What Does Success Look Like for You?

At the beginning of this series I posed the concept of “One:” doing one thing with focus—starting with any one thing to get motivated and going, but eventually determining the most important thing to do in a day, even seeking God’s special guidance by asking something like, “What one thing would You have me do today?”

A video I’ve referred to talks about an individual’s “Most Important Task,” and urges, “Say no to everything that doesn’t support your immediate goals.”

But immediate goals, like “the next ‘one’ thing” or “Most Important Task,” if valid and worth pursuing, should arise from core goals, heart goals, life goals, shouldn’t they?

So could it be that those of us who find ourselves “wasting time” are doing so because we haven’t quite pinpointed our personal purpose, right now, on this planet? Or, if we did have a pretty good idea at one time, did someone or something, or numerous circumstances, knock us off our course?

Success is so often displayed as acquired wealth or fame. But I doubt anyone reading this blog is aiming to be a multi-billion-dollar entrepreneur, sports super star, or US President. (Although some who visit here may wistfully dream of fame as author or artist…)

How do (or would) you define success—personally, I mean in terms of your own life situation and personal life goals? Think about this for a while today:

At what do you as an individual want to be successful, in what area of life? By the time you reach life’s end, what do you hope to have achieved?

Or, what is the most important aim for the particular phase of life you’re now living?

What you want to be successful at right now might not be the same as what it was ten or twenty years ago, or what it will be ten or twenty years from now. Once, perhaps you were a student and your idea of success might have been graduating magna cum laude (or just graduating at all!), or winning some prestigious academic award (or, just finding your niche in business, service, or one of the arts). Later, married and with children, your concept of success might revolve around your parental or marital role, being the best parent or spouse you can be, for instance.

Then there are the areas where your interests and creative talents might lie. Maybe you’ve recently taken on a new aspiration of that sort. You write or paint or sculpt or weave now and hope to get published, or establish yourself as a viable entity in your art or craft. Maybe you’ve started a business or are pursuing a ministry—or long to do one of those things—and your thoughts of success revolve around that. Or perhaps your aspirations have become more spiritual, and your longing for close communion and walk with God makes other aspirations fade, except as how they fit into that large desire…

You get the idea.

Or do you?

Do I?

If  you, like I, are not out to make millions or be known to millions, perhaps you’ve never really defined what success would look like for you. “Life” can demand so much in itself that you may have been spending most of it dealing with crises and others’ needs and demands, on even a willy-nilly basis, maybe just trying to keep your head above water financially or  emotionally, so that you’ve never really developed and defined any personal life goals. Maybe you’ve had your occasional whimsical day dreams, but not a pointed personal pursuit.

If so, how does the saying go? “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time”?

What’s your aim in life? What, for you, would be personally satisfying “success”?

Does it involve money? Be honest here. Where might money be a crucial factor—or seem to be?

Does it involve fame?

Does it involve creative expression?

Does it involve attaining a certain level of faith and spirituality?

Think about these things, and come back tomorrow, possibly with a definite springboard to spring off of, and we’ll pursue our pursuits further, and maybe with clearer direction.


For a set of links to all the other posts in this “Meandering Forward” series, go to this page, which will be updated daily as new posts appear in the blog content.

Rest Your Way to Success?

I find it interesting that those “highly successful people” we’ve been hearing about don’t keep driving themselves 24-7, nor do they work 18-hour days. They quit when they’re tired, and they stop amid work and take regular breaks. More than that: they block time for rest and relaxation: time reserved for family and friends, time just to stop and relax and let strength and purpose replenish.

I found it interesting, a couple decades ago, to hear on a regular, secular radio newscast about study results reporting the most beneficial rhythm of training and rest, training and rest, for atheletes in heavy competition: Six days of training and one day of physical rest from the training schedule. The sports medicine researchers had arrived at this formula by trying out all kinds of different patterns of training and rest to determine the one that resulted in best performance.

I find these things interesting because these humans discovered by trial and error exactly the same pattern that God prescribed for his people when He led them forty years through the wilderness. They didn’t go on relentlessly, day after day, but “rested on the seventh day,” as God had prescribed in His Mosaic law, and as He had ordained right at the culmination of creation.

Jesus said that the world often “gets it” with good common-sense principles enough to be examples of practical wisdom to Christians!  This seems to be the case with the purposeful establishment of “time off” from the busy race to high achievement.

The purposeful practice of a weekly day of real rest is just one way to “Rest Your Way to Success.” There are two more that I can think of. One is recognizing when you need to step back from outputting and “come aside.”

Jesus demonstrated this principle Himself, personally, when He dismissed the crowds clamoring for healing, feeding, and teaching, and withdrew to a quiet, secluded spot to draw near His Father–not necessarily on the Sabbath–and instructed His disciples to do the same thing themselves. ‘

The other way is by resting in God in the spiritual sense all the time. “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of/from me… for my yoke is easy and my burden is light, and you will find rest for your souls.

