Goal Setting Simplified

20150425_154128 I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the years’. -Henry Moore

Goal setting needn’t wait for the New Year. I think that any worthwhile goal requires specific daily habits. If we set a big goal, such as losing twenty pounds, or finishing a novel, isn’t it really a matter of taking the right steps nearly every day that will get us there? Why wait for tomorrow?

Smaller goals, like cleaning out a closet, can be done in one fell swoop. Cleaning out a house may take a whole week. But keeping a house decluttered, requires the daily habit of not bringing excess crap into it. And putting things away.

But anyhow, this post isn’t about cleaning up a home, but rather about setting goals in general.  I’ve included a method that I am using, but I think everyone should find and use what works for them. Or don’t set goals at all, because there’s an argument for that too!

Since I was preparing  for National Novel Writing Month, which I wrote about in my previous post, I decided to write down my writing goals and all  my other goals. Mostly, these are daily habits,  in three big areas of life, that I think serve me well.

I typed them up (and added details for this blog post), saved this in a “goal file”, and will print it out every month. Each month will have a space at the bottom for any additional goals specific to that month; those add excitement to the month. For example, in November I am participating in NaNoWriMo and a Moth Story Slam.

Most goals though, will remain constant every single month, and every single week, and for many of them, every single day. That is what is so simple about it.

Writing things down adds power and accountability. I love to write, so this method is very helpful for me.  Here are my goals below, in one document, to be reprinted by me every month, and tucked into my agenda, where I can keep track. I’ve added some detail after each goal, just for the purpose of this blog post. Obviously, my copies will not include the explanations, just the boldfaced goals.

Writing:

Write morning pages/journal (daily) I’ve been doing this for several years now, ever since I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way. This one is automatic for me, before I even get out of bed.

Work on book (minimum 5x per week) Sometimes this means half an hour, if there is something else significant going on that day. But most days, there is no reason not to write for much longer. Finishing my book is by far my biggest writing goal, and in order to reach it I need the daily goal of working on it- a lot. Taking weekends off is allowed, except for NaNoWriMo month (November), which is a seven-days-a-week event.

Blog posts (minimum monthly) As I stated in a previous post, I will start posting less frequently than I have been, in order to move forward more quickly w/ my book project. But I still plan to post monthly, as a minimum.

Health:

Exercise (6x per week) This is already standard for me. But in preparation for the upcoming winter season, I joined a gym. I recall finding it difficult to get enough cardio in last winter. Who wants to go out and walk or jog when it’s 10 degrees out? Or too dangerous due to the snow covered sidewalks? Not this gal. I never thought I’d become a gym rat, but my gym offers cardio, plus classes that include weights, and yoga! On the nice days, I am still out walking or jogging, but I love having the variety of classes at the gym to go to when it’s rainy or cold.

Drink 60 oz. water (daily) This one is old habit for me. A simple rule of thumb is to divide your body weight in half, and drink that much water in ounces. I have a 30 ounce water bottle that I fill in the morning.  One water bottle, filled twice a day. 60 ounces. Bam.

Abstain from dessert (daily) This one is still difficult. To make it easier, I keep stevia in the house for the occasional baking (instead of using sugar.) But for special occasions, like my husband’s birthday, I bake the real deal. He currently has four of his homemade cupcakes left, stored in the freezer. I bet he forgot they are even there, because he only craves sweets like a normal person-moderately. I, on the other hand, think about those four cupcakes every hour. I wish he would just eat them already. I also don’t understand how freezing them is equated with “storing them for later”, since frozen cupcakes are awesome.

Since my sugar cravings have not simply gone away, I take probiotics daily(PB8). These help balance the bacteria in the gut, lessening the cravings (as well as aiding in a healthier gut which has all kinds of health benefits). After a bit of research, I have the visual in my head of nasty, yeasty bacteria overtaking my gut, causing sugar cravings. This has been enough to keep me motivated in my quest to become a normal-dessert-craving person, instead of the addict I had become.

Minimal simple carbs (daily) Simple carbs sap me of energy and when my energy wains, I am less productive. Besides, there are great health benefits to minimizing simple carb intake. I am not rigid about this one, but I try to be mindful. I eat less bread these days, I buy gluten-free pasta, and on the rare occasions that I bake, I usually use gluten-free flour. (My daughter, who has hard time tolerating gluten, simply grinds oats in her Ninja blender for easy and economical gluten-free flour).

Limit alcohol consumption to (2x per week maximum) I started off trying 1x per week, but I found this a little too rigid. Often, a glass or two of wine one night is enough, but other weeks the occasion comes around twice in a week. For instance, a gourmet meal at home that begs to be served with a glass of red wine, and a dinner out for a special occasion that also calls for a drink. But without the twice-weekly limit, I might simply start replacing my desserts with wine, which also satisfies a sweet craving. Then where would I be? Alcohol is toxic and since our bodies don’t know how to digest it, they store it as fat. So as someone with a wicked sweet tooth, I decided that if I don’t limit my intake of wine, I could eventually end up a fat alcoholic. And all the probiotics in the world couldn’t save me from that.

