Taking Stock of 2016

It’s New Year’s Eve, and 2016 has officially wrapped up. Last January I posted the following 15 of my goals for the year. It’s helpful to take stock of previous goals before diving into new ones, so here goes. I totally completed 7 or 8 of my goals, so half of them! It makes me feel really good to look at what I’ve accomplished and how I’m improving. Of the remaining 7 or 8, I got about half of those half the time, and a few I barely did anything with at all. But I’m not beating myself up about the ones I didn’t get, because that would make me want to give up on goal-setting altogether, which would be the only actual failure. Instead, I’m looking into how I can recommit to and/or tweak the ones I struggled with to have more success in those areas next year.

Health:

  • I am craving healthy, nutritious foods, only indulging in treats/desserts once a month.
  • I am achieving my ideal weight of 120 pounds by July 1.
  • I am exercising for at least 20 minutes daily. (yoga, P90X3, walk/jog)

I’m feeling really good about my health right now. I’ve gotten into a solid habit of going to the gym every school day and finding other ways to exercise on the weekends, and usually work out for way longer than the minimum 20 minutes! Also, I’m actually below my weight goal by now, even below my most recent pre-pregnancy weight. The interesting thing was that the first time I saw 120 on the scale was on the day of July 1! (even if it was actually 120.9!) 😉 As far as treats and desserts go, I did great the first half of the year, but have slipped back into old snacking habits. I’m recommitting to this important goal for next year. Sugar cravings steal my energy, and I feel so much healthier and better without sweets. I won’t alter the once a month timing because that’s just long enough to lose the cravings, but not feel deprived.

Family:

  • I am spending an hour of quality one-on-one time with each child once a week.
  • I am having 20 minutes of quality time with my husband every night.
  • I am planning the next week’s meals every Saturday.
  • I am involving my children in family history and journaling every Sunday.
  • I am traveling to Destin, Florida with my husband and/or children in September.

My husband, baby and I went to Florida, in August actually. We wish we’d taken the whole family, but could get free flights on only 2 seats. Still, I’m so glad we made it happen because our friends who live in a beach house in Destin will be moving away next year. Another success has been quality time with my husband. Not every night, but it’s a lot more consistent than before. Quality time with my children has been hit and miss. I’m going to focus on making this into a habit by doing it at the same time each day, and letting my kids remind me. Tweaking it to just 30 mins. each day, alternating kids, feels more doable, even though it’s pretty much the same thing. I have not been planning meals very regularly, but since I do okay winging it, I’m not keeping this goal. Family history and journaling are important, but every Sunday seems like a lot, so I never actually did it. I think I’ll focus on this with the kids just on the first Sunday of each month. If I feel like I can realistically be successful, I’m more likely to follow through.

Mentoring:

  • I am holding a mentoring appointment every week by Dec. 1.
  • I am posting to my blog at least 3 times each month.
  • I am spending at least 2 hours a week in training or study.

I’ve been spending a lot more than 2 hours a week in training or study, which has been awesome! I love to learn and can’t get enough. As far as blogging, it’s been really hard to sit at the computer for long enough stretches of time to hold a coherent train of thought, with a clingy baby constantly wanting to be held and who barely naps at all. I had a couple months where I posted to this blog 3 times, but usually it was just once or twice. I’m tweaking this goal to twice a month. And though I wasn’t mentoring every week by the first of Dec., I got this goal by the middle of the month! Now I’m tweaking next year’s goal to be, “I am regularly working with at least 3 clients at any given time,” because the number of appointments in a week isn’t important, but the lives I’m able to influence. I get back way more energy than I put in to mentoring, and it benefits all other areas of my life. I’m so grateful to be able to pursue my passion and add value to other people’s lives.

Personal habits:

  • I am meditating every morning for 180 days straight.
  • I am using empowerment tools every morning and evening (vision board, declarations, goals review, etc.)
  • I am writing in my journal every evening.
  • I am reading scriptures every morning and memorizing one scripture every week.

