Goal questions.

OK, I’m trying to figure out what I think about something, and I’ve got some of the way there, but I’d love your input on this one.

Goals.

How do you set them? What sort of goals do you set? What do you do when you reach a goal?

When I was a stay-at-home mum, one of the things that I really didn’t cope well with was the feeling that I wasn’t progressing anywhere. The kids grew up, but that wasn’t due to my input. They would have got older anyway. The house got cleaned, then dirty, then cleaned, then dirty. The washing was put away, and built up again. The weeks went past and nothing seemed to change.

For me, going to university was a way to escape that feeling. At the end of every semester I would get a report card with marks on it. I knew that I was working towards something, and there were milestones to mark how I was going. It was a wonderful interlude, but we know that life is not generally like that.

When I started working at the university, people would say to me things like, ‘You need to do such-and-such so that it looks good on your promotion application.’ And I would think, ‘Why do we need to be thinking about promotion all the time? Why not just be allowed to do a good job and leave it at that.’ I decided to forget about promotion or tenure and just to do my work well. And that worked for a while.

But I remember sitting in a seminar, letting my thoughts wander, and realising that I needed some direction. Some measure of forward progress. I needed to come up with my own goals so that I knew where I was going.

And I’m at that point again.

I’ve been working as a freelancer for almost a year now and I’m realising that I need some measure of forward progress. I don’t want to put myself under a whole lot of pressure, but I need some way to know that I’m not just going through the motions. Not just doing the same things day after day just for the sake of filling in the hours.

I need some measure of whether I am doing enough work, or too much. Sometimes I need to know that I have achieved something and that the hard push was worthwhile. And sometimes I need some way of giving myself a kick up the butt when I’m not working hard.

I remember reading something about how instead of goals we should focus on systems. Instead of a goal of ‘lose 10 kg’ we should focus on a system like ‘go to the gym three times a week’. I understand the reasoning here, and I realise that without systems like this you do not get anywhere. But I think that in addition to the systems I need a goal, something to aim for and  when I reach it, something to celebrate.

I also understand that goals need to be something that you can control. This is why ‘lose 10 kg’ is a bad goal (especially for us women) because there can be reasons – illness, or some family issue or something that stops us from reaching such a goal and is totally out of our control. It’s the same for me with book-writing goals. I can determine when I should have the first draft by, but then cover design, editing, beta-reading, all of these things depend on someone else, and I can’t predict or account for all the variables that might happen.

I think I need some SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. I know I have some really big goals – pay off the mortgage is one – but I need some smaller milestones that I can mark off along the way. I think I need to gamify my life so that it resembles (a little) the university years. Goals for every six months or so that I can tick off and feel like I’m getting to the big ones.

So that’s where I’m at. But I’d love to know your process, your goal-setting ideas. Even some of your goals, if you feel comfortable sharing. What do you do here? Or do you set goals at all?

PS We had a lovely four-day adventure in Swansea. That’s where today’s pictures are from. We totally unwound and relaxed. Watched TV, read books, went for long walks, sat in front of the fire and played crib, jammed a bit on our musical instruments. It was delightful and necessary, and we’re going to be doing this sort of thing regularly in the future.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

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Slightly incoherent thoughts on the new year

fireworks

It’s the first week of the new year, a traditional time for looking back and looking forward. And because my birthday is in January, I traditionally take the whole month to look back and look forward. It’s handy having both things in the same month, really. No ambiguity.

I have been gardening this morning (yes, really) and listening to podcasts about the new year. I regularly listen to writer podcasts and they have all taken the chance with the change of calendar to talk about goals and resolutions, thoughts and hopes for the new year.

One was a ‘how to’ podcast, saying that our goals or resolutions for the new year needed to be holistic, taking into account the growth of our souls, the states of our relationships, and our physical bodies, before coming up with any writing or creative goals for the year.

In one of the podcasts the host had just attended a tragic traffic accident a few days before and suddenly all her new year goals were shown to be trite and small in the bigger picture of life.

