What keeps you going? What is motivation? We talk about this concept all the time, but what does it truly mean to keep following your dreams? There may not be a one-size-fits-all answer for everyone, but for Edwin Soler, it’s his planner that became his companion through a tough time in life. How did he do it? Somewhat the grit of his own personal style for shouldering difficulty, but also by making the most of the world at his hands…or in his case, the one at his fingertips.
In a voice best described as earnest, Edwin describes tough times in his life that are difficult to hear. A survivor of horrific childhood abuse, of an early life beset by pain and agony, and of soul-breaking disappointment in the world around him, and Edwin talks about his cancer diagnosis with aplomb and matter-of-fact statements. It was not the worst thing to happen to him. “It was a 7 out of 10 in my life,” he said.
Yet, Edwin does not tell a story in search of pity or seeking sympathy. Edwin’s story is about his ability to overcome. Rather than a victim, Edwin is a warrior; he will not give up his dreams no matter the fight or the difficulty.
Other, similar stories exist of a scenario with an all too common ending in crime or repeating the cycle. Instead, at 16 years old, kicked out and alone on the streets, feeling broken and bereft of a childhood, Edwin made a choice. He believed in his dreams and would hold onto them. He stayed in school, put himself through high school, and graduated.
Somehow, miraculously, Edwin emerged from adolescence with his soul intact and his dreams continuing to lead the way. Still, he had to heal. “It’s the parable of the dog with his Bone of Sorrow. The pup would dig a hole, bury it, only to return to dig it up, carry it. Over and over again, gnawing on it,” he explained.
Again, he chose to engage with life and put down the bone. Now, with a family of his own and a dream for a better future, he was ready to take action. In a fluke, he won a free planner. It seemed like a sign that he was on the right path. Edwin was ready to grab the bull by the horns! Excited, he saw promise in the planner.
Not so fast … there was a car accident with vehicle damage; …major car problems for his wife; and insult to injuries, … the furnace had the nerve to break down during a major freeze. Through it all, feeling frustrated, Edwin still stayed the course. He used his planner to complete his vision board, and he felt excited to be back on track once he dealt with the set-backs.
Then he was diagnosed with cancer.
At first, his planner helped him track appointments with doctors and stay organized. However, he read a question in the planner that struck him deeply: “What are you grateful for?” In the middle of all the set-backs and a life-and-death medical crisis, could he answer this question?
It was there, listed on paper, and unavoidable. Sure, he could turn the page, but that isn’t Edwin’s nature; Edwin does not avoid difficulty but faces it head-on. So, he found an answer to that question about gratitude, and thereby revealed a path forward. “I was grateful for all the people who rallied for me,” he recalled. The planner offered a new perspective and lifted him higher.
After that, Edwin made time to interact with his planner and its methods for organization, goal-setting, reflection, and gratitude. It helped him realize that there was more to life than this sickness and setbacks. He could still identify goals and find purpose. Suddenly, Edwin had a lifeline.
“I had an outlet for how I felt – all my goals and inspirations went into the planner and kept me focused,” he said.
The gratitude exercises and the journal gave him the space to figure it all out – “It was a process that helped keep me going,” he said. It would have been easy to just jot down a few superficial notes, but Edwin took his time. “I would pour myself out, and that allowed me to see myself from the outside. I was able to reflect on what I wrote, and then I could practice being better,” he said.
Edwin had discovered the power of his planner: the more he took it and worked with it, then the more it worked for him. “At the end of the week, every Sunday, I was honest with myself and faced it. I had a constant reminder that if you’re honest, then you will get out of it as much as you put in. It may seem like paper and numbers, but really it’s all coming from you. That’s the lesson: It’s up to you how much to get from it, but contained within is power,” he said.
The power of the planner for Edwin came from his ability to see more clearly; he gained vision and perspective. As a result, he had a better purpose, better goals, and better attitude. He was even able to find causes for celebration among the struggle, and he began to place things into context, understanding that his medical crisis – everything – is all temporary.
Today, thankfully, Edwin is cancer-free, and he feels on the verge of explosion with possibilities. His dreams are finally in reach. The focus and direction that the planner provided on his journey allowed him to stay motivated and kept his dreams alive.
Now, Edwin feels that the planner from that year and subsequent years represent a legacy. It’s all there, his thoughts and feelings; his soul is written into the pages and preserved, a trove of knowledge about overcoming adversity that his son will be able to inherit.
The planner continues to be his lifeline. Unlike other ones he’s seen from coaching gurus, no other allowed him to balance his life and business. Whereas he has places in his planner for remembering meetings or tasks, there are other places for goals, reflections, and gratitude that combine his business practices with the bigger picture of his life.
Edwin Soler is an example of the power within oneself and the ability to find constant sources of motivation. Everyone uses tools, but for Edwin, his strongest tool remains his Best Planner Ever. It encompasses and guides the spirit of a warrior:
“In a word, the planner is a Reminder; don’t give up.”