All of these personal habits have been hit and miss. When I wake up early, I’m able to get most of them in, but I haven’t been very self-disciplined in this. Now that the baby is sleeping through the night consistently, I’m left without excuse, so I’m committing to a morning “power hour” as well as an evening routine. In past years, having these habits in place has made my days go so much smoother. I’m excited to invest these important periods of time in myself each day and see my personal power go way up.

How did you do on your goals this past year? I’d love to hear any success stories with goals you may have!

My Goals for 2016

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

As the final post in my goals series, I think it’s appropriate to post my own goals for this year. Because I deeply value personal growth (mind, body and spirit), connecting meaningfully with my family, and empowering others, all my goals stem from these overarching objectives. I have a vision of what I want to become, so I state my goals as affirmations in the present tense to bring my reality closer to that of my vision.

Health:

  • I am craving healthy, nutritious foods, only indulging in treats/desserts once a month.
  • I am achieving my ideal weight of 120 pounds by July 1.
  • I am exercising for at least 20 minutes daily. (yoga, P90X3, walk/jog)

Family:

  • I am spending an hour of quality one-on-one time with each child once a week.
  • I am having 20 minutes of quality time with my husband every night.
  • I am planning the next week’s meals every Saturday.
  • I am involving my children in family history and journaling every Sunday.
  • I am traveling to Destin, Florida with my husband and/or children in September.

Mentoring:

  • I am holding a mentoring appointment every week by Dec. 1.
  • I am posting to my blog at least 3 times each month.
  • I am spending at least 2 hours a week in training or study.

Personal habits:

  • I am meditating every morning for 180 days straight.
  • I am using empowerment tools every morning and evening (vision board, declarations, goals review, etc.)
  • I am writing in my journal every evening.
  • I am reading scriptures every morning and memorizing one scripture every week.

I’m far from making most of these goals life habits, and I know it will be a constant challenge, but I want to keep striving. I aim for improvement, not perfection, so I don’t beat myself up for falling short. Posting these goals here is my way of shouting them to the world, which will make it more likely that I achieve them.

What goals do you have for yourself this year? Are any of them similar to any of mine? I’d love to see what changes you’re striving to make. Shout them out in the comments section!

 

Partner Up For Success

If you really want to achieve your goals, there’s one powerful step that most people don’t try–using an accountability partner.

Dr. Gayle Matthews, psychology professor at Dominican University, conducted a survey of 267 people from the United States, Europe, Australia and Asia, in various professions. They were randomly assigned to one of five groups and asked to do the following:

  • Group 1: Think deeply about the goals you want to accomplish over the next four weeks, but don’t write them down.
  • Group 2: Think about and write down these goals.
  • Group 3: Write down a list of action items to commit to for each of your written goals.
  • Group 4: Send your list of goals and action commitments to a supportive friend.
  • Group 5: Do all of the above, but also provide a progress report each week to a supportive friend concerning your goals and action commitments.

And what were the results of this study?

  • Group 1 achieved a mere 43% of their goals.
  • Groups 2 and 3 achieved 56% of their goals.
  • Group 4 achieved 64% of their goals.
  • Group 5 achieved 76%, which means they were 33% more likely to achieve their goals than first group!

So the powerful step revealed by this study is to find someone to report to concerning your goals. Just about all of us are socially motivated. Knowing that someone is going to check back with us about what we do gives us one more reason to go after our goals, especially when times get tough.

Which brings us to the question of, Who? Immediate family members usually do not work well, especially spouses, because you’re just too close, too much history and too many feelings involved. It’s a given that you want to find someone who genuinely cares about you and your growth and progress. Mentors and coaches are a great choice, but if that’s not an option, make an agreement with a friend that you will be accountable to each other for a similar goal.

For example, if you and a friend both want to improve your physical fitness, agree that you will both text each other every time you exercise. If your action goal was, say, to exercise 4 times a week, and you fall below that target, your friend could encourage you to step it up, and if you met or exceeded your goal, your friend could give you props. You could even up the ante by throwing in a wager, such as whoever exercises more frequently takes the other person to lunch.