One podcast was broken into two parts, the first aired on the 31st December looking back at the old year and whether the host had achieved her goals, and the second on the 1st January looking forward to her goals in the new year. To be honest, I really don’t understand how she did it. I have too many family things happening, people visiting, and extra Christmas and New Year bits and pieces to be able to think clearly through the previous year, let alone to concentrate on the new year. I might be able to do this later in the month but I can’t see myself ever being able to produce something coherent on New Year’s day.

There have even been some pretty amazing Facebook posts by my friends with pictures from throughout the last year, detailed summaries, and well thought-out goals. I’ve been so impressed.

I have been thinking about the year past, of course. But it took me two days of thinking to remember that we visited Vanuatu in April, and if something that major can go missing in my memory banks, I’m unlikely to synthesise a reasonable summary of the year at the moment. Much of what happened in the year got swallowed up and camouflaged by the health problems I have had in the last couple of months, and in the busyness of the year that Moz has experienced.

But as I look towards the new year I have hope.

My health will get better. It’s in the messy middle at the moment and I don’t know how long the messiness will last, but it will get better. And Moz’s work will not be as busy this year. We have put things in place, he’s not working full time, he will have more space in the new year.

I have hope, but I don’t have certainty.

I’m a person who likes to make detailed plans. I like to set goals, to make lists, to tick things off. And I find that I can’t do that at the moment. I’m just not sure what the year will look like.

What will my energy levels be like? I think I may have just graduated from having to take an afternoon nap every day. So that’s a bonus. But I don’t know when I will be able to work eight-hour days again. I don’t know when I’ll be able to take one hour walks in the evenings again. I’m not sure when my brain function will be up to keeping track of all the things involved in running three businesses.

All of this precludes me being able to set time-limited goals. I don’t like the thought of setting myself up for failure. I need to wait and see.

So while I have some ideas for the new year that I would like to try out, I am not setting any goals right now. I’m just going to step out each day, holding God’s hand, and take it as it comes.

It’s not comfortable, but it’s where I am. And maybe it will stop me from living in the future and will enable me to live more in the present, right where I am now.

Where are you with New Years goals and resolutions? Do you have detailed plans for the year ahead? Or are you just holding on by the skin of your teeth, trying to climb out of the pit that 2018 left you in?

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday (except for Christmas and New Year, apparently. Still I’m back into it now, so it should be every Monday from here on in). Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast (which is on http://www.ruthamos.com.au or Apple Podcasts, or wherever you download your podcasts) then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

Much excitement!

Deadly Misconduct - Preview

I’m really excited. Truly. I don’t think I’ve been this excited before. Well, maybe, but only once or twice.

The thing I’m really excited about (and you may have noticed this if you’re my Facebook friend) is that I’m about to launch my first novel. It’s called Deadly Misconduct, it’s a cozy mystery, it’s available on Amazon for pre-order and on iBooks too, and it will be up on Kobo by the end of the week. There will be a print-on-demand paperback version too. It launches on the first of May.

Yes, I’m very excited.

Friends ask me, ‘Did you always want to write books?’ and the answer is, I don’t know. I really don’t.

I have always loved reading books, but writing? When I thought it through, I realised that I believed that writing a book was everyone’s dream. Isn’t it? Doesn’t everybody want to write a book?

I’ve asked people about this and while a few have said yes, (and then we’ve gone on to have fabulous conversations about writing practices and books we love and so on,) other people have looked at me like I’m mad and said that no, they don’t want to write a book.

There was a time, way back when, that I was looking for a hobby. I tried a whole lot of things – painting, drawing, cooking, long-stitch, cross-stitch, sewing, knitting, crochet, all sorts of things, but nothing really filled the bill. Nothing gave me the satisfaction I wanted.

