Thriving in a Structured Life

In September we’ll be tempted with a lot of new possibilities. The prospect of learning always has that effect on me, and I am grateful that it does.

That is why this month of August has been so good for me. When I diligently focus on ‘Imi ola, on form and function, and seeking that best possible form for my life, I get grounded. It’s a time for taking stock of the non-negotiables in my life, like time for family and the start-of-the-school year rituals I enjoy so much. Exercise and healthy habits fall into place every August for me too; it starts with my pilgrimage to the east side of my Big Island home for the annual Volcano Run, a pilgrimage which ignites this chain reaction for me with renewed vigor in my running schedule, healthier eating habits, and waning days of summer gardening where the sun can shower its blessings down on me.

Yes, I do thrive on structure. It’s like self-employment (and working for profit) versus employer-employment (and working for a paycheck); my structure is totally self-imposed and by design. I get grounded in ways that are completely under my control. They are ways rooted in my sense of responsibility for other people, such as my family and my customers (customers chosen for their friendship potential in the long run), and in recent years the Ho‘ohana Community connections I love (as with our upcoming Forum) but the resulting processes are all of my own design.

As a result, I get to enjoy a lot of freedom. For instance”

At this very moment, I type this sitting in a comfortable suite in Prescott Arizona, able to be here while my son begins his school year. His classes start later in the day, and he’s typing out the answers to an early assignment on his own laptop on the opposite end of the desk. He no longer needs me here, and the truth is that it’s become vacation time for me. Terrific writing time which has become all too rare for me these days. Part of the reason I’m here is to catch up and correct the deficit, getting some articles in draft.

Since leaving the corporate work world I’ve had the luxury of creating this week as my own self-imposed, seasonally-correct, perfectly fitting in time to be with my son. The older he gets, the less time we actually spend with each other, for this college week is more about reconnecting with his friends here and I respect that; neither of us is particularly needy. On the contrary, we’re independent to the nth degree. Still, there is a silent agreement we both understand without needing to speak of, that this week totally belongs to him, and so do I. Everyone else in the family comes 2nd, all my customers come 3rd, everyone else in the world after that.

My daughter gets her own week from me too: Hers is in March near the time of her birthday and with Spring Break. My husbands gets his too: His is more of a wild card, for we need to fit it into his employer’s schedule, but because I have more control of my schedule we always can, and we always do.

So as you can see, even the best tastes of freedom thrive on some kind of structure for me. Grounding me, giving me my footing for every other time I might calendar. Feeling in control by thriving on structure is the form I choose.

Even if you are not self-employed as I am, I bet you can begin to thrive on structure of your own design too if you just plan ahead a bit better. It doesn’t take that much time; here’s what you do on your next day off:

1. Write down some notes, just as bullet points or short phrases, on what those Aloha Spirit connected soul deposits are for you.

  • List names of the people you know you need to connect with to feel you are truly part of the human race, experiencing love in all its forms, romantic and otherwise.
  • Write down the rituals you know are part of your Mālama, your self-care. Prowling bookstores and neighborhood coffee joints, having date nights, coaching after-school sports, volunteering … what are your choices?

2. Get your calendar out next, and look for times you can dedicate to those soul deposits you listed, times which will end up to be carved out for your own well-being too. It may not be you can plan whole weeks like I do, but I am sure you can start with day-long or weekend-long dedications.

3. Call the people who are part of your plans or send them a note, and get those days blocked on their calendars too.

4. Next, carve out other times for yourself, for you can only taste freedom when you personally are experiencing it.

  • Block days here and there as sacred times you can plan for your hobbies, or for events you want to capitalize on (like my Volcano Run).
  • A great way to do this is to look for those long stretches of time where there are no three-day weekends and you can create them.
  • Another is to piggy-back your planning around coming holidays so they are no longer stressful for you.

It all starts with planning
. If you are not a planner by nature, you should still consider trying to cultivate more of it in your habits. Think about it; I’ve planned for this week I’m now enjoying every year, and a whole year in advance. But within the week itself, not a single appointment is on my calendar; I completely fly by the seat of my pants on the whims of the wind. I have planned for unplanned time; if I don’t I may never get it.

This is ‘Imi ola;
creating the form and function for your best possible life. Ultimately, we are in some measure of control; grab it where you can. How can you deny yourself the pleasure?


  1. says

    Rosa, great summary. Someone wrote: “If you plan, you succeed; if you fail to plan, you will fail.” or something like that… we need regular reminders to do so, but when we do, and it works out better than planned, that is a real good thing!
    Enjoy this special time!

  2. says

    Great article Rosa. I like how you make your family and your time so important. It is easy to lose track of what really is important and we can easily miss out on so much. Time is our most precious commodity. It seems as though you recognize that and take every opportunity to make the most of it. thanks for helping me to stay grounded.

  3. says

    This article hit me at just the right time Rosa. Whether you say planning, or intentional, it’s never the wrong time to spend extra time with family. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. says

    Aloha Steve, Rocky, and Phil,
    Thank you for stopping by and adding your good thoughts; I love hearing from you!
    Welcome to Talking Story and the Ho’ohana Community Call Cruncher; we hope to hear more from you as time goes by – glad you clicked in!