Tag Archives: goal setting

Do you have to be special to start?

I often wonder if people who write books about getting their life in order are special people to begin with. Some of them are, no doubt, special. But what I want to know is did they start out like me? A nobody. A scatterbrained overachieving mom, a wife, a mother, an employee. Or were they already reaching for the starts as a kid?

Reading the bio blurbs of authors on Goodreads or author websites, they all seem to start with the same, “So and so has been writing and reading since she was young enough to recognize letters…blah blah blah.” That’s me. I’ve been writing stories in my head and on paper forever. The biggest complaint my teachers had was that I was always reading and they could never get me to pay attention to anything outside the book in front of my nose. (Not a bad complaint about your kid if you ask me, but my parents hated that I read all the time.)

But if most writers start out the same, why do some go all the way and some (like me) never move past their daily journal or pages upon pages of story ideas?

Sure, there’s plenty of research and theories out there about goal setting and what to do to get your book written or project accomplished or whatever your thing is. It feels like I’ve read all of them. Putting them into action…well, that’s another thing.

So my burning questions is: Do people who put the theories into practice start from a different place? Are they wired differently? Are they “better” people? Or are there slobs out there; lazy, procrastinating slobs, who hate themselves for not reaching their goals sooner, or for not setting goals and plans in the first place who actually get off their behinds and accomplish said goals? Is there a turning point for those people? A rock bottom from which they bounce? (I can’t imagine a bounce off a rock bottom is too pleasant. Sounds more like something that would make me curl up into a ball and categorize as a nice new low in which to get comfortable.) A major turning point that doesn’t let them turn back like a fork in a mountain road right when the road behind them collapses in a rock slide?

Maybe a little experiment is in order.

New Year’s Day Walk

Life takes over. It always does. Starting a new decade makes me look back at how life has taken over already and gives me pause to consider how much more intentional I must be so that life can’t just take over.

Wanting to start this decade right, I searched my brain for something simple. That’s my plan this year: simple.

A hike came to mind. Time outside, and, as much as possible, surrounded by nature.

That hike turned into a walk with my family from my house to my parents house. That’s a 2.5 hour walk. Some of it along bike paths through forested areas along a river. Some of it along busy streets with the sun streaming through high rises. All of it with my kids and my husband, talking about what the new year and new decade will bring, what we’re leaving behind in the last year and the last decade, how far we’ve come, how we’ve grown and the work still to be done.

We reached my parents house tired, wind burned and hungry, but mostly full of joy.

The walk did us all good. There was a goal far enough away to push us to keep going, but not so far as to be impossible even if it was harder toward the end of our walk.

As we set goals for the new year and reflect on the year that has passed, I will look at our New Year’s Day walk as an inspiration.

We started our walk happy and excited by the challenge of covering such a long distance. I am full of the same positivity for the coming year and the things I have planned.

During our walk, we were at times tired but persevered and found games and songs to play and sing to take our minds off our tired legs and aching feet. I know I’ll face exhaustion with my goals this year, but I will remember our New Year’s Day walk and how we distracted ourselves from the pain of the work with fun and joyful activities. I will look for the fun and joy in the hard work and take time to enjoy them as they come when I feel tired of pushing through.

Toward the end of the walk, we were quiet and hungry and cold and had lost sight of the fun, instead checking our watches and counting down the last kilometres and minutes to our destination. But one of us always rallied. One of us picked up the pace or started singing or said something encouraging to keep the rest of us moving. Facing my goals in 2020 and beyond, I know there will be times when I want to quit, times when I feel like I can’t push ahead. During those times, I will reach out to others to hear encouraging words and I will keep moving forward to the destination, enjoying the sun and wind and trees along the way.

Pushing Past

I recently read a book that talked about “stretch goals.” That’s setting a goal and then moving the target date closer to the start date by a bit to see if you can stretch yourself to reach the goal sooner.

Great idea.

I’m a goal setter. Unfortunately, not a goal achiever. But that’s just the story I tell myself. Everyone can achieve a goal they set for themselves. It’s not the goal that’s the problem. It’s the steps we take to reach the goal. And that’s where I fall down.

I make big plans with giant steps and get discouraged early on that I’m not achieving what I set out to achieve and my goal keeps getting farther and farther out of my reach.

There are tons of books on this subject (and I’ve read a lot of them). Some of the theories work for me for a while. But as so often happens…life takes over. Except when it doesn’t.

I track a lot of my progress in my journal (sometimes I’m not writing about my progress, though, as much as I’m lamenting my laziness and how far away my goals seem). I can look back and read about how far I’ve come or analyze how many times I whined about my progress/goal/busy chaotic life/barriers to achievement/and more. Trouble is, I don’t like looking back. I won’t like what I see because I know it’s a lot of excuse making. But sometimes…

Sometimes it’s different. Every now and again, a goal and its plan will stick. These are usually small goals, simple tasks, not mentally taxing to plan for or do, and I achieve these goals.

For example, I decided at the beginning of July to follow the advice of some author I’d read about just setting an intention. Don’t do anything else; just set the intention. So my intention was to put on my running shoes and to go to my gym in my basement every morning, every day. Just put on my runners and go downstairs. Once I got down there, I could turn around and come back up if I wanted to. I gave myself permission to do nothing down there. But once I laced up my runners and went downstairs, it seemed silly to me not to lift a few weights or walk on the treadmill. So I did a bit of a workout. Ten minutes, that’s it. And the next day I went downstairs before my kids woke up and did the same thing. And the next day and the next day. The next thing I know, here we are at July 31st.

Halfway through the month, I printed off a yearly calendar and started making an X over each day that I went downstairs; not each day that I worked out, just that I went downstairs to my gym. But every day, I did a workout, and every day I got a bit stronger and a bit more enthused about exercising. And I started to push myself a bit harder. (I’m not talking Schwarzenegger here, just a couple more reps or a slightly heavier weight or one extra minute on the treadmill. I pushed past my comfort zone, cozy and small though it was.)

I didn’t even realize that I was sticking to this little plan that I had set in motion because during that time I had stopped journaling quite so regularly because I was trading in a bit of my writing time to stay in the basement and use my exercise equipment. I still wrote almost every day (because I always have; that habit is well-ingrained), I just didn’t spend as much time at it. I wish I had now; that’s something I would have gone back and read. What I was discovering though was…

Going down to the basement every morning and subsequently working out was making me think more clearly. And I realized that what I wanted and what I needed was to write more and be more healthy. I’d known that for a long time, but now I felt it at my core. And that clarity of thought and my improved strength and mobility translated into better eating habits and better mental habits (I am no longer beating myself up when I indulge in delicious, rich foods and drink on the weekends with friends; I’m simply enjoying and appreciating the moments of indulgence for what they are: moments of indulgence.)

And with all that self-awareness, I’m improving my meditation practice, my writing practice, my emotion management and my overall sense of well-being.

All of that just because I decided to go down to my basement every morning.

I’ve read extensively on this method of goal setting: focusing on the “how” not the “why” or the “what.” I’ve tried the method before. I’m not sure why I decided to stick with it this time. I’m exploring that now. And with each morning workout, I know I’ll get closer to the answer.