But when I write, that fills the bill perfectly. It gives me energy, it stops the words from going around and around in my head, it satisfies me and at the same time gives me hunger for more. It’s something I enjoy, something I can do, something that also allows me to do all the reading that I love doing as well. Reading is research, writing is creating; I am happy.

Since I’ve started writing this blog and writing my novel, I have more life in my life.

So who knows if it has always been my dream? But finding out what you love to do, what you’re meant to do is, in my experience, amazing.

I think that others get the same experience from art and crafts, from running, gymnastics, dance, from singing, and playing musical instruments. There are so many creative endeavours, so many things that give life. I think people can also find their special thing in doing maths or science, in solving problems, in programming, or accountancy. Just because it doesn’t look creative to more artistic types doesn’t mean anything.  In fact, if you can make a living from your special thing, all the better, in my opinion.

If you haven’t found the special thing that you love to do I encourage you to keep searching. I didn’t make it to this writing thing until my children had grown up and could look after themselves. I’m really not sure if I could have done it before then.

What I’m really trying to say here is:

You do you.

Don’t try to be anyone else. Keep curious, keep experimenting, keep looking for what you can give to the world. Enjoy the process and find your special thing. It’s worth it!

And of course, I’d love to have you buy my novel if you enjoy a cosy mystery. But no pressure 🙂

Deadly Misconduct by R.J. Amos

Research to die for?

Alicia is determined to return to academia after time off to care for her sick mother.  An unlikely conference in sleepy Hobart town throws her into the path of Professor Conneally, who offers her a dream job in Cambridge.

It seems the universe is on her side – until the professor drops dead at the conference dinner. Alicia’s convinced it’s no accident, but no one will believe her. Can she find the culprit before the conference is over? Or will she lose all her friends, and the opportunity of a lifetime?

Pull on your slippers, get cosy in your favourite chair, and spend an hour or two solving the mystery in beautiful Tasmania.

What makes you a Success?

to-do-list_o_915180

I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago but didn’t put it up because it’s January and EVERYONE is writing about goals and resolutions and so on right now. But I’m going to post it anyway, because it’s what I’m thinking about as I start this year. My birthday is in January, so as well as the big New Years Day thing, I also have the next year of my life to think about. January for me is all about goals, dreams, plans for the year ahead.

And what it means to have those plans succeed.

Success. What does it mean? More importantly, what does it mean to you?

How would you define a successful year? What makes you successful in your career? What does success mean in your family?

I’m a bit of a list addict. When the weekend comes I like to write a list of everything I want to accomplish in the two days. My list will have bigger tasks like ‘change the bed linen’ and smaller tasks like ‘clean up the kitchen’ (alright that can also be a big task – it depends on the day), and even hobby tasks like ‘read book’ or ‘bake cookies’.

If I cross all the tasks off the list by the end of the weekend I judge it to be a wildly successful weekend. But what if I don’t manage to get to all the tasks? Is the weekend a failure? Am I a failure?

I listened to a podcast interview by Steve Laube a literary agent, about success. He was talking about how writers define success and how it can be a dangerous thing. He said that some define success by sales numbers, ‘I’ll be successful once I sell 50,000 books,’ or by income, ‘I’ll be successful when I make $100,000.’ But, he says, what if you only sell 45,000 books? What if you only make $98,000? Are you a failure? If you haven’t ticked over that success milestone does that mean you have failed?

His point was that it is better to define success as the impact that you have on people – that even if you impact one person’s life for the better by your writing, you have therefore been a success.

We can apply that to our general lives too. We might never be millionaires, we might not ever be able to be Prime Minister, or a movie star, or the CEO of our corporation, or any of these high-impact people, but if we can impact the lives around us in a positive way on a day to day basis then we can also say that we are successful.

I agree. Money or fame or power are not good measures of success. They are more like gaping bottomless pits that suck you in and suck those around you into the abyss as well. At least, that’s what it looks like from the outside. I’ve never really been close enough to find out.

