for some reason, the Course keeps calling me. Perhaps an introduction to its principles from an author described as a mix between Carrie Bradshaw and Marianne Williamson is just what the Ivy League homegirl needs. Whether or not A Course in Miracles suits me, after almost a year of not attending to my spiritual development, I hope reading about Bernstein’s journey will inspire me to get back on track.
Several years ago Suparna Bhasin, creator of She Creates Change, introduced me to a simple practice that improved my life immediately and tremendously: rise at 6AM and bed by 10PM. (I have advocated so much for following circadian rhythms, my MFA classmates sometimes refer to them as Sofia cycles.) Suparna also recommended Deepak Chopra’s Perfect Health, an accessible and practical introduction to Ayurvedic medicine. I learned in 2011 not to take my health granted; 2012 is the time to apply the lessons and develop new, healthy habits.
There was a very long time when I believed that striving to be a social change agent necessitated eschewing material wealth. In recent years I have discarded that thinking, and while I never wanted to be affluent for its own sake, I do keep a mental list of progressive organizations and causes that I fantasize about supporting as a philanthropist.
After hearing her speak at the New York Women’s Foundation luncheon in 2010, Kathy LeMay has become my role model of socially conscious giving and reminded me that no matter what net worth, I always have “time, treasure and talent” to offer. Rather than just donate some dollars here, volunteer a few hours there, this book is a guide toward creating a strategic plan in leveraging my giving so that it truly makes a difference and is aligned with my deepest values.
These are just a few of the resources on my curriculum for this year. These rank high in priority because they are most aligned with the things I have decided to pursue in 2012 at this time. Like any good curriculum, however, it is subject to change according to my needs. Life hands out challenges and opportunities, and as a result, some of my priorities are sure to change. As such I’ll surely discover and add more books, films, classes, coaches, etc. as well as change my mind and remove others as I grow into sharper clarity about what I want and need to be happy.
What’s on your SOL curriculum in 2012?