So a few years ago I talked about the possibility of going to an elite academy to pursue the life of my dreams. And now, I’ve done it.
And you can too.
Because, you see, Penhallam Academy is made up. Not real. A fabrication of the mind. And yet here I sit, in class, learning, growing — writing. I just had breakfast (a lovely paleo sausage omelet), and the whole ‘school’ is beautiful, cleaner and more spacious than my home has ever been. And this is the first day of six months of dedication, learning, and being scored on how well I’m doing in working toward my dreams.
DO YOU WANT TO KICK BUTT IN 2017?
If you’re like a lot of us, you may have started 2017 with the best of intentions (and a champagne hangout). But let’s face it, January can be a terrible time to start a big change-your-life program. The weather’s lousy, water pipes tend to burst (or is it just mine?), and everybody’s sick for three out of the four weeks.
Honestly NOW is the best time to me. The weather’s great, flu season is over, and a six month plan still ends before the start of the holidays. So if your 2017 dreams are still in the incubator stage, don’t worry, you too can join a elite, prestigious take-no-crap academy that will make all your dreams come true. Don’t believe me? Watch this spot for the post six months from now.
What is Penhallam exactly?
For my sister and I, Penhallam Academy is a plan to act like we were given a scholarship to an amazing place of learning and accomplishment, one with an impressive and venerable record. You could also imagine your place as a writer’s retreat, boot camp, internship, artists colony, or anywhere else that is away from the world and has certain rules and/or expectations. Of course, I still have to go to work, but the rules still apply there (eating well, etc) and I still have to hit all my daily goals or classes when I get home.
Basically it’s a dare — if someone offered you the most amazing education, from a place where graduates went on to have a unbelievable success, would you go? Oh, but there’s one thing — you’ll have to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life. Would you be willing to struggle and strive from now through October if it meant you would be in the best place of your life — health-wise, career-wise, person-wise — in six months?
Only you can answer that. This is about all-in. This is about change your world forever. I’ve spoken to several people recently who have been undergoing that quarterlife/midlife crisis deal (myself included!). And to me, it really comes down to one question — who do you want to be for the rest of your life?
If you’re ready to dig deep, I’ll give you a step-by-step of how I got accepted into Penhallam and how you can too.
First stop — your dreams and goals
You have to know where you want to go, so you need a destination. Then you need a road map. There are many wonderful posts about goal setting (including mine) so we’ll skip that part here. The main idea is to find 3-5 goals from different areas of your life that scare you a little and excite you a lot. Not the things you coulda, woulda, shoulda do because other people think they’re a good idea — but things that excite you. And they should be clear, verifiable goals that can be accomplished in six months.
My goals are —
- Finish my novel
- submit 50 query letters to agents
- write six teleplays
- have two sit-down meals a week with my sister
- get rid of 50% of the things I own
- Be able to cycle 25 miles again
- Be a size 12 instead of 16+
- meditate for 600 minutes in the next six months
Okay, so that’s not 3-5 goals. You’ll see how I’m going to do it in a second.
Second — What should you spend the next six months doing?
Once you’ve got your goals, you need to know what ‘classes’ you should take to get there. What can you do every day and every week that will help you reach your goals?
The classes I get graded on are —
- Eat a paleo diet
- Clean the house
- Wash the dishes
Lastly — how do you get scored?
The idea is that a ‘perfect week’ would get you a 100 points, an ‘A+’, a 4.0 GPA. See the chart here. So after you after you decide on what actions or ‘classes’ will help you accomplish your goal, you need to divide your 100 points between them. Note: I just have writing time whereas my sister Sarah (an artist) has classes for drawing, oils, etc. You can make as many or few classes as you want but do what excites you. And do what works for you: I get lots of great work done whenever I can make myself sit down to write. In contrast, my sister has no trouble putting in the hours but sometimes needs more structure to finish things.
My point system —
- Writing — 25 hours a week — 1 point per 30 minutes — total 50 points
- Exercise — 30 minutes, five sessions a week — 3 points per session — total 15 points
- Eat a Paleo Diet — eat right each of the seven days — 2 points per day — total 14 points
- Yoga — yoga every day — 1 point per yoga session — total 7 points
- Clean the house — pickup and straighten every day — 1 point per day — total 7 points
- Wash the dishes — all dishes clean at least once per day — 1 point per day — total 7 points
As you can see, this totals 100. Also, we can see that if I didn’t spend any time writing, I would be getting an ‘F’ even if everything else was perfect (only 50 points). Because writing is important. Whereas if I blew off washing dishes for seven days, I could still get an ‘A’ (93 points). Because if I’m writing for 25 hours, eating great, exercising etc, I’m rockin’ it out — even without having the dishes sparkling.
Remember, you’re the teacher AND and student.
One way to help yourself is to think from the point of view of a confident and successful teacher who has just taken you on as a student. The student has promise and potential. What are their strengths and their weaknesses? What kind of class plan will help them reach their goals? In my case, I knew paleo could help me lose weight, so if my goal is to lose those pounds that have crept back on, then doing something I know works is a smart teacher move — better than trying something I have no experience with. Is it easy? (five minute break for laughter here). No, but it gets the results I want.
So see all the potential within yourself — and recognize how hard you’ll need to work to bring it out.
The key —
Be serious. Be excited. Be committed. My sister and I bought special necklaces to wear and a banner and welcome mat in the Penhallam colors of teal and gold. I know the Penhallam fight song — I wrote it. I’m ready to work hard and push myself to the max. Because in six months, I’m going to SHOW YOU what I’ve accomplished, what my GPA is, and how much closer I am to my dreams and goals.
So join Penhallam and send me updates at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be part of the graduating class in October. Or create your own amazing school (start here to find a kick-butt old English name for your academy).
Is it silly? Is it a waste of time? Or is it exciting, unusual, and a great way to start to see yourself and your goals anew?
FIRST DAY UPDATE:
It’s now about 6:00 pm (this will probably post a few days from now) and the first day of Penhallam is almost done. When I complete 45 more minutes of writing time, I will have a perfect day and have gotten 25 points on this first day of the new week (since I work full time, ‘off’ days have increased importance).
I’m tired. But it’s been great. My sister has cooked us amazing paleo food (and chia seed pudding!). I’ve taken a walk and done yoga. The house looks great. And I’m writing this post, I did one for the Athens Writers Association too, I’m changing my office in a big way (getting rid of two book shelves), and I’m reading submissions for an AWA comedy collection. I’ve done a lot. I’m tired (wait, did I already say that?) but I am looking forward to the rest of this week, to getting my first ‘grade’ on Sunday, and to seeing just how far and how fast I can go.
After all, Penhallam is an amazing academy — I’ve got a lot to live up to!