So yes, doing good to others, spreading the light however we can, reaching out and making anyone’s life better, that is a good measure of success but there’s a risk with this kind of thinking.

The risk is that we stop trying. We can be tempted to not push ourselves, not try hard, not grow, because all we’re doing is just trying to help the people around us, trying to shed light, and isn’t that enough? Just being a nice person? If that’s the definition of success then why bother training? Why bother learning? Why bother developing our artistic skills? Why bother with academic excellence?

But I believe excellence is something worth reaching for. Learning and growing and improving is a life-long journey and if we stop doing any of that then we stop living. Or at least we stop living a life filled with any richness.

My dream for my writing career is that I can make a living by what I write. That is what I think would constitute a wildly successful writing career. It is what I’m aiming for. My big shining city on a hill that I’m toiling towards. This is not something that I expect to tick off my list any time soon, but it’s the thing that will keep me striving for excellence, will keep me training and working.

And failure in my writing career is defined solely by this:

  • I fail if I stop writing.

So in between the failure and the big shining city there is a wide plain of moderate success:

  • I am successful if I put aside the time to write.
  • I am successful if I hone my skills, train in character development or descriptive writing.
  • I am successful if I bring a book to publication.
  • I am not a failure unless I fail to do that which I am called to do.

I think you can see from this list though that the goals that are on the success pathway are goals that are within my control. Goals that depend on me, not on external forces. Goals like exercising every day, rather than a goal of losing 10 kg which has a lot of factors you may not be able to control. Goals like mastering that piano piece or practicing five hours a week, not goals like winning Australian Idol. It is easy to fail if your definition of success depends on something that you cannot have a hope of controlling. Some people call these systems, not goals. I’ll probably write another post on this in the future because I think it needs some unpacking but just bear it in mind right now. When I talk about never failing, I’m talking about reaching for goals that depend on your own input, not externally defined goals.

Success and failure are not binary concepts. Success is not an on-off switch.

Rather there is a continuum from failure (which I think is only final once you’re dead) to wild and absolute success. And every step you take towards your shining city is a successful step. Every setback is just that, a setback. If you pick up and keep going, you have not failed.

 

I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments. What do you see as success? What do you think about goals? What are your goals for the new year?

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year again. The time that we all make our goals and resolutions and swear that this time we will stick to them. Or we laugh at everyone making goals and resolutions and swear that you’ll never catch us making such stupid arbitrary-date-related promises to ourselves.

I found myself not wanting to write down goals at all today. No resolutions, no goals for January, no goals for the week. I didn’t want anything written down at all. And I couldn’t figure out why for a minute but I worked it out in the end.

I didn’t want to write them down, because if I didn’t achieve them, didn’t cross them off the list or give them a big tick, then I would feel that I had failed. And I hate feeling like I’ve failed.

I don’t think I’m alone in this.

For some people writing the goals is fine, but they don’t want to tell anyone their goals because if someone asks, ‘how is that project going?’ that’s when they will feel that sense of failure.

But we have to have goals.

For some of us goals are given by our workplace or by our school and we can use those to track your progress. But if you don’t have that, then you need to come up with goals yourself. If you don’t have any goals it’s a road to depression I think – you’re not going anywhere and it doesn’t feel good.

This morning the problem wasn’t that I didn’t have goals. I had plenty of goals for January floating around in my head. I just didn’t want to commit them to paper. I didn’t want to make a target that I would fail to reach. I didn’t want it written there in black and white.

But the problem with that was that the goals swirling around my head were nebulous, they were unformed and shapeless. While I removed the risk of failure, I also removed the feeling of success. And I actually think that without those concrete goals written down I would have a sense of failure anyway, a fear of something I’d missed.

So what did I do?

It’s taking me a while to process this but I have been reading over and over again in the last year an amazing concept. Amazing. I tell you, it’s life changing.

You can change your goals.

You can adjust them.

