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Focus, Resolutions and Ice Cream

assorted ice cream conesYesterday was the monthly knit date with S., a friend I would see far too infrequently were it not for our prescheduled get-togethers. By the second cup of tea (Harney & Sons’ Cinnamon) our conversation had migrated to her business (health-care). Fabulous brainstorming ensued and within a couple of hours we had invented two new products for her to develop and take to market. The knitting had been set aside for laptops (yes, we were both typing) and her trusty spiral-bound notebook was filled with items to-do and research. The sparks were flying with excitement. S. went off into the night energized and inspired. But what does this have to do with ‘focus, resolutions and ice cream’?

Several years ago I took a workshop titled “Managing the Renaissance Soul“. I had no idea what that meant, but trusted my friend who had asked if I wanted to attend with her. Always game for an adventure, I glibly agreed, and off to the Boston Center for Adult Ed we went. At that time, Margaret Lobenstine’s book, “The Renaissance Soul” was still a ream of manuscript pages bound by rubber bands, sitting 4″ high on the corner of her presenter’s table. She had yet to find a publisher or notoriety. Nonetheless, her enlightenment continues to serve me today.

In brief, there are two kinds of individuals: those who have had a single ambition or passion or focus forever (Mozart) and those who have so many interests that they cannot settle on just a single one (Ben Franklin). In her words, “If your question is, “What colorS are my parachuteS?”, if you find it hard to “follow your bliss” because you have blissES, you may well be a Renaissance Soul.”

She taught us to keep our active interests to a maximum of four at any given time. She suggested treating them like a dish of ice cream. I imagine mine as a crystal banana split dish, with my four rounded scoops of ice cream side by side, neat as can be. Whenever I’ve gotten carried away and tried to squeeze in just one more flavor — and sometimes two! — the ice cream melts into puddles on the table and before long I’m in a jam with too many commitments and not enough time. However, when I follow her formula, things go smoothly and tend to work out.

When I get fired up, brainstorming with a friend about their business (and this is one of my favorite things to do, by the way), I invariably get fired up with ideas for new things I could start doing, too. And thus the trouble begins. I gave myself a lecture about staying on track while grocery shopping this evening. If I am going to follow through with my resolutions for 2007, such as completing my current novel manuscript, I cannot be starting a new venture in a different direction (aka, new ice cream flavor) unless I am willing to forego one of the other flavors already in my dish. This, by the way, is the totally legal and acceptable strategy for “renaissance soul management”, according to Margaret. By the time I was loading up my goods onto the checkout conveyor belt, I was recommitted to my ’07 list as-is. As tempting as those new flavors always appear. I’ve learned that sometimes the best rewards come from sticking with one flavor until the very last drop.

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  • Laume April 27, 2007, 5:20 pm

    I just stumbled upon Lobenstine’s book yesterday and today was already writing about it in my blog. I googled other blogs for Renaissance Soul and found yours. I like your ice cream analogy. Far less calories then real ice cream. Sounds like we have a lot in common.

  • Rob February 3, 2007, 6:46 am

    I’m just about to freewheel past the shackles of my current job into some time out and have wobbled between the idea of doing too little and taking on too much. I’ve divided the year up into 3 month chunks – and after reading this, I think I’m going to review my goals for each and make sure I have no more than 4 – ice cream, what a wonderful metaphor!

  • Amber Erin January 30, 2007, 7:31 pm

    that is a wonderful way to look at things. I think that might help me quite a bit. thank you for you’re insitefull post.