Reaching for Goals

17 01 2013

cardinal in snowLooking over my goals from last year  made me wonder why so many stay the same. Do I really want to achieve those goals? Deep down where it counts? Or are they things I think I should do? Or do I feel guilty spending time and effort on them?

I once read that you should get rid of everything in your closets or drawers that you haven’t worn in the past year. You know the stuff–the too-small sizes you hope to get back into someday, the too-big clothes you keep just in case, that favorite pair of pants with the broken zipper that you plan to fix someday. I’m wondering if it isn’t the same thing with goals. Maybe I’ve outgrown some of them. Or maybe they just don’t fit right now. So when I clean out my closet, I’ll also make a clean sweep of the Yearly To-Do Lists at the same time.

If I haven’t done it this year, will I really do it next year? Seriously? Most likely not. So why have it hanging around, making me feel guilty and inadequate? Why not give myself permission to jettison it?

This year I’ll try paring down my expectations and give myself a break. I did make some pretty huge goals this year, so I’ll look back on those and forgive myself for the others that I skipped or didn’t find time for. This year, though, they won’t go on my list again. It’s obvious I’m not motivated to do them, so I won’t waste energy telling myself I should get them done.

I’m also going to go easier on myself when I make goals. I’ve already done that with my yearly list, but I’m going to do it with my daily to-do lists too.

to do list

One of my goals for last year was to have 8 books published. Not sure why that number came to me at the beginning of 2012, but that’s what I wrote. I suppose if I count all 5 vols. of the Native American Encyclopedia, the story in A Community of Writers, and my art/bio in Students Making Sense of the World, I almost made my goal. And actually, a book packager bought my YA historical, so that does make 8 books. I also wanted to have more than 2000 articles in print. I made that goal by writing 180 articles this year for an educational publisher. And I wanted to increase my picture book illustration skills, which I did with post-grad work this summer. And I’ve been setting aside time each day to practice my art.

But for 2013 I want to have more relaxing goals. Topping the list is a trip to Antarctica. I almost made it this year, but I had to cancel because of some family obligations.  I’m already picturing myself sailing past icebergs next January. I think I’ll limit myself to 3 goals instead of the usual 1-2 page list this year. If I finish those, I can always set more. And maybe without all that guilt to hold me back, I’ll accomplish more than ever.3-list

What Have You Been Putting Off? 30 Days to a New You

24 08 2012

What have you always promised yourself you’d do…SOMEDAY. Sure you’ll learn a new skill, get more exercise, write a book, play an instrument, lose those extra pounds…SOMEDAY. And the more you put it off to SOMEDAY, the less likely it is to happen. How many years have passed since you decided you’d like to do something SOMEDAY, when you have more time, when your life’s less hectic?

Chances are SOMEDAY will never come. So why not take 3 minutes and listen to this inspiring message from Matt Cutts (Ted Talks) on making those dreams come true NOW?

Remember, it only takes 30 days to develop a new habit–one that can stay with you for life. What are you going to go for in the next 30 days?

Trouble Staying Motivated?

8 05 2012

Try some Tough Love. Check out Beth Brousil‘s post on The War of Art. Might be just the kick you need.


What’s Your Excuse?

30 04 2012

So many people let their dreams die because they focus on their limitations.  If only I’d done it when I was younger, single, thinner, not tied down. Now I have ____________(fill in the blank). A mortgage, a high-stress job, kids, debts, no time, no energy…

The list of excuses is endless, but for every excuse there’s an example of someone who has conquered those odds.

Some people complain that they’re past their prime. That it’s too late for them to go for their dreams. Recently, I met an 84-year-old man who’d always dreamed of being an entrepreneur. He’s decided not to let his age stop him. He’s attending business classes and writing his business plan.

The Delany sisters published their first book at 100. And Sadie went on to publish 2 more. Her third, On My Own At 107, came out after her sister died.

People go on to be successful in spite of great odds. What’s  holding you back? When you think about your dreams, what’s getting in the way?

Chances are it isn’t your busy schedule, your over-committed lifestyle, your lack of money, your family obligations. There are ways to work around all of those things if you choose to do so.

People have overcome seemingly impossible obstacles to reach their dreams. If you think yours are insurmountable, you might want to watch this video.

Then answer the question:


Fear of Success

1 08 2011

sailboatInspiration struck today about my business. I realized I’ve been an anchor, keeping things stuck, preventing them from growing because of fear.