If you are working through the month of January and you find that you’re not able to achieve that ambitious list that you had at the beginning of the month, that’s fine. If you had something to aim for, you got half-way there and you couldn’t quite summon up the energy or strength to push through to the end, that’s ok.

Change the goal.

Change the deadline.

It’s ok. It’s fine. It’s not failure.

It’s just adjustment.

That’s part of the process. You make goals. Set them somewhere. And as you move towards them you chart your progress and make adjustments.

It has to work this way because let’s face it, life isn’t straight-forward. You could be moving really well towards a goal and then get the flu. Or someone close to you passes away. Or, on the brighter side, a friend comes to visit from overseas and you need to make time to visit with them. Any number of interruptions and stumbling blocks can get in the way of a goal and there’s no way you can know beforehand what’s going to happen.

So my suggestion this new year is that you make goals, goals that are appropriate to what you can achieve right now, but hold them lightly, and continually adjust.

And may we all feel like we’re making progress as we head through 2018.

Am I just lazy?

Comparisonitis

I’ve talked a lot about saying no to things. About having days alone where my introvert self can recharge, about saying no to some requests and not even feeling guilty, about leaving some church or work activities to others, about rewarding myself for telling people no, about making sure that I’m not too busy and that I have time to do the things that really matter to me. And all of this is good, at least I think it’s good and that’s why I’m sharing it with you.

But there’s often a bit of a nagging worry in the back of my mind, “Am I just lazy?”

I mean, if I compare myself to my friend Naomi who runs her own tutoring business then I definitely look lazy – she works from 8am – 7pm tutoring and then spends her evenings writing reports and such. She’s amazing! Or how about my friend Megan who gets up at dark-o-clock to go jogging before getting her kids off to school and then going to work herself. She also looks after her elderly mother and helps out at church things.

But I’m sure I could compare myself to others who have different priorities or different health levels to me and think that I’m doing pretty well.

Comparisonitis, Joanna Penn calls it. It’s a deadly disease, sure to stop any endeavour. It’s a seriously bad idea to compare your life to another’s. The very best it can do is puff you up with pride, and that’s not a good thing. It is more likely to destroy you as you try to meet some unattainable ideal.

So, how then do you figure out if you are making the best use of the time and energy levels that you have been given in your day?

I found some very good advice in Kristine K Rusch’s book Goals and Dreams. She says to set a daily goal and try to achieve it for a week:

“If you never reach the goal, figure out if the problem is that you weren’t putting in enough time, that you didn’t have enough time to give … or if the goal is just too hard to achieve in a single day for you. Then, set a new goal and try that for a week. Work until you find one you have to stretch just a little to achieve, but make sure it is one you can achieve.”

I think this is fantastic advice. It requires being honest with yourself but that’s a good thing too.

I am really blessed in that I have a husband who will be honest with me. He sees what I do and what I don’t and he can give me feedback to let me know whether I’m being lazy, or whether I’m taking a well-deserved break from some hard work.  Sometimes it’s just so helpful to have someone else say, “No, rest, you deserve it”.

It can be good to have someone to be accountable to. Someone to whom you have stated your goal and who you will report back to. That may help you keep honest so that you’re not kidding yourself about your energy levels or time commitments. You need someone who can hold up a mirror to you that is not too distorted and can help you to see the truth about yourself.

But even in my incredibly blessed situation I can feel like Moz (my accountability partner) is not seeing the full picture and that I’m just being lazy. So I also need to self-assess, to set goals I can reach in a day, in a week. And to constantly reassess.

I love how Rusch says that goals can be reassessed on a constant basis. What works one week or month may not work the next. If you are reaching goals too easily then you may need to set the bar higher. If you are never achieving your goals and just getting frustrated then you may need to lower your expectations of yourself for this season, and this energy level. Just because you set a goal for yourself doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. Just like pilots are constantly correcting their course when flying a plane or piloting a ship, we also need to constantly correct our life course and make sure we’re on track. Reassess, realign, set another goal and try to reach it.