Another idea is to form a social media group with friends who have the same goal as you. For example, I f you all want to make your scripture study more meaningful, you could each post to the group something you learned in the scriptures that week. It would give you a reason to look for something significant while you are studying. In this way you could also learn from each other’s insights. This idea would work well for friends who want to create works of art, such as poetry, painting, song-writing, etc. and then post what you create for the rest of the group to see and give you feedback on. If someone isn’t posting anything, the rest of the group could ask them about what they have in the works.

If your goals don’t lend themselves to these kinds of partnerships, then you can at least share your goals with someone else. Group 4 in the study achieved 64% of their goals, which was a 21% improvement over the first group. This is such an easy thing to do, especially with social media, so you might as well try it!

I believe that there is great power for good in relationships, and that we all depend on and need each other. Let’s harness that energy and power that we give to one another and use it to build things, grow, create wonderful lives, and make this world a better place!

Don’t Get Stopped!

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” -Booker T. Washington

Welcome to Part 3 in my series about goal setting and achievement. Now that you have set, written down, and are reviewing your goals, it’s time to go get ’em! But that’s easier said than done. So often, when we start to work toward a goal, obstacles arise that threaten to thwart our progress. Please don’t let them stop you! These obstacles are part of the process. Just knowing ahead of time that they will pop up can help you to power over, around, or through them. Instead of seeing them as stop signs, which far too many of us do, causing us to give up or slack off, look at them as detour signs and press on. A favorite speaker and author of mine, Neal A. Maxwell, has written:

“Our goals should stretch us bit by bit. So often when we think we have encountered a ceiling, it is really a psychological or experimental barrier that we have built ourselves. We built it and we can remove it.”

Yes, we built that ceiling by thinking it, feeling it, or becoming intimidated by it. But breaking through these barriers will stretch and grow us. Jack Canfield, author of The Success Principles, names three categories for these obstacles: Considerations, Fears and Roadblocks.

Considerations are all the reasons why you shouldn’t attempt the goal, reasons why you may see it as impossible. Considerations are the easiest of these obstacles to move past because they are nothing more than thoughts in your mind. Becoming aware of these thoughts is a good thing, because you can only deal with and confront them once they’re in your conscious mind. Examples of considerations are:

  • “I don’t have enough time.”
  • “My (husband/wife/parents/children/etc.) wouldn’t like it.”
  • “I’m too old to start.”
  • “It’s too hard for me.”
  • “I don’t know how to do it.”

Fears are a little more complicated because, although they started out just as thoughts, they have now become clothed in negative emotion. Fears can be quite debilitating, and are meant to be so, as part of an evolutionary process intended to preserve our lives. Thankfully, though, most of the threats that we fear aren’t life-threatening, and when we see them for what they really are, we can choose to feel the fear and move forward anyway. (See this post to read more about FEAR.) Eleanor Roosevelt famously stated:

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face… You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Sometimes that added strength we gain from facing our fears is the very strength we need to reach our goals! Here are some examples of fears that delay our progress:

  • “I’d be too embarrassed.”
  • “I’m afraid he/she/they won’t like me.”
  • “I might get hurt.”
  • “I could lose everything.”

Roadblocks go beyond thoughts and emotions. They are the external elements of reality that presently block you from your goals. You’ll have to resolve and deal with these circumstances, but you’ll find a way. Examples of roadblocks are:

  • “I don’t have connections with the right people.”
  • “I’m not allowed to do that.”
  • “I don’t have enough money yet.”
  • “I don’t have a (car/office/team/contract/etc.)”

I know it’s not easy to develop this kind of attitude, but learn to welcome these kinds of thoughts, feelings and circumstances when they appear, because they just might be the very things that have been holding you back up until now. After you’ve dealt with them, you’ll be stronger and more prepared for your next endeavor.

“An obstacle is often an unrecognized opportunity. When a man wages war against his weakness, this is the most holy war he can ever enter…and the joy of accomplishment is the most exquisite.” -Marion G. Romney

Yes, these obstacles, or our reactions to them, are often little more than weaknesses that we can make into strengths. And we really can find great joy as we press on and succeed despite them. Also, that rewarding burst of accomplishment energy can’t be beat!

