“The object of goals is getting there… the object of dreams is the journey.” Delle Jacobs
New Year’s Eve has arrived and once again I am sitting down to review, to reflect and to renew my personal life map. I prefer to think of setting goals as making a map.
My goals aren’t immovable objects I must reach. They are check points along life’s highway. Sometimes they are easy hills to climb and conquer. Other times they are not. Occasionally, life throws me a curveball, and I have to take a detour which leads to unexpected places. And then my life journey’s GPS signal has to recalculate the route.
All along the way, I bring out my map and see where I’ve gone before I move forward. I adjust my schedule and I set other goals based on the surprises I encounter.
I have a process I use every year which I refined about five years ago when I started a year long journey with three other women who had reached a crossroads with me. We all came from different backgrounds, had different pressures facing us, and we all wanted to take control of our energy and refocus it in a positive way.
We stumbled upon a book called LIFE MAKEOVERS by Cheryl Richardson and decided to embark on going through the book together. By the time I had finished the journey with my friends, I had clarified my need to write and had written my first book. We all benefitted from the book so much, we revisited it again. Now I draw it out to start my new year and cover the chapters that helped me solidify my goals and map out my journey.
So, with all respect and thanks to Cheryl Richardson, here is part one of my goal setting, map making journey. Before I make a new map, I review my past year. I don’t focus on what I didn’t check off the list. I focus on what I accomplished. I write down 25 things I accomplished during the year. The accomplishments are not limited to my writing. They include my life as a mom and as a wife and as a friend. The first year I wrote down this accomplishment: I drove my daughter to school every day. Seems small, but that drive gave us valuable bonding time. And I treasure those moments with her.
Subsequent years have seen more and more writing accomplishments on the list of 25. And that shows I am growing as a writer who is actively pursuing her career.
Second, I narrow down the accomplishments to the top five achievements. Based on the book, I ask myself what qualities they showed in me. How did I grow as a human being? What strengths did they demonstrate? Third, I make a focus statement based on where I want to go on my journey. Yes, I do this every year. This year’s focus statement will probably be very similar to last year’s: I enjoy being bold, courageous and focused as I pursue my dream of becoming published writer. On a personal level, I also write a focus statement: I enjoy being a physically, spiritually and mentally strong person.
Next, again this is based on the LIFE MAKEOVER BOOK, I come up with a top five priority YES list. I usually tweak it every quarter to reflect changes in the family needs and my professional life. This list is vital (and I must admit I needed to review it more often this past year) because it solidifies for me where I absolutely will say NO to outside requests. No explanation. No reasons as to why not. And no guilt. If the request doesn’t fit into my Top 5 Yes Priority List, I simply say, “No.” Try it. Saying no is a heady experience. Sometimes, based on my list, I say, “Yes, but here is what is coming up and I need to know if you are okay with me bowing out should it become necessary.”
Once I have clarified where I’ve been, what I’ve learned and how I want to shine internally, I sit down and make my goal list for the following year. First I write down the top things I want to accomplish based on my focus statement. I do this for my writing and for my personal family life. Then I make a spread sheet and break down my goals into bite size pieces. The spread sheet has each month along the left hand side, a section for writing goals and family needs/goals along the top. This way I can visually see what events are coming. If I have a due date, I add that to the list. I usually tweak this spread sheet every couple of months or quarter of the year.
Now that I’ve told you how I go about setting goals, I want to add a codicil. These are my methods. They work for me. I formulated them over time. And they are bound to ideas learned and culled from other, much smarter people than I. Ultimately, how a YOU assess your life and create your goals for your journey toward your dreams is up to you.
The most important thing to learn from me is Have A Plan. Know where you are going. How we get there will vary. Another important lesson I’ve learned is I need to incorporate WIGGLE ROOM in my personal journey. I need to have a space that’s empty that leaves room for surprises, positive and negative, that might change the direction of my journey.
In 2009, I surprised myself by learning how to Pitch and I went to the RWA National Conference where I practiced my skill. Wow, I got requests. New life path. New little detour. I also surprised myself with adding blogging as a guest blogger as part of the Southern Magic Romance Magicians blog. I started my own, almost daily blog, and I became a writing contest judge. Those items weren’t on my “goal list.” But by allowing myself time to wiggle, I could add them. I also added some items and tasks that I regretted later. But one cannot learn one’s strengths until one learns her weaknesses as well. Now I know what NOT to try next year. Not a bad lesson.
I know 2010 will not be easy to navigate already based on my Father in Law’s illness. There will be unexpected travels, difficult situations to maneuver, and the heartbreak emotionally of seeing a good man felled by cancer. I must allow for wiggle room to bend and flow with those waves. I also know I have a husband who is going to undergo hip replacement surgery in February 2010. I must clear the docks for that event. At the same time I must also continue pursuing my professional goals whenever I can. I must prepare.
And those are only the expected life events. I know much more will happen. Some will be negative, but many other life events will be positive. I want to be ready for them. And the best way I can prepare for the way my journey might detour is to focus on my goals, be prepared for change, and carry a flexible attitude.
So, in a nutshell here’s my process for setting up my journey through each year:
*reflect upon past accomplishments
*make a focus statement that brings you into the new year
*establish a top 5 priority list
*write your goals down and have a plan
*break down your goals into bite size pieces
*review your goals on a quarterly basis
*leave wiggle room for life’s interesting surprises
Life is journey. Enjoy it. Live it. Flow with it. Mark Twain said it best: Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. EXPLORE. DREAM. DISCOVER.
All the best to you as you set your map’s check points for 2010!