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Getting Back on Top of Your Goals

It’s Not too Late

The first quarter of 2018 is almost over. So, I’m going to ask that ominous question, the one that sounds like the monster that’s been hiding in your closet all these years, whose presence you keep denying to yourself.

How are your New Years’ goals coming along?

Ouch. Did that hurt? Did you feel an arrow fly into your stomach? Or maybe into your head as you suddenly remembered you even had New Years’ goals?

I’m certain you’re not alone, and I’ve got news for you: it’s not too late to start the pursuit again.

Review the Last 3 Months

This might be painful, but quarterly reviews clarify for you what’s going on. What’s really going on. They break the safety bubble you live in, because you’re faced with the good, the bad, the ugly, and the very ugly when you review your progress of the past three months. But keep this in mind: In my experience, the more honest I am with myself and my progress, the easier pursuing my goals becomes. Why? Because I fear less.

When you review your last few months, ask yourself these questions:

Am I where I want to be?

If so, what did I do that got me there? (And continue doing it.)

If not, what did I do that didn’t work? (And find a new way of doing it.)

Get Support to Reach Your Goals

If you’re on track with your goals, you probably don’t want to mess with things. But if you’re off track, then it may be time to get help.

Here’s what happened to me last year: For the first time during my annual review, I calculated how much the time I’d spent on marketing efforts, multiplied it by the hourly rate of what I’d earned for the year, and used the total as a measure of how much money I’d “spent” on marketing last year. I then reviewed how much new business I’d won over the year. The final figures weren’t pretty. In fact, they were pretty devastating. So, I contacted a marketing consultant to do an audit on my efforts and set me on the right path.

But that’s what I’m talking about. Even if you’re trying to lose weight, haven’t reached your word goal, or still have the same number of customers as last year, get help! Either join a group, see your doctor, find a good therapist or coach…Whatever your means allow, now’s the time to get a little assistance.

Do You Need to Re-Align?

The beauty with checking in on your goals every quarter like this is that it gives you a chance to re-align them with where you are now. Remember, you created your New Years’ goals in a certain frame of mind, at a certain time in your life, under a certain set of circumstances. If your situation has changed, you may need to adjust how you achieve your goals.

That’s okay!

What if you planned to write 1,000 words a week but the serious diagnosis of a loved one rammed you off course? It doesn’t mean you can’t write at all.

What if you wanted to quit smoking but in the meantime lost your job, leaving you with more stress than your non-smoking self can handle? That  doesn’t mean you can’t regain your footing. You adjust. (And, of course, get help so you can make it through.) Remember, every little bit helps, so don’t discount small, regular steps towards your goals. Not everything has to be achieved by leaps and bounds.

Don’t be Afraid

Looking at progress is a powerful motivator to help you move forward. It’ll help you figure out what’s gone wrong and hopefully inspire you to plan your next steps to get back on track.

They say every journey begins with a step. Take that next step now to get back on the path you dreamed for yourself this year.

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Comfort Zones: Potential Danger for Artists, Writers, Performers, and Everyone in Between

Comfort zones are those nice, cozy, warm, fuzzy parts in our mind that convince us to stay put. They have a purpose: respite. But like any spa, too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing (and, frankly, become very expensive).

I recently interviewed a sportscaster for a magazine article, and time and again she emphasized how important it was for her to get out of her comfort zone. She was a trained dancer, but when she got accepted into a well-known musical theatre program in Canada, she spent three years singing in front of others. For her, that was terrifying. But it allowed other opportunities to flow her way.

Hindsight is 20/20, as you know. In my case, my comfort zone in dance became so strong that I even stood in the same spot in the studio as often as possible: the right front corner. I even said I’d have my ashes buried there. The building, though, has since been razed and replaced with a more modern business building. I’ll have somewhere else to inter my ashes.

With writing, it was the same: I wrote about characters I knew, either by attempting a novel for a franchise or copying TV characters from my favourite shows; created plots familiar to me from same sources of inspiration as the characters; and did not expose my heart to my readers, a necessity for creative writing. In my youth, that was a fine path to follow, because I may not have been ready to show my vulnerability back then. This was before social media, of course, but one well-intentioned piece of feedback from a teacher, friend, or parent can hurt you as much as a stranger’s public criticism of your work these days, maybe even more so. I was looking for approval, not feedback, and using my personal creations for that purpose wasn’t the best idea.

