Tag Archives: goals

Post-secondary students and composition

I’m an editor, so maybe I have an unfair advantage. But I keep having these mind-boggling experiences when asked to edit a paper written by a post-secondary student.

Years ago I considered going back to university to pursue something for the sake of learning rather than to train for a job. I talked myself out of it at the time because I thought, after so many years out of the education world, I’d be off my game. And so the idea died on the table.

But it has stuck around. Perhaps it only fell to the floor and did not get swept away entirely, so each time I get up from the table, I trip over it and have to think of it again.

And then I edit another paper for a post-secondary student and I’m reminded that if I thought I was off my game after years in the working world and away from academia, then what are these students?

Is it that the education received before post-secondary is so poor? Is the school system really failing us?

Employers have been complaining for years that every year’s new crop of graduates are not qualified for work. And some industries are scrambling for viable candidates where there are none.

So what am I waiting for? I’m no genius, but it appears that I may have a fighting chance.

(Also, apparently, short-form texting is hurting our ability to communicate in full, written sentences. Shudder.)

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.

Systems, goals, failure, progress

The thing is, I like systems. I am attracted to things that are created to be connected and that have reminders and goals and progress reports.

I spend a lot of time coming up with systems. Most of them don’t work. I don’t think that’s because I’m bad at designing systems (ok, maybe a little bit). I think it’s because it’s not systems that I need. Systems are what I want.

A nice tidy box to put all the steps in. And then, as I need to progress toward the goal, I can pull out a step and do it, and that moves me forward.

And I want this for my kids, too. I want them to set goals and work toward them and see their progress, their growth.

But I forget that I have spent years reading about goal setting and systems and growth and my kids have not. And no matter what information I share with them, they don’t get it because my problem lies in translating what I have learned into something they can learn from.

So, back to systems. I am designing a system to teach them about goal setting and progress and growth. And I’ve discovered that not being able to stick to one idea at a time is the real problem. Not the lack of a system or the lack of a goal. It’s the sticking to it.

Are my systems and goals not sticky enough? Maybe. Is my brain too full of clutter to focus properly on only one thing? Probably. So what’s my first step, then, before setting the goal or designing the system?

Learn to focus.

This is the hard thing. This is the not-so-fun thing. This is the thing that I have to do if I want my systems to work, if I want to reach a goal, if I want to teach my kids goal setting and focused growth.

So, I’m going to set up a system, a very simple system, to learn how to focus.

My vision

Weekends are always nice, aren’t they? The pressure was off for a couple of days and it gave me some time to recharge.

This is week three and I’m thinking that it’s time to really kick it into gear. Despite having a plan each day and doing small things that are keeping us on track, I mostly feel like we’ve wasted the last two weeks. I recognized that this weekend when my very motivated husband finished installing the baseboards in our laundry room in a matter of hours.

I asked myself how whole days could go by with no visible accomplishments (besides my work, because that has to get done and nothing has really changed for me whether I’m working at the office or at home).

So, with the pending announcement from the school board that they are trying to set up ways to keep school going virtually, my goal this week is to get my kids back on track.

They’ve been doing some school work each day and keeping up with their reading and some writing projects they had, but I haven’t been good at keeping them focused on those things and I’ve been lenient about internet access and what they are doing on the internet (some math and logic games for sure, lots of chatting with friends , and watching lots of random YouTube videos). And I think the time they spend doing these screen activities is wearing them down.

So this morning we will have a meeting at 9:30 to discuss the new plan. On our whiteboard, I’ve outlined the rules for screens and the expectations for school work, chores and skill practice (soccer drills, rehearsing lines/songs for spring play).

The key to sticking to this plan is for me to set the right example and keep a cool head. My daily walk with help with that.

The next thing I have to do with my family is work out what our goal is for this time of social isolation. My vision is for us to come out the other side as a team who works hard and works together and treats each other with respect and understanding.

We’ve been a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of family since the beginning, with me holding us together by pure will and digital scheduling know-how. That might have worked when the kids were little and they couldn’t be responsible for themselves. But I felt like I was falling apart for many years.

At Christmas this year, on our way to my parent’s house, my husband asked if I was okay (I guess I looked shell shocked [I certainly felt shell shocked]). I jokingly replied that I felt like I was falling apart. He laughed and said that I couldn’t do that because I was the only thing holding us all together. It made me cry. He was right. And we’d all come to expect it. But I didn’t know how to do it any other way.

I’ve thought a lot about that little exchange since then and I’ve realized over and over again that nothing has changed…and nothing will unless I change.

And with the social isolation imposed by COVID-19, I might have that chance. The extras in our lives that were keeping me so busy and away from doing the hard work of changing have been subtracted from our lives. There is nothing but time right now to do that hard work.

I’ve been here before.

Some years ago, I had a surgery on my foot. I was as busy then as I am now, and I remember my doctor telling me that I would have to be off my feet for 4-6 months. I had a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old. I had put the surgery off for two years already, but I couldn’t put it off any longer. Leading up to the date of the surgery, my doctor told me that I should start giving up some of my activities so that after I had the surgery, I wouldn’t be hit with so much emptiness in my life at having nothing to do. There’s a huge component of mental health to consider when you take yourself out of the life you’re used to living.

So I started to remove myself from committees and volunteering activities, and I enrolled my kids in fewer after-school activities. In time, I got used to having down time and much less stress. When I got back on my feet months later, I was hesitant to take on much of anything because I had come to appreciate and value my time. Eventually, as the kids got older, they got involved in more things and, as a family, we’re back to being about as busy as we were before my surgery. I have a better perspective of it all now, though, and it doesn’t drag me down as much. That could be because my kids are older and are better at managing themselves, so I’m not quite so hands-on.

But I’m still the glue and we can still do better as a family to support each other. And that’s my vision: work better together, work harder and smarter to reach personal and family goals, and treat each other with respect and understanding.

This social isolation time feels like that pre-surgery time years ago: where there is an expectation of change, but no one really knows what that will look like yet.

Today, I start to sketch that out for me and for my family.

How are you feeling heading into week three?

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.