In my own journey to becoming a mentor, I have encountered all sorts of fears and discouraging thoughts: that I’m not personable or confident enough; that I haven’t had a difficult enough life/sob story to inspire others; that I don’t have the skills or know enough tools; that I won’t be able to find people who want to work with me; that I’m too embarrassed or shy to open up my mouth and talk to people; that everything I want to share has already been written much more skillfully by others; that I can’t be both a successful mentor and great wife and mother; that my ideas aren’t interesting or original enough. I could go on and on, but the important thing is that I faced/am facing these fears and considerations and am carrying on anyway, because I know I can and must do this.

And if I can do it, so can you!

Always Before Your Eyes

We’re now over a week into the new year. How is your goal setting coming along? Hopefully by now you’ve written down your goals. (If you haven’t, see the previous blog post in this series for  powerful tips.) What’s next? Maybe you’re like me and write goals from time to time in your journal or someplace and never look at them again. This hasn’t produced the best results. The essential next step is to review your written goals regularly. Keep them always before your eyes and you will achieve them.

A study by Dr. David Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, shows the importance of both writing down AND reviewing your goals:

  • 80% of Americans reported that they have no goals. (Huh, I really can’t even imagine having absolutely no direction in life! How sad.)
  • 16% said they have goals, but don’t write them down.
  • Of the remainder, less than 4% take the time to write their goals down. (If you’re reading this, I imagine you’re part of this group.)
  • Which leaves less than 1% of Americans, who write their goals and review them regularly.

I want to be part of the last group, and here’s why. Dr. Kohl analyzed the income generated by this small group across their lifetimes and found that they earned nine times more than Americans who didn’t have goals. 9X! That is huge! Now, I know that income is only one of many indicators of success in life, but for most people, it’s pretty important to be financially secure. If this study doesn’t motivate you to write and review your goals, I don’t know what would!

How often should you review your goals? Jack Canfield, successful author, recommends referring to your goals 3 times a day: first thing in the morning, in the middle of the day, and right before going to bed. Personally, I aim to review my goals twice a day, morning and evening.

Okay, that’s great, but HOW should you review them, to get the most bang for your buck? Try the following tips, some from Canfield and some from me, and see what works best for you:

  • Write your goals on index cards, keep them on your nightstand, and read them first thing when you wake up and right before you go to sleep. Doing this will help your goals to be on your mind throughout the day and prime your subconscious mind to work on how to achieve them while you sleep. (I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of being productive while I sleep!)
  • Put your list of goals in your daily planner or calendar system.
  • If you’re digitally inclined, create a popup on your electronic device of choice, or use your goals for the wallpaper image on your screen.
  • Write your most important goal on the back of your business card and put it in your wallet or purse where you’ll see it often.
  • Keep your written goals in your car, and whenever you are stopped at a red light, read one of your goals and think about it until the next time you’re stopped. (I’m going to start doing this when I take my kids to and from school!)
  • Mount a vision board on your bedroom wall, posting on it words and pictures representing your goals. Look at it morning and night. When you’ve achieved a goal, take the item off the board and place it in a “success binder.” (I’ll go more in-depth on vision boards in a future blog post.)
  • Create a “goal book” with a page depicting each one of your goals as though you’ve already achieved it. Review the book before bed.

No matter which method you choose to review your goals, be sure to also read them out loud from time to time, when you’re in an appropriate setting. Don’t just read them in a boring voice, but with energy, passion, and enthusiasm. If you really want this to be a powerful experience, incorporate gestures whenever you can.

Also, with each goal you read, take a moment to feel how you imagine you will feel once you achieve it. Jack Canfield writes in The Success Principles that doing this activates the structural tension in your brain, which increases your motivation, stimulates your creativity, and heightens your awareness of the resources you need.

Now go get after it! Make your selected method for reviewing your goals a daily habit, and soon it will become a near-effortless part of your life and bring you big results.

Don’t Just Think It–Ink It!