In the Old Testament also, God declared through His prophets that

“In returning and rest you shall be saved;

in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

So, taking a cue from all that, I’ll be taking the weekend off again from blogging. even in this series commitment. I’ll just make up the missing posts next month.

And may you enjoy quietness and trust this weekend in Sabbath resting in Him.


For a set of links to all the other posts in this “Meandering Forward” series, go to this page, which will be updated daily as new posts appear in the blog content.

What to Do with your To-Do List (Might Surprise You)

Toad (in Frog and Toad Together) had a to-do list, and when it blew away, he suddenly became helpess, sat down and did nothing. I make to-do lists and lose them, too, and sometimes feel almost the same way.

How about you?

Did we ever need them in the first place? That, apparently, is the question.

When these video makers, interviewing highly successful people, asked them about their to-do list, their subjects laughed! Seems they don’t have them!


Well, then, how do they get things done so effectively?

Seems they use calendars. They almost invariably carry a notebook around with them and are often jotting things down—words, ideas, reminders, sketches, charts. But not to-do lists.

According to researchers, 41% of what goes on our to-do lists never gets done. Some astute folks call it “the graveyard of the important, but not urgent…” and a great waste of time!

My inner jury is still out on this—because I can be absent-minded and forgetful. I fear I’ll forget something important if I don’t have it listed somewhere—especially when I’m going into stress about having everything prepared for an event coming up or something like that. My mind can get very distracted and fragmented at such times. But maybe a lot of what I list isn’t actually important! I have to think about this further, but I suspect they might have some great wisdom for the rest of us here.

It may also be that they have much more balance to their lives than we squirrely, scurrying folks have. Maybe they know how to disregard the unimportant and not allow interruptions and distractions to throw them off whatever important focused course they’re on. Maybe our to-do lists are stop-gap measures that we use to keep track of all the “fires” we have to run around and catch up on and put out, and they don’t get themselves in many such situations because they maintain better boundaries and keep a steady, disciplined course all along.

I’m going to leave this one open for debate right now. Maybe I’ll be able to make a better judgment by the end of these 28 blog posts.

I might say, however, that I have begun to carry and use a helpful unlined notebook. Today I jotted down a few things: titles or ideas for future blog posts;  a Thomas Jefferson quote I saw on a piece of  Fraktur-like artwork on view in a library display case; another, longer quote from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, as I read it during the lunch out I treated myself to… But no, I didn’t jot down any to-do’s…

What do you think of the to-do list? Do you use one? How often and when? Would you like to be freed from it? (Methinks I would!) I’d love to read some comments on this.


For a set of links to all the other posts in this “Meandering Forward” series, go to this page, which will be updated daily as new posts appear in the blog content.

How to Keep a Finish from Becoming a (Very) Dead End

Writers come to the end of writing a book, and say it feels “like a kind of death”!

Artists finish a piece of work and get stuck, finding themselves without inspiration to move on.

A blogger comes successfully to the end of a month-long blogging challenge, and publishes nothing for the next month—or two, or three, or…

A quilt maker (me, the past two weeks) puts the final touches on a quilt top, packs away the sewing machine… and it might not come out again for weeks, even years!

You get the idea.

If you do creative work of any kind, maybe it’s happened to you.

You reach your goal, cross the finish line—and feel… finished! Too finished. What now?

The trouble with closure is how much it can close things: Doors, pathways, the mind.


How do you prevent the freeze that follows the finish?

I’ve read some good advice about this in recent years. I just forgot to apply it! Almost.

Nearly done with my patchwork project, and writing yesterday’s post about it, I suddenly remembered something important I hadn’t done, and needed desperately to do! Otherwise my big idea of upcycling scrap fabrics for good use was going to end right today.

What do you do if such a door is about to slam?

Get ahead of yourself! Run down the hallway of your mind and open a new entrance.

I once watched a fascinating fabric artist (Anita Luvera Mayer) explain her strategy for preventing such standstill: She always had three notebooks going: One for the project in progress; another with preparatory planning for the next project; and a third with more random clippings and samples inspiring daydreams for further down her “hallway.”

I’d forgotten this! And I knew the patchwork was about to screech to a halt!

So I paused in my final sewing of borders, and hauled out a bunch of leftover fabric from old endeavors: Greens and pinks, just because.

I scanned my sewing bookshelf to see what caught my fancy: This volume:

I brewed some tea and sat me down with this unread book that had been languishing for years in the shadows.

And it grabbed me! Intending just to skim for random inspiration, instead I got fascinated with the intricate art of good scrapwork placement. I started reading from beginning straight through, and my enthusiasm ignited.

What a dynamic art form! I might never do three-fabric patchwork again! What artistry in the way a true scrap quilt can draw people “into” it, and then mesmerize them with the varied fabrics’ interacting!

Author Roberta Horton likens the experience to her encounter with a house in San Francisco. From across the street, something about it caught her attention, then pulled her toward it, for closer inspection.