Rather than being an anchor, a drag, holding back the ship, I want to be the sail, harnessing the wind energy and directing the craft. We’ll not only go farther faster, but it’ll take a lot less energy.

Ship Ahoy!

21 06 2011

Hard to believe it’s been so long since I’ve blogged, but a five-book contract with deadlines a month apart has been grueling.

But I just received word that Pirates 
Through the Ages  is on the way. Yay!! Can’t wait to see how it looks. The editor said it turned out terrific, so I’m excited about holding it in my own two hands. Here’s a mock up of the cover.

Looking back, I wondered while I was immersed in it if I’d manage to get it done by the deadline, but I did. Now I’m wondering the same about my latest assignment. What is it about writers that they’ll put themselves under this much pressure and agree to practically impossible deadlines, then slog through long hours day after day to produce a book? What is it about this profession that’s so compelling? It’s obviously not the money. As most writers discover, this isn’t a lucrative profession. So what do we get besides the pleasure and excitement of holding a book in our hands?

Making Time for Writing

18 05 2011

I stumbled on a new blog today that has some great tips for writers. Called Literary Crush, it’s by a fellow Vermont College (can’t help plugging my alma mater) grad, Bethany Dellinger.

I particularly enjoyed her Guiding Principles. If you’re struggling to find time to write each day, you’ll want to check these out.

Think Spring and Goalsetting

7 03 2011

daffodilsThe crocuses (or are they croci?) have popped their colorful heads above ground, the Bradford pears are budding, and the rhododendron are adding a splash of yellow to the side yard. Next will be daffodils. Then I’ll know for sure spring is here.

And with that, I’m looking back over my New Year’s resolutions. Two months have flown by already. I’m still on track for all of my goals, but I’m not progressing as quickly as I’d envisioned. I discovered something along the way, though. I started putting realistic time estimates beside the items on my to-do list each day.

The first time I tried it, the items on my list for that day added up to 46 hours. No wonder I never got through the list. I was exhausted, discouraged, and mentally berating myself for falling short of my goals. So I’ve eased up on myself a bit. Now I only try to squeeze 32 hours of work into a day. Obviously, this is an ongoing project…

Overcoming Procrastination

29 08 2010

My Muse--Image:

I just stumbled across a blog called “Getting Jump Started” that has what the author, Sarah  Bush, calls the 20 Minute Technique. To get moving on projects (especially creative ones) that you’ve stalled on for a while, set a timer for 20 minutes and do something–anything–related to the project. Sounds easy, right?

It is. I’ve been using this technique for years, only I set the timer for 10 minutes. The results are the same. It shoves me out of my complacency and gets me moving in the right direction. Even if it’s only a tiny step, I’m one step closer to finishing than I was before. And it works for writing a novel, painting a picture, cleaning the house, or any task that I’ve been avoiding.

One of the reasons it works so well is that, for a perfectionist like me, the critical part of my brain shuts down. It dismisses those 10-minute efforts.

“Ha,” it says. “There’s no way you can do anything productive in such a short amount of time.” And it stalks off.

Yay! It’s amazing what a great creative start I get before it realizes that I’m actually getting things done without it. By the time it comes storming over to demand that my creative half pay attention to its directives, the work’s well under way. And even it can see that the creative side’s doing a super job. Sometimes it stalks off to sulk; other times it points a finger at all the mistakes, but by then my creative side is strong enough to handle the barbs.

Most of the time procrastination is fear of failure, so the 10- or 20-minute trick helps. No one can write a perfect novel in that short a time, so for a little while, my muse can play freely without the pressure of producing a perfect product.

Fear of Falling

21 07 2010

Sometimes as you’re moving along in life, you have an epiphany. A moment when you see things with such clarity that you wonder why you never had this particular insight before. And everything around you appears in a totally different light. This has happened to me on many occasions, but most recently in the area of faith.

Hop to it

I’ve always believed in stepping out in faith, but today I realized how small my giant leaps of faith are to someone who’s looking down from above. I go into them trembling, terrified of the outcome, thinking I have to do it all alone. I forget to look up and around to see all the help that’s available to cross the chasm I see before me.

Maybe instead of worrying about falling, I could use that energy to summon help. Like the ants in the previous post, I may be so occupied with what I’m doing, I miss the opportunities for support that are right beside me or in front of me.

If I look, I might also see that a jump is unnecessary. Someone before me built a bridge that I can use to cross. So there’s an easier way to do things. Before you leap, look around to find all available resources. But then if no one has done what you’re about to do, take that leap. But be sure to leave the trail well marked for those who will follow you.