Welcome 2016! It’s a great time for goal-setting! Let’s throw out the term “Resolutions,” as it’s loaded with a lot of negativity. Goals are important every day of the year, not just in January, but it’s nice to feel like I’m starting over fresh with a clean slate, not worrying about past failures with unmet goals and focusing only on improvement.

This post is part 1 of what will be a several-post series on creating and reaching your most important goals. Through January, on this blog you’ll learn about how and when to review your goals, overcoming fear and obstacles that are stopping you, tools that can empower your mind in reaching your goals more quickly, how to “chunk it down” into doable action steps, and using accountability partners.

The first step is writing down your goals, because as the saying goes, a goal not written down is only a wish. As you go to write yours, try the following four tips to make your goals as powerful as possible.

#1: Use Present Tense and the Phrase “I Am”

When we go to set goals, we see how far off we are now from where we want to be. Telling yourself “I will get in shape” isn’t real enough to your mind. It  will just pick up on the implication that you’re not in shape now. Same with “I want to make an extra $1000 a month.” “I want” just draws attention to the lack that you’re experiencing right now. I know it sounds weird at first, but write your goals in the present tense of where you’d like to be, not where you are now. This creates “structural tension” in your mind. You’re saying (or writing) that something is a reality when it actually isn’t yet, so your mind will do everything it can to make it actually a reality, thus relieving the tension caused by the disparity.

Also try to use the phrase “I am…” whenever you can. These are the two most powerful little words to your brain, which is always searching for ways to define your identity. It will wake up and pay attention whenever it hears these words, especially when spoken with intensity, emotion, and repetition.

So what will your goals look like when written this way? Using the getting-in-shape example: “I am feeling energetic, slim, and trim.” (the subconscious also likes rhyming words!) And with the financial example, if your income is currently $4000 a month, your goal could state: “I am depositing $5000 per month into my bank account.”

#2: Use Positive Wording

Too many of us, when stating our goals, word them in terms of what we want to get rid of or stop doing. This is problematic because the subconscious mind often doesn’t pay attention to the words “no,” “stop,” or “lose.” What stands out to it are the words that evoke an image or a feeling. If the goal is “Stop smoking,” the word “smoking” is what the mind clings to. If the goal is “Don’t yell at my kids anymore,” it hears “yell at my kids.” If the goal is to “Lose weight and stop eating junk food,” the subconscious will remember “weight” and “junk food.” This is not what we want!

A more positive way to write a weight loss goal is, “I am feeling healthy at my ideal weight of 120 pounds.” Instead of “Cut back on sweets” or “No refined sugar,” write something that focuses on what you want. “I am craving only nourishing foods and indulging in dessert just once a month.” And a parent might write a goal stating: “I am speaking to my children in affirmative ways, using a kind and gentle tone of voice.”

#3: Write Measurable Goals and Include a Target Date

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Goals are dreams with deadlines.” Dreams are sometimes too big and ethereal to take action on. You need a target date because even though your brain may be motivated to reach the goal, your body needs the motivation the deadline implies, to kick it into action. And your goal should be measurable so that you know when you’ve achieved it, giving you a burst of “accomplishment energy” that comes as a reward every time you reach a goal. A goal is measurable if any impartial observer can come along and determine whether or not you’ve achieved it. (As with the parenting example above, this isn’t always possible, but you can still strive to be as specific as you can.)

For example, instead of “Buy a nicer house,” a measurable goal with a target date might be, “I am living in a new 5,000-square-foot beachfront home on or before October 1, 2016.” Instead of “Travel the world,” your goal could be, “I am enjoying touring Italy with my family in April 2017.” 

#4: Handwrite Your Goals

No one hates handwriting more than I do. It has only gotten sloppier and more illegible over time. My husband is always going back over what I write and fixing the letters! But writing by hand is very important at certain times when you really want to get through to the subconscious mind. Typing just doesn’t make the same connection. Also, seeing your goals written down in your own handwriting has a powerful effect on your mind, making them much more personal. Since I keep a typed journal, I’m going to both type my goals and write them out by hand.

P1050321

To close, I just had to include this list of goals I found in my daughter’s room when she was just six. (My favorite part is “If have time.”) Too cute! If she can write down her goals at such a tender age, so can you!