A large display window in front held the magic: varied teddy bears on shelves, facing out behind the glass. All different. She stood there feasting her eyes, looking from one to another, her view hopping all around the large window.

This, she says, is how we react to good scrap quilts. They draw us in and keep us looking, feasting on fabrics, colors, patterns, and combinations, as we would never do with a simple-graphic quilt of today. One glance at the latter tells us all we need to know. The scrap quilt is more like a treasure map that can hold our attention spellbound for some length of time.

She then explains how to achieve this phenomenon without patterns clashing or tipping the balance.

All this summons me on, to the next quilt possibility.

Admittedly, I’m late in the game. This done a week or so ago would have given me time to separate out fabrics and consider different patchwork patterns in which they’d work well. I may have even started cutting strips or rectangles and nestled them in their own basket, where they could incubate!

But I’m definitely not dead-ended.

So what shall I do to prevent blog freeze at the end of this month? Hmm… Another notebook, to carry around everywhere, and jot “things” down?


How about you? Are you dead-ended? Or headed for it soon? How can you prevent it by “going ahead” of yourself?

Happy endings—and beginnings!


For a set of links to all the other posts in this “Meandering Forward” series, go to this page, which will be updated daily as new posts appear in the blog content.

How to Trick Yourself into Following Through and Finishing

I’m happy to say my patchwork project I committed to hasn’t been lagging, like my blog posting seems to have done.

I’ve been tricking  myself into keeping on going. In both endeavors, really. Today I want to share some of these tricks with you.

My focus here is mostly creative efforts, but these tricks and similar ones work in lots of work projects, creative efforts, and even study obligations.

  • break work into stages and segments
    • (I used this one as a teacher to help students overwhelmed with a whole page full of, say, arithmetic calculations to do. With a blank sheet of white paper I covered all the problems except one row–or, for some students, one problem!–so they could focus on the task at hand and see a manageable amount of work.)
    • with something like patchwork the stages and segments seem pretty obvious. You have to start by cutting out pieces or strips of fabric, then sew them together in different stages. It’s much more time-and-energy efficient to do all the cutting at first, then work in “chains,” doing the same level task repeatedly.
      A lot of the cutting was already done in this case, because I was recycling scraps, and chose pieces that were already cut to the same width. Sewing colored strips to (often long) white ones, when I got to the end of one colored piece I didn’t stop, but just placed the next colored strip on the white and sewed. I did the same when I came to the end of the whites. The uncut threads made chains of the sewn pairs of fabric pieces (which you can see in the third photo after this one.

    • You can see the “chain” of sewings in this picture.
    • These rows were sewed together after all the finished “block” of nine patches were arranged alternately with white squares. The blue bits of paper label the rows in number sequence, left to right.
    • You can use the same principle of grouping tasks in artwork. For instance, instead of putting a first layer of background on just one mixed media collage, you might do a bunch the same day, and have the beginnings of several projects “broken open,” inviting you to go on. You can do the same kind of grouping with second and third layers as well:
      This was layers of Caran D’ache Neo Color 2 blended with gesso.
      This was pasted scraps from magazines. Looks cluttered and messy, but will be layered over and fade into the background, simply adding texture and interest.
      Old scrapbooking paper I didn’t like, cut in varied strips and rearranged, then painted over with gesso.
      Neo Color 2, then stenciled with texture paint made by mixing some baby powder with gesso.

      A bunch of layers, done at intervals, are hiding in this background piece.
    • You can even do one big collage like this below, to be cut apart into segments later, each segment becoming a single collage, which gets more embellishment and some inspiring words. (I’ll show the eight resulting collages from this one in some later post.)
    • In writing, you might invent a bunch of characters at the same time, or do several 5-minute free-writes, responding to writing prompts. 
  • limit yourself—time-wise, materials-wise, or size-wise
  • quit before you hate what you’re doing, or are getting a backache or a headache—before you actually think you have to, or even want to. This will make you more eager to get back on task later
  • Take regular breaks during your work session, usually after something like 20 or 25 minutes. This is the one I need to work on more. I get “on a roll” and lose track of time until I realize I already have a backache, or headache, or blurring vision…
  • however, before you quit, or take a break, start a new segment.
    • Here I have just finished sewing a couple rows of blocks together. But before I quit, I placed these two rows together and sewed just a little way down from the top. Then stopped.
    • Some writers do a trick like this by starting the next sentence and leaving it unfinished before they depart their writing desk for the day, or a break.
    •  Some artists “break a new page” or begin a new layer in a collage/mixed media piece, leaving something waiting and beckoning to them when they next sit down to work. Just one brush stroke or a quote cut-out will do… the trick.

These are a few of the tricks I use to keep me going. Do you have any tricks you use? If so, please share them in the comments.

And kept on tricking!


For a set of links to all the other posts in this “Meandering Forward” series, go to this page, which will be updated daily as new posts appear in the blog content.