Creative Life, Featured

How to Create Goals You’ll Actually Achieve

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Over the weekend, I shared a link to an article that argued that we should set unrealistic goals for ourselves. The idea is that aiming higher will push us to do better. A Twitter follower responded that she struggles with goal setting. She didn’t want to set herself up for failure but didn’t want to play it safe either. I wanted to respond but quickly realized that there isn’t a snappy, 140 character response to such a large question.

So how do you set goals that challenge you, but that you can actually achieve? I suggest you take a hard look at your goals and ask yourself these questions.

1. Are your goals things you should do versus what you want to do?

Lots of people know they should lose weight, but do they really want to lose weight? Especially, when most people from this as a negative – cutting out foods they enjoy and doing exercises that they hate.

Instead, can you reframe this goal into something you want to do?

Okay, let’s stick to the example of losing weight. Maybe you have to lose weight because you doctor told you that you’re at risk of diabetes or heart disease. Can you shift the goal into something that is rewarding and that will motivate you to achieve it?

Instead of focusing on losing weight, perhaps focus on doing something that will enjoy that will help you achieve that goal. You could set a goal of completing a charity running race, climb a mountain or do an overnight hiking trip. These goals will require you to achieve the less pleasant goal of losing X number of pounds and improve your physical fitness. Giving yourself a pleasant goal will motivate you to achieve the less pleasant goal, especially when the going gets tough.

2. Is your goal truly meaningful to you?

In the previous section I suggested that running a charity race might motivate you to achieve the goal of losing weight. Running a race is a public goal and that kind of accountability might be just what you need to achieve your goal. However, your goal really only has to hold meaning for you.

So, instead of running a race, perhaps you want to run around with our kids without huffing and puffing. Instead of focusing on losing weight, you can focus on creating meaningful experiences and memories with your kids.

3. Make your goals measurable.

Stating your goal as “losing weight” won’t help you achieve it. Instead it should be lose X pounds in X months, run 5 km in X minutes by a set date, or be able to run around the backyard for an hour with the kids and not be completely exhausted. The last goal is a little harder to measure, but if you try to do it every day and eventually notice a difference in how you feel you will know you have achieved something.

4. Break big goals down into smaller goals.

I’m going to drop the weight lose example and explore writing a book as a goal. Writing a book is a huge goal and one that many people fail to achieve. But if you break it down into smaller goals, you will have a better chance of achieving all or most of the goal.

So, to write a book, you’ll need to write a first draft of say 100,000 words. If you write 1,000 words a day, you would have a first draft in 100 days, or just over three months. Now, can you commit to writing 1,000 words a day? Do you have the time to do that? Do you know how long it will take to write 1,000 words each day? Some days the words might come quickly and other days it might take longer. Are you prepared for that? Perhaps you’ll write 500 words each day from Monday to Friday and catch up on the weekends. Or write 500 words a day and take 200 days to complete a 100,000 first draft.

To complete a book, you’ll want to write a second or even a third draft, so you’ll want to repeat the time exercise to figure out how long it will really take to write a book. Some authors take a year to finish a book and some take much longer.

But if you break your goal down and then achieve only writing a first draft, you can celebrate that accomplishment instead of feeling like you failed because you didn’t finish the book.

5. Create conditions for success.

If you want to achieve big goals you need to set yourself up for success. If you want to work out or write every day, you’ll need to schedule it. You’ll also need to tell people about your goals and get them to support you. So, if you are married and have kids, you’ll want to enlist your partner’s help to keep the kids occupied while you write or workout. You’ll also want to be vigilant of activities or behaviors that could sabotage your efforts. For example, if you want to eat healthier, you’ll want your partner to not bring home a chocolate cake and cajole you into eating it.

6. Focus on how you want to feel.

Danielle LaPorte wrote the book The Desire Map to help people focus on core desired feelings. How do you most want to feel in your life and work? Do you want to feel content, powerful, etc.? Once you have decided how you want to feel, you can create goals that will help you feel the way you want.

Check out the Desire Map for a whole process to creating “goals with soul.”

* Would you like a free printable planner to help you record and track your goals, and schedule time to write? Sign up for my newsletter to get The Writer’s Planner free.

Creative Business

Owning My Wings

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Three years ago, I sat in my office on the top floor of an office tower and watched a pair of hawks spiral across the sky, riding the updraft. I had achieved everything I thought I wanted in my corporate career. I wore pantsuits to a fancy office, had an assistant, and a nice salary. By conventional standards I was successful. I should have been happy, but I was not. Those hawks were free to soar above the city, and I felt anything but free.