So are you just lazy? Am I? I think the answer is so much more complex than that.

As always, I encourage you to sign up on WordPress to get this blog delivered to your email inbox, or to drop me a line on rijamos@gmail.com to get my regular writerly email. And again, the wonderful artwork for these posts is from @deteor42 on instagram. 

What are you saying “yes” to?

Rocks in a jar

Life is full of possibilities.

If you read any self-help book, any blog on entrepreneurship, any cornflakes packet, you will see that you have to trim down those possibilities. You cannot do everything. You cannot have it all. At least, not all at once.

And it’s hard work to figure out what to say yes to. At least it was for me.

I tend to think that other people’s ideas are better than mine, that they’ve thought it through more, that they know what’s going on more than I do.

So when someone asks me to do something, I tend to say yes.

But doing what everyone else tells you to do is exhausting. You just cannot fit it all in. At some point, some decisions have to be made. And as you are the only one living your specific life with your specific burdens and challenges and your specific energy levels, you are the one that needs to make the decisions about what your life holds.

You know the analogy with the jar and the rocks, pebbles, sand, and water? I have always had trouble with that analogy. Putting sharp, angry rocks in a glass jar? What happens if you push too hard and the jar breaks? It took me a while to get past that but I saw a video the other day with some ping-pong balls instead of the rocks, beads instead of the pebbles, and then sand, and then beer. And that helped.

So, just in case you are one of the three people in the western world who have not heard this analogy, this is how it works:

The jar is your life. The ping-pong balls are the big things in your life. You need to put the ping-pong balls in first: family, friends, health care, time with God. The beads are the slightly smaller but still important things: your job, house, car, looking after those. The sand is everything else. The small stuff: surfing Facebook, watching TV, that sort of stuff. The beer is just to remind you that even if your life is full, you can still have a beer with friends (I’m not so sure about that last part, I’ve definitely had times where life was so full that a beer with friends would have pushed me over the edge, but maybe that’s just me).

It took me a while to understand something about this whole example (and I may be the only one who has trouble with this) but the thing is not to just state that the important things are ping-pong balls, but to schedule time to allow these ping-pong ball things to happen. Not to just say to yourself, “family is one of my top priorities” but to actually map out in your calendar that four nights a week you are not doing anything other than spending time with your family, that Saturday afternoon is for a family car trip, and that Sunday all the family will be going to church and eating lunch together afterwards. Schedule time for the important things first, then put in time for the less important things, and let the sand take care of itself.

Ok, so this is a helpful place to start, but for me I still had difficulty with it – what are my ping-pong balls? What exactly are the important things?

I started on this saying no journey because of two things: I was sick and tired of always feeling sick and tired, and I had decided I wanted to make time to write. I needed to clear my schedule so that I could exercise, and make and eat healthy food, and rest, and I needed to clear my schedule so that I could follow my dream and write a book.

Now, cutting down my TV viewing, and my social media time was a good start. (Notice I didn’t say cutting out, just cutting down – some relaxation is important). But it wasn’t enough.

If I kept saying yes to party-plan parties, all the church activities, dinner with everyone, social events, work opportunities and so on, I would have neither the time nor the energy to write anything. I needed some way to divine what belonged in the ‘important’ category.

I made a mind-map. You can tell how serious this is by the fact that I made a mind-map. I hate them. Lists are my thing. But I tried a few lists and they didn’t quite work, so the mind-map seemed the way to go this time.

The segments of my mind-map were: Family, church, work, health, and writing. In each one of those segments I included the things I thought were important. My feeling was that if something didn’t fit into one of those segments then it was sand.

Here’s a new thing that I learned. In the Family section along with the cooking, washing, budgeting and shopping, I also included ‘emotional energy for my family’s needs’ and ‘Saturday adventures’. I realised that I needed to put down-time in the ping-pong ball section if I was to live the life I wanted.

The other thing for me was defining the writing as a section on its own. As its own collection of ping-pong balls.

