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

Reading and writing and inspiration overload

It is only six days into National Novel Writing month and already I have fallen off of the book-reading-wagon.  Six days.  I have been writing, I really have.  A lot, in fact. It occurred to me that Julia Cameron’s advice given in her book The Artist’s Way is spot on:  If writers stop reading for a time, they will write more. It’s not to say writers shouldn’t read because they should.  But at some point we have to put down the books and pen our own words, which is exactly what I’ve done for six days.  Once I stopped being such a book pig, I couldn’t stop writing.

But then alas I had to return an overdue book to the library (it was a book by Deepak Chopra and I loved this book. I had such a hard time parting with it; it was a week and a half overdue, and that’s after I renewed it the maximum number of times. It was the kind of book that  had to be absorbed slowly.

During my six days of I can’t stop writing, I also could not get out of my head my next book idea, and a shift I may want to make to this blog.  For reasons I won’t bore you with, this led me to want to read Julie & Julia, written by Julie Powell, the woman who successfully churned a blog-to-book-to movie.  I’d seen the movie, but hadn’t read her book.  So while returning my overdue library book, I found her first book, and her second one, Cleaving.

And since I was at the library anyhow, I picked up Lean In  because I may use the term lean in in a future blog post, as in “lean in to less” or “lean in to midlife“, or something like that.  And if I’m going to steal Sheryl Sandberg’s phrase, I figured I should at least read her book.

So there it is. My confession of I can’t stop reading even for the sake of focusing on my own damn book for one single month.  But the good news is, I skimmed Powell’s Cleaving in one day, and I can set that book aside now.  However, I am rather disappointed  that her marriage was in such turmoil by the time she published Julia & Julia.  Okay, it’s more than that, actually. I was full out distressed for an hour after reading Cleaving. It distracted me to the point of needing to do a google search to find out that they are still in fact together and it tainted my perception of Julie Powells, not that she cares. It’s my problem really, that I am wasting  thoughts on her life, instead of writing more in mine.

Things build on themselves, for sure.  The more I write, the more I want to write.  The inspiration floods me to the point where I wonder if I will get anything else done. But then the more I read, the more I want to read. One book leads to another.  Thank goodness I blocked off specific writing times at least, that leave reading or other distractions ‘off limits’. I guess it’s about balance, or timing, or something else that I haven’t figured out.  I’m lost in a sea of words and ideas and inspiration and I think I might burst.  I just have to make sure I burst onto the page in the form of a  finished draft by November 30, as that is the Nanowrimo goal.

* On Point NPR https://onpoint.wbur.org/2014/11/06/novel-writing-month-creative-fiction

Agenda is the new bible

  Let all things be done decently and in order  (1 Corinthians 14:40)

For many years, I  looked at the family calendar hanging on our kitchen wall each morning to stay aware of who had what, when and where.  My kids were good about keeping track of their own schedules, but it helped to know when I’d be the driver for an appointment, or when my husband’s work days shifted, and also to see what my upcoming commitments outside our family were.

Time moves on and kids grow up and now I’ve “graduated” from the family calendar to my own agenda. My daughters have all sung the praises for these books-of-the-organized which have helped them keep track of high school and college assignments, tests, performances, and any other important dates.  I could not live without my agenda are words that I heard uttered more than once in our home, and with utter conviction.

20141101_081457National Novel Writing Month has inspired me to fill my own agenda with the things that would help ensure a successful month of creativity.  Since writing and living well are intertwined for me, what serves one serves the other.  I took my time choosing an agenda, because it had to be the right agenda. It would symbolize order and commitment not only for November, but for the months ahead.  I wanted one with the days written left to write, like a book. I also wanted to be able see a whole month at a glance. When I found the perfect one, I penned in my schedule for the entire month.  At least for me, there is power in writing things down.

Writing group meetings, solo writing time, yoga classes (roughly the same time every couple days to keep it routine) fill my month.   I can glance at my agenda and see clearly when exercise takes place, and when writing takes place . Thanksgiving preparations, attending my daughter’s performance,  and my wedding anniversary celebration all have their precise times.   When it’s in writing, I don’t take it lightly or waste energy deciding what to do or in what order; there it is in black and white.  My agenda is like insurance for the habits and routine I want to live by all month, keeping me focused on my top priorities. 20141101_081348

Here is the most valuable thing I’ve learned:  we can allow life to flow through us, in all its perfect energy, or we can stay blocked.  Each day we are choosing one or the other.  It’s in the big choices but also in the seemingly small ones.  There is a magnificent order in the universe, but to tap into it, it helps to put our own lives in order.  When we do, we feel it and everything works better.  Choosing a plan and sticking to it is no easy gig for some, but figuring out what works best is part of the fun.  So here’s to agendas and the order that they symbolize. Here’s to choices set in ink. November may appear dreary and cold, but it is really full of potential and miracles if we can just make our way into that current.