This is the opening paragraph of my personal essay in Mabel on how I came to own upbringing as the daughter of creative entrepreneurs and that above all I value the freedom to a live a life of my choosing. My freedom is more important than security.

Would you like to read the rest of my personal essay? Please consider purchasing Mabel Magazine, Issue 2. It costs $25 USD or $39 for Canadian orders, plus shipping. Yes, this isn’t a cheap magazine. However, unlike most magazines, this one isn’t being bankrolled by a huge media conglomerate that can afford to run a loss, or make loads of money on advertising. Mabel was created with a lot of love and perseverance by Liz Kalloch and Stephanie Renee to share stories by and for creative professionals.

This is a beautiful magazine packed with inspiring stories and gorgeous images. Think of it more as a keepsake instead of a magazine.

With love,

Signature

P.S. Issue 1 is sold out, so don’t hesitate to purchase Issue 2. Think of it as a Christmas present for yourself or for a special creative person in your life.

P.S.S. I’m not an affiliate. I just love Mabel and think you will too!

Journalling

5 Reasons to Write a Journal

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I’ve kept a diary or journal since I was 12 years old. I’ve kept every last notebook – over 35 books so far – and it represents an amazing record of the events, thoughts and emotions of my life. As a writer, my journals represent a treasure trove of raw material for my writing. My journals have been very important in writing my book as it has helped me recreate the events and emotions of that time. In the future, I think my journals will help me in writing personal essays, short stories and even novels.

I continue to write a journal nearly every day. The act of writing has been instrumental in every important decision in my life. The pages of my journal have been where I posed questions to myself, wondering if something was possible and then figured out how to make it possible. In my journal, I plotted my admission to university and built a career in communications. Now, my journal is where I plot out new business ideas.

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Health Benefits of Keeping a Journal

There is growing evidence that keeping a journal may help improve your physical and psychological wellbeing. University of Texas at Austin professor and psychologist James Pennebaker contends that regular journaling can strengthen your immune system. Pennebaker also believes that writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them and this can reduce stress and improve your physical health. Other studies have show that journal writing can help reduce the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

Here are my top 5 reasons for writing a journal

1. Get to know yourself – Grab a pen and a blank notebook or even a few sheets of paper. Start where you are. What are you feeling right now? What do you like about your life? What don’t you like? What are your deepest fears and dreams? You won’t troll the depths of yourself in a single sitting. It will require daily practice to get past what you think you should be feeling, what you should be doing to what you really think and feel.

2. Journaling is a gateway to creativity – You don’t have to aspire to be a writer to keep a journal. I enjoy reading the journals of artists like Frida Kahlo and Vincent Van Gogh. Journaling will open a vein of creativity that will spill over into photography, painting, dance, business – what ever you want to do. You might even discover new creative modes of expression that you hadn’t considered before.

3. Record your life – My journals are the book of me. Every major event of my life are recorded on the page. My photo albums give me images of my life, but my journal records how I felt.

4. Solve problems – I write about what I don’t like about my life and about what I wish I could have. Inevitably, I start writing down ways I could achieve my goals, ways I could get what I want from life. If often starts with “I wonder…”. Other times I write out pro and con lists.

5. Improve your writing – I try new styles, such as poetry or experimental forms, in my journal without having to worry about what potential readers might think. It is a safe place to experiment and play.

How to Get Started

There are lots of different methods and approaches to writing a journal. There is no right or wrong way, so just grab a pen and notebook and start writing!

I personally find that writing by hand is far more effective than writing on a computer. The pen and paper method helps create a mind-body connection that I find very helpful. Plus, it is just easier to write without having autocorrect highlight misspelled words or incorrect grammar. Journal writing is for you and it doesn’t have to be perfect.

I suggest you grab any notebook or pen you have handy and try to write for about 20 minutes each day. I like writing first thing in the morning, as I haven’t had a chance to get engaged in my daily activities, and I can write uninterrupted. Once you have developed a habit, you can invest in a nice notebook or fancy pen. I like notebooks that are small enough to slip into my purse so I can write in the library or a cafe if I wish. I also like a gel ink or fountain pen that flows nicely and lets me write quickly.

If you are really resistant to writing, you could consider keeping a visual journal. You don’t need to know how to draw! You could do simple sketches, or paste in photos, magazine clips or other ephemera to capture your day or moods. A find a simple wire-coil sketchbook with thick paper works best for this. You could even decorate the cover if you like.

If you really hate the idea of writing on paper, you can use a computer. You could simply open a new Word or Pages document each day, write and then save it with the date. Or you could use an app, such as Day One for Mac and iOS.

Do you keep a journal? If so, what benefits have you discovered?