Since January 2015, I’ve been working on a novel. It started as a creative challenge to myself: write 10,000 words by December. I hit that goal by mid-February and kept going. (Now, I’m at 92,000.) I’ve submitted the first three chapters to two editors, a friend, and a family member for feedback, and yes, some of the feedback hurt. But age does something to you besides give you wrinkles: it gives you strength and confidence…if you let yourself push past your comfort zone. Their input made me stop writing and go back to character and plot development. I have some major re-working to do, but the piece will hopefully come out stronger in the end. (The feedback is dead on – we’ll see if the writer can make it work.)

Of course, the usual disclaimer: we’re talking about personal goals here, not seeing how long you can wait for a car to approach before you dart across the street without getting hit.

I think it’s wrong to assume that everyone wants to achieve huge monetary success, but I think it’s right to assume that everyone has dreams that will seem big to some and small to others. For some, being able to free their voice and speak up in front of others is a huge dream. For others, it’s normal life. For some, living off $50,000 a year while also saving money is the big goal. For others, that’s reality and they can’t fathom why someone would find that hard to accomplish.

Whatever the goal, it’ll push you. But what I’m finding is that, like my interviewee, you won’t experience the freedom that comes from reaching those goals unless you cross the boundaries of your comfort zone, even just a smidgen. (Just stay out of the path of moving vehicles.)

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How are Those Resolutions Coming Along?

Evergreens in shadow in the foreground, a low mountain range in the background, with clouds and low-lying mist.We’re about a quarter of the way in to 2015. Did you make any New Years’ resolutions? If so, are you still working on them? Did you completely ignore them? Or did this post just remind you that you’d made some?

Goals may be far-reaching and really challenge your personality, your self, and your soul, e.g., “I’m going to write my first novel by the end of the year.” They may be smaller but just as important, e.g., “I’ll eat breakfast every morning.”

It’s normal to get frustrated when striving for your goals. Roadblocks show up, and you may even find yourself questioning the commitments and sacrifices needed to achieve your goal. This is normal, and in the end, only you can make that decision.

However, before you see each roadblock as potentially stopping you dead in your tracks, ask yourself this: Is the road block like the ones in The Road Runner, where Wile E. Coyote would crash through and fall over the edge of the cliff and have to admit defeat once again? Or is it more like a red light, just asking you to stop while a few other things happen first?

Not achieving goals can be due to circumstances beyond your control. But remember, you’re human: we humans can often change the circumstances to suit our needs. Let’s say you’d been saving up for a new set of high-quality paintbrushes, but once you were ready to buy them, they’d gone up in price? You have a few options:

  1. Continue saving until you have the right amount set a side.
  2. Sacrifice enough other expenses so that you can buy those paintbrushes now.
  3. Find a way to earn the extra money needed to buy them sooner than in #1.
  4. Borrow money to buy them.
  5. Quit your goal.

Clearly, not all of those options are optimal. But do you see my point? When your goals aren’t working out the way you were hoping they would, take a step back and figure out what your options are. There are very few goals that are not achievable: it’s simply up to you to decide how you handle your challenges.

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Every Little Bit Helps Your Goals

Child building a snow fort: every snowball helps.
Children don’t think twice about how long it’ll take to build a snow fort. They just do it.

The desire to achieve your dreams can be overwhelming. Maybe you’re trying to stop spending so much, or maybe you’re trying to write or paint more, or maybe you dream of running your own home business. It’s easy to see the big picture, but what about all the little pictures that make up the big one? That’s where the overwhelming feelings come in.

Setting goals is great. Taking time to plan out the little steps is great, too. But finding the motivation to complete all of those little steps can be daunting, especially when you see your end goal, and it’s really, really, reeeaaally far away.

That’s where I tell myself, “Every little bit helps.”

My grade 10 math and computers teacher, Ms. Schindler, also headed up the environmental club at our school. It was important to her that anything we wrote finished with “every little bit helps.” She’d apparently read research that proved this sentence actually increased charitable contributions. I don’t know what research she was citing, but the sentence stuck with me.

“Every little bit helps.”

So I took ten minutes one morning and quickly wrote a short kids’ story. I didn’t set up a schedule to do one every day or even every month. I just did one. If I didn’t write another story for a while, that was okay. It turned into a fantastic new bedtime routine with the kids.

So if you’re waiting for that moment when you suddenly feel inspired enough to paint your first portrait, write your first novel, or start up a home business in one day, stop waiting. That moment is now, it is all the time.

Sketch something on paper, write a quick story, jot down some ideas for a business. If you have nothing to write or draw with at the moment, dream your sketch, your story, your business idea. Just do it now. Even if you only have ten seconds before you get off the bus, out of the car, or run out the door, do it now.

Every little bit you do will help you succeed, and when it comes time to the bigger steps, you’ll be ready for them.