I am back. I think. It has been some time since I have written here or anywhere for that matter. I am not sure why and can offer no real excuses for my lack of creative focus. Life happens, I suppose. But with the New Year, comes renewed ideas and inspiration.
Each January Ray and I spend about 15 or so hours over the course of a week reflecting on the past year and thinking about our future including the upcoming year. This is a very helpful exercise for us in setting goals and realizing what habits we would like to change. The key to potential success we have found is two-fold; we diligently try to set realistic goals for ourselves and we allow the documents we create around our goals to be living, working documents.
First, my instinct is not that different from most when setting goals. They have looked something like this:
- Lose 40 pounds (takes more than declaring it so)
- Write a book (about what?)
- Knit a sweater (Goal should have been, learn to knit)
- Start a new company (I must have been kidding, I know better)
Sure, these are great goals, but the reality is that they are nearly impossible to achieve so I set myself up for failure before I even start. Does this sound familiar? It took me years to realize what I was doing and several more to figure out how to fix it. I will say it again; one of the keys to achieving goals is to set realistic goals. So, for example, I had five writing goals last year. They were:
- Post twice a week to 1 Shift (posted 21 times)
- Post 1 time a month to Pomegranate Place (posted 10 times)
- Submit at least one piece per quarter for publication (submitted 3 pieces)
- Write an eBook (never had any idea what this would be about, just seemed like a good idea)
- Start writing book (started the year with one book in mind and changed focus in April)
I was not completely successful but that is okay, this year I was able to narrow my focus based on those original goals. This year my writing goals look like this:
- Post to 1 Shift at least once a week (goal is 50 posts)
- Work on book (this is a big one that involved creating a book plan)
The next key to success is to review goals regularly and change as needed. My original goal, once it has gone through multiple iterations is significantly better in June than it was in February. The adaptation allows my goal to grow with me. It also pushes me to review and question if I am headed in the direction that I want to be going. Ray and I try to carve out about 20 minutes each week to talk about successes and opportunities.
One of the greatest challenges with change is that we expect it to be a one-time event, it is not. Change, when evaluated regularly becomes part of the conversation and part of the normal ebb of life.
Do you set goals? If so, do you ever look at them again after January?
It is October and with the arrival of each month, I reflect on the successes of the previous one. Here are the top 10 reasons why I love the month of September:
- The air begins to turn crisp
- Leaves start to change
- School is in full swing
- I might get to wear a sweater
- We are harvesting the garden; the veggies are abundant and the flowers are still blooming
- We get to add a blanket to the bed
- Football season has begun
- Red wine is part of my repertoire
- The month is kicked off with a long weekend
- Open windows and fresh breezes
This September felt especially grateful for us, last year Ray ruptured his Achilles and September brought surgery and an indication of how the next eight months of our lives would go. It was also the month when I received a not so happy phone call from the owner of the company where I work. I was in Tulsa wrapping up a training trip. She told me that I was officially a billable only employee, meaning my hours went from 30 a week to around six and my job became undependable.
This September, Ray ran an eight minute mile and I had more work than I knew how to manage most days (a blessing and a curse). Such a difference only a year makes. It is a good reminder to know that we can get through unpleasantness and come out the other side better for it. It is also good to be reminded that the beauty in the small things like changing leaves is an invaluable joy regardless of what else is happening.
I started writing this post a week ago and intended to talk about diluted efforts. I would describe diluted efforts as energy put into things that may be important but are not ultimately contributing to overall goals. I tend to have so many things going at once that I dilute my own efforts. I take a long time to complete any one project and create a false sense of busyness. Having many projects going at once allows me to move seamlessly from one to the other, making me feel excited and engaged.
It occurred to me this morning that diluted efforts could also be called self-induced obstacles. These obstacles, if we look at them independently, seem as though we are overcoming and being productive but if we look at the action closer it is a tactic to help us avoid the bigger goal. I manage most days to wrap myself up in a hundred different tasks or self-induced obstacles and I have to wonder, how many of these are obstacles that I have placed in my own path so that I don’t actually have to do the things that I continue to say that I want to do? The truth of the matter is that it is easier (less of an emotional investment) and quicker to complete the tasks that take less than an hour than think about the bigger projects, like writing a book that will take me a year or two.
How are you diluting your efforts or creating obstacles?
I recently wrote about a time with my grandmother that happened 25 years ago. That time still impacts me today. It made me wonder, what choices am I making today that will impact me or those around me 25 years from now?
Often, I tend to think, “I will do that tomorrow.” What sort of impact does that attitude have on me now? Do you think about the impact your choices have on the future you or on those around you? OR Do you go through life assuming that you are an island and that your actions don’t in fact affect anyone?