Spiritual:

Meditation or yoga (4x per week) I put or yoga here, because if my exercise consists of yoga that day, then I count that as meditation, since yoga is basically meditation-in-motion. Both have profound effects on well being. It clears my head and puts me in the present moment like nothing else can. It makes it easier to keep all the other good habits. Yoga and meditation keep good things flowing into my day and my life.

Follow the Four Agreements (daily) I blogged about this in more detail here: https://musingsimplicity.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/the-four-agreements/

Following the Four Agreements is probably my most worthwhile goal of all, and the one I need to work the hardest at. When I review them, I can almost always think of instances where I’ve failed at following them.

#1 Be impeccable w/ your word I can easily recall times when I should have spoken my truth and didn’t. And other times when I should have kept my mouth shut and spoke.

#2 Don’t take anything personally I think I’m okay with this one. I am pretty good at understanding that we all come with our own experiences and lenses and preferences, and I don’t take others’ opinions or actions too personally. Mostly.

#3 Don’t make assumptions I catch myself making assumptions more often than I’d like to admit. I think I know what someone is thinking or I imagine something to be a certain way until I ask or check the facts. I think I am pretty good at seeking out the truth on the big matters, or being correct on my instinct, but on smaller things I often jump to conclusions. And the smaller things matter too.

#4 Always do your best A day in which I have done my best, which typically means following all of the goals I have listed in this post, is a great day. I feel accomplished, fulfilled, and light. And a day when I have fallen short is not as good. A day that I have failed miserably in many areas, feels like I suck at life. So obviously, doing my best is a hugely worthwhile agreement to follow.

And this is why I have typed out my goals to refer to daily, as an aid to keep myself on track for a life feels on purpose.  Having long term goals is great too, but it’s reaching the smaller, daily goals that get us there.  Having them in ink is the tool that helps me do my best.  (Also, I am obsessed with writing things down).

         Notes/Additions for this month: (November)

*Practice for Moth Story Slam thru Nov 3

*Increase time spent on book to  daily  (National Novel Writing Month).Exception: Thanksgiving Day & the day before for preparations.

National Novel Writing Month is my favorite holiday

I know National Novel Writing Month is not really a holiday, but in a way it’s even better than one.

Many writers use National Novel Writing Month to draft a new novel, but there are no enforced rules, except to sit and write, every day of the month if possible, at the rate of about 1,660 words per day. Some writers, myself included, are partaking in order to get closer to the end of their already-in -progress work.

November is magical.  While all the hoopla is gaining momentum for the real holidays, writers everywhere are preparing for NaNoWriMo. Participating in it feels like an act of self-love. I will not abandon my writing goals in order to bow to the holiday gods; they cannot take me until I am good and ready. And that means after I have thrown myself deep and long into November’s writing abyss.

I just cannot resist the spirit of NaNoWriMo, so I am jumping in once again. NaNoWriMo is an every day kind of thing.   Every day, for a solid month, I will be moving forward faster than I would be if I weren’t  participating.

This annual event gives me permission -not only permission- but support and encouragement- even pressure – to live my passion, above all else, for a solid month. Who doesn’t love that?

This starts in four days. Four days. My heart is fluttering, for real. No matter that I have the daunting task of editing and rewriting huge chunks of work ahead. It is still as if the Muse herself is knocking at my door, telling me it’s time.

The spirit of National Novel Writing Month gives me that feeling of I get to write. And at the end of every day comes the fulfillment of having written. It is a fabulous excuse to squeeze the rest of life around my writing, instead of the other way around. And that is how books get written.

Four more days to get everything in order so I can disappear into that magical writing abyss.  I can hardly wait for my  favorite “holiday”. I will see you on the other side of November.

http://nanowrimo.org/about

Making Room

small_4355223864It seemed that as I made the decision to spend more time working on my book and less time with other things, including blogging and writing essays, I was tested. I had a flood of blog post ideas, a request to write for Mamalode appeared in my inbox as well as an invitation to speak at a conference in the spring.

What should I do? Keep my goal very simplified, nose to the grindstone until I finish the book and ignore anything else that comes my way, including many of my other writing impulses?  Or say yes?

As luck would have it, I happen to be following the career of Mel Robbins. She is currently my mentor, though she doesn’t exactly know it. I think a mentor has to be someone who is not so unlike you that can’t relate, but who has much more of what you are aspiring to. As a CNN commentator and legal analyst our career paths differ hugely.

But she is also an author and a speaker and she loves motivating others with her words. She is happily married, has three children, and lives in the Boston area (me too!) She loves clothes and Martha Beck (so do I!) And I’ll bet she’s organized.

She has a no BS approach to getting what she wants and to helping others get what they want. And in addition to her great practical approach, she has a strong belief in the power of intuition, as I do. Career-wise, she is leaps and bounds ahead of me. But I can relate to her.

Mentor? I guess you could say she is my girl crush. I read her book and watched all of her videos on You Tube. I wanted to hear what she has to say. During one of her interview videos she spoke of saying Yes to all invitations during the first year of her speaking and writing career. She mentioned how one opportunity led to the next and so on, and that saying Yes was what really moved her forward. She advised against either-or- thinking in the face of opportunities and goals. Often, we can do this and that.