Writing is my dream, and it is my ‘thing’. It took me a long time to figure that out. Just so as you know, I’m in my mid-forties now, and I think I may have finally found the thing I love to do. I have tried many different hobbies – art, craft, exercise, maths, science, music, dance – none of them filled the gap in my life the way that writing has done. I’m hopeful now that I have found the passion of my life.

I read this amazing book called The Art of Slow Writing Louise De Salvo that described the lives and loves of many different authors throughout history. As I read it I found that I related to oh, just about every category. I remember telling my friend that I wanted to write a book, but doesn’t everyone? She said no, not everyone wants to write a book, and that maybe I should give it a try.

So I did give it a try, and I enjoyed it immensely. I enjoy the process and I enjoy the outcome.

However, in my mind my writing can be less important that any other important thing that anyone else would want me to do. You see I don’t know that I am ever going to be a successful author. In order to become a writer, I need time to practice. Time to write books that will never be seen by another human being. Time to fail. Time to learn the craft. And I have had difficulty allowing myself that time because my (maybe never seen or used by another human being) stuff just didn’t seem as important as anyone else’s (already out there and doing good) stuff.

I needed to change that. To change my mindset.

I’ve found some books really helpful to me in letting me know that it was ok to follow my dream. One is The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeuerst. She does a wonderful job of explaining that there is a job that only you can do, and that you should spend your time doing it. That it is right to say no to some opportunities if it stops you from doing the one thing that you should be doing.

Jon Acuff in his book Quitter says that if you figure out what your dream is, then you will spend less time doing the things you like, and more doing the things you love. I really like the idea of filling my life with things I love, things that I am meant to do. The idea of me giving to the world a gift that only I can give, living a life with meaning and purpose.

When you have that shining orb in front of you, that reason for living, then it is easier to throw off those things that ‘hinder and so easily entangle’ and to ‘run with perseverance the race set before you’. To run my own race. To reach my own goal. To give the thing I give the best. To live my best life. For all of that, I needed to learn to say no. Otherwise I am like a ‘wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind’ insecure, unsure, exhausted, and going nowhere.

The good book says, “each of you should carry your own load”. God has given you a load to carry. He has made you “to do good works which He planned beforehand for you to do”. It’s worth asking Him what he made you to do, thinking it through, finding out what your special shiny ping-pong ball is.

So, step one towards saying no: figure out what you’re saying yes to. Know your dream. Write your vision statement.

I have learned that dreams and goals are different. Where a goal is a short term, achievable stepping stone towards your dream,  your dream, according to Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is a big, unachievable, shining city on a hill that you are moving towards. A dream gives you purpose. Jenny Baxter agrees. She says in her blog Treasuring Mothers that your dream needs to be big enough that you can’t achieve it on your own. You need a dream that is big enough that you are dependent on God to come through for you to make it happen. Your dream is your hope and purpose – the thing God put you on the earth to accomplish.

That’s the thing that will allow you to say no, and help you figure out when to say yes. Cherish your dream, value it, invest in it, give it your all. And make sure that you don’t let all the sand eat away the time that belongs to the ping-pong ball of your dream.

Have you found out what your shiny ping-pong ball is? Do you agree that knowing what to say yes to is the first step to saying no? Have any of you lovely readers ever tried applying the ping-pong ball method to your lives?  How did it go?

This post is part of a series I am writing about what I have learned about saying no. I’d love to have you join me on this journey. If you want to make sure you never miss a post, you can sign up on WordPress and the post will be sent to your email address every week without fail.

You’ll notice some special art in this series. If you want to see more of it you can find the artist on instagram @deteor42

If you would like to hear more about my writing journey as it comes to the pointy end with my first novel (a cosy mystery), please drop me a line on rijamos@gmail.com and I’ll add you to my newsletter list. The newsletters are more writing focussed – what I’m doing with my writing, and what I’m reading myself. I look forward to hearing from you.