I would imagine that if you have children you have a clear understanding of your actions. You know that if you choose not to go to work today and bring home a paycheck exactly who that will affect; but what about on a larger scale? What about ‘the you’ years from now? What impact do your choices have?
The bigger question is, what impact do the changes you refuse to make have on your future self?
When I was 16 I ran for student body president. I thought I had a great campaign, my slogan was, “Way deep inside you know you need Deanell,” it was a line from a Led Zeppelin song and I was sure that everyone would connect. My speech included a lot about women’s rights and genuine leadership capabilities that women innately carry. True to the nature of high school and teenagers, the captain of the football team won. I was depressed and had just experienced one of the first heartbreaks of my life. I began at that moment to understand that everything does not always go my way, although everything does turn out exactly as it should.
My grandma from Colorado was visiting us in Idaho during that time. I remember very clearly, her coming into my room and talking to me about my loss. She handed me a small laminated folded card. One side contained a simple “slogan” and inside it contained twelve steps, the rules for Alcoholics Anonymous. She talked to me about bravery and strength and that while things did not work out this time I should continue to try. The “slogan” on the card was the Serenity prayer.
“God give me the strength to understand the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
Regardless of your religious belief system, I think we can all relate to this in some form or another.
I ask myself and I ask you, what can you change? What is within your grasp that will make a difference in your life? Whether it is overcoming addiction or reorganizing a closet, one step forward is still all it takes.
I continue to be struck by my grandmother’s kindness and the fact that compared to struggling with alcoholism my setback must have seemed so small and insignificant, yet in that moment she understood my sadness and empathized completely with my struggle
My grandmother passed away several years ago and while I miss her all of the time, I still have that card and still hold on to the wisdom that she shared.
I wish you the courage to change the things that you can.
When I had the opportunity to take my nephews to school once a week this spring because my sister went back to school; I jumped at the chance to spend a little extra time with them and tried to use it as an opportunity to connect. The conversation inevitably led to talk about a teacher not liking them or struggling with a subject in some way (like AP calculus, but who wouldn’t struggle with that?). I tried to encourage the boys, let them know that they just needed to work hard and do their best. I also explained that their teachers were not out to get them, as one of my nephews had claimed. I know a lot of teachers, and they are all amazing, giving people. She was not intentionally trying to make him miserable; she did not want him to fail. She was, in perhaps a not very nurturing way, trying to get him to be the best version of himself.
Isn’t that what we are all striving for?
I have many philosophies about relationships. One in particular is generally around partnerships and states (in my head) that we have an obligation to help our partner become the best version of themselves. Let me clarify, that does not mean the best version as I define it, the best that they want to be. If my husband, for example, wants to go back to school, then it is my job to help him get there. That means everything from helping him fill out an application, to taking on a little extra at home so that he can study, to pushing him to write a paper even when it is beautiful outside. I see a lot of relationships where people are not really partners. They don’t encourage one another and in some cases even try to keep the other person from achieving success because it amplifies the fact that they are not doing what they are called to do.
This brings me back to my nephews and broadening my scope of thinking that it is only partners who encourage us to be the best version of ourselves. It is also, teachers, parents, friends, bosses, etc. But in reality, it starts with us. What am I doing to become the best version of myself? That is what all this talk of change is really about, becoming the best version of myself, whatever that is.
I have two questions:
- What are you doing every day to challenge yourself to be the best version of YOU?
- Are you surrounding yourself with people who hold you accountable in a nurturing fashion when you don’t have the strength to do so?
If the answer to either of these questions is no, why?
I had to renew my driver’s license last week and because I renewed through the mail last time, I had to renew face-to-face this time around. Budget cuts have caused offices to close and processes to centralize so I assumed there would be a wait. Overall it runs as smooth as you would expect it to. However, as I look around at the customer, it is an interesting group with lots of challenges, little documentation and it seems to me, a list of problems that the driver’s license office would not be able to solve. I watched these folks, customers with their list of problems, become frustrated with the employees and their lack of ability to solve their unsolvable problems. People continue to show up, day after day, expecting their desired result to come to fruition.
It made me wonder, how often do I get upset when I expect someone else so solve my problems for me? Do we do the same thing regarding change? Do we expect someone to come along and make the change we want to see possible? As we all know, this is not how life works. We are responsible for our own actions and it is up to each of us to make the change that we want to see in our own lives.
How do we do it? Where do we start?
- Carve out some time to think. This is so vital for emotional, physical and spiritual renewal.
- Ask yourself, “What do I want for my life? What does my perfect life look like?” The answer to this question becomes your vision.
- Next, determine what goals need to be accomplished to get closer to your vision becoming a reality.
- Now, create to do’s associated with each of these goals and create a plan to reaching those goals.
My visit to the driver’s license office was a little painful, but I knew it was time for renewal. Is it time for you to renew your commitment to the change you want to make and act on your vision and goals?