So I said Yes to writing for Mamalode (I get to choose how often) and Yes to the speaking invitation (it’s not until spring after all, and will only take up one day). I am saying Yes to my blog post ideas when they come to me (like this one) instead of putting them off until the ideas fade. I can do these things and consistently work on my book.

But only if I keep saying No to other things. I have to stay vigilant of all the ways clutter can sneak in- to my head, my home and my days. Simplifying is a must for me, in order to avoid overwhelm and to keep moving forward.

To refresh my resolve to keep my life uncluttered of things that don’t matter much to me, I watched several videos on minimalism. There are so many out there, and like a junkie, I could have watched them all night.

The Marie Kondo method of decluttering.

Peter Walsch, the professional organizer, writer and media personality.

There are even very young people on YouTube, speaking about how much happier they became when they went from being recreational shoppers and accumulators, to minimalists.

Matthew Williams of LifeEdited has some really cool stuff for city dwellers: http://www.lifeedited.com/about/

Minimizing beauty products, kitchens, closets; the possibilities go on and on. There are videos of encouragement and suggestions for every area of life. But alas, as much as I enjoy them and find them inspiring, I could not watch them all. At a certain point, watching more would be wasting too much time, something that simplifying is supposed to help us avoid. So I stopped when I found a favorite and I am posting it here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-nMDzccJwc

Andrew Mellen is a professional organizer in New York City. His words resonate with me. I love what he has to say about simplifying, and I think you will too. He leaves a lot of room for personal preferences and values, and the guy makes sense for everyone in my opinion. Although his video is forty-four minutes long, you can get his whole message in the first twenty. The second part is just a question-and-answer session with his audience.

One of my favorite points that he makes is this: If you are embarking on a new path of simplifying or getting organized, you do not have to fit that in your schedule on top of everything else you already do. You simply need to stop doing the things you don’t want or need to do in order to make room for the task of organizing. Here is the link again. I hope you enjoy it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-nMDzccJwc

Whether our goal is to get organized or to change careers or write a book or cook more meals or anything at all that we find worthwhile, we first have to let go of all that is not serving us. We have to make room.

When I feel stuck or overwhelmed, I ask myself, what do I need to let go of? Usually it comes to me, and often it’s obvious. I am forever a student on this path.

So I emailed Mel Robbins, commenting on her work and asking her a question about mine. She responded with great enthusiasm, gave me some good advice, and then asked if I would contribute to the research of her next book by writing my responses to ten questions she would send me.

I said Yes.

Brains and Guts: this is not a Halloween post

           A mind stretched to a new idea, can never go back to its original dimensions. –Oliver Wendell

I wrote a complete post for this blog yesterday, on the topic of mystery, more or less, and then somehow I lost it. I was exiting out of some old files and clicking “do not save” and must’ve gotten carried away because now that post is just gone. Deleted. Mystery solved.

Which makes me feel just a tiny bit sad, not so much because of the wasted effort, but because the spirit in which I wrote the post cannot be recaptured. And it brings me to this: Most ideas, if not acted upon, will disappear. We lose our motivation, our gusto for that particular path. I really liked the post when I was writing it, but I just can’t bring myself to start over with it. I no longer even like the idea.

According to Some Wise Person, if you don’t act on your impulse within five seconds, your brain will rush in to squash the idea.   Our analytical brains come up with all sorts of conceivable and practical reasons why you should not try that new thing that just a moment ago your heart was saying yes to. If you get a new idea, and don’t take action in some way, right away, then the moment is lost.

Why is that? Why does our brain immediately try to talk us out of our ideas?

Because our brains are built for safety and survival. They are built to keep things the same, predictable and stable, so we won’t die. Only we aren’t cave men and women anymore, so this does not usually serve us well in modern times. We need to venture beyond our comfort zones, and take a risk now and then. It serves us to follow the Yes -do -that impulse.

It’s that first impulse in your gut. The split second one, the one your mind overrides almost immediately. That yes or no feeling to an invitation or an idea or a question. It’s the rightful action we take when we trust our initial feelings and don’t overthink it.

My Inner Editor is a ruthless bitch. If I allowed her to run the show, I would not publish a single word. I can have the impulse of an idea, then write something with all my heart and mind and by the next day, I cannot stand to read it. It’s too new, or controversial or messy or sensitive. If I don’t hit publish, the Safety Police will sweep right in and tell me all the reasons I will absolutely die if I write the stuff that came from my gut.

Knowing the kill-an-idea-before-it-ever-leaves-the-gate tendency of the brain, I’m trying to be brave and mindful about taking more action in all areas of my life. Less pondering or procrastination and more doing.   To my relief, it does not feel reckless. It feels like getting things done. It feels like moving forward.

There is only one way to learn, the Alchemist answered. It’s through action.

*Alas, even my writing has to be simplified. I will be posting less frequently for a while so that I can move my book forward in a more timely fashion. It feels like what Paulo Coelho, author of the Alchemist, would call my Personal Legend, and the time has come to give it all of my focus.