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.

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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.