My Morning Power Routine (Version 2.1)

Summertime. At first it was nice doing whatever, whenever, in the morning. Staying in bed until the kids came in to get me. Not having to worry about getting anyone ready for school. Having no schedule at all, really. Well, it got old fast, say, less than two weeks. I began to realize that without structure at the beginning of the day, the rest of the day fell into disorder. I got some things done, but never near as much as I would have liked. What’s worse, I had been increasingly irritated and impatient with my kids and generally more negative. I wasn’t very fun to be around.

Could this just be a summer-break symptom? I know that a lot of moms struggle with this time of year, since they’re not used to having the kids around all day long, but I don’t think this is the reason in my case. Only the oldest of my three was in school last year, and having her home now actually makes it easier, as she entertains her little brothers most of the time.

Or, could it stem from the lack of structure in the morning? I really feel this is the case. From January through mid-May, I had had a great routine of waking up early and meditating and reading inspiring literature. During those months, I felt I experienced better clarity of mind and was more positive, relaxed, and happy.

So, for the last several days, I’ve returned to that routine. (Well, except for Sunday morning when I slept in!) I’ve started keeping a log about what exactly I do each morning, for how long, and rate myself on how productive, patient, and positive I had been that day. Log-keeping is an excellent way to learn about yourself and see the bigger picture of what’s really going on. It provides proof to your brain of the bad habits and unhelpful beliefs you’d like to can, and proof of what tools really increase your personal effectiveness, giving you motivation to stick with it.

Here is what my routine currently looks like:

  1. Wake up at or near 6:30 and pray.
  2. Brisk walk or jog outside for 15-30 mins. (Or yoga inside)
  3. Drink a glass of water mixed with the juice of 1/2 a lime or lemon.
  4. Meditation: 20 breaths minimum, or taking up to 20 mins. if time allows and it’s quiet in the house.
  5. Read & study inspirational literature, beginning with scripture.
  6. Write in journal and log.

Why do these things in the morning? I have significant reasons for each.

1. I wake up at 6:30 because I want to be up 30 to 60 minutes before my children. That way I can have time to empower myself, thus equipping me to be more fully present for them during the rest of the day. It wouldn’t make sense to wake up this early if I went to bed at midnight like I used to do. Humans need 7-9 hours of sleep or else they suffer from memory problems, immune system failure, low energy, and a host of other deficiencies. So I try to go to bed around 10:30 or 11 pm, which isn’t totally natural for me–yet.

2. Light exercise first thing after waking up is something I just added to my routine a few days ago. First of all, practically, it’s more comfortable in the summer to be outside as early as possible, and convenient to be able to leave the kids asleep before my husband leaves for work. Second, getting sunlight on my face provides an awesome boost of energy and mood. (Early exposure to sunlight also helps regulate circadian rhythms and produces vitamin D). Third, although I often have high hopes to exercise more vigorously later in the day, this tends to not actually end up happening most of the time, so I figure at least I’m sure to get some exercise in rather than none at all.

3. Lemon water is great for your health, especially when taken in the morning 30-60 minutes before eating anything. It cleanses your kidneys and other organs and raises the alkalinity in your body (paradoxically enough), which cancels out some of the damage caused by the highly acidic diets that most Americans consume. This keeps you from getting sick as often and can even help prevent cancer. Plus, it’s very refreshing and yummy. (In winter I change it up by drinking peppermint tea with lime and honey.) Even if you don’t add citrus, just drink a large glass of plain water first thing in the morning. It’s a great aid to your metabolism and hydrates your body.

4. Meditation may sound new-agey to some people, but it’s been practiced for thousands of years, so there’s nothing new about it. It’s simple to do and has tons of benefits, (which I’ll go into more on a future post,) including stress-reduction and clarity of mind. Basically, it is detaching yourself from the stream-of-consciousness state of your mind (which is dominated by the past and future) by focusing only on the present moment or state of being. This is most easily achieved by concentrating on nothing but your breath going in and out. Relax in an upright sitting position and just take 20 breaths with intention. If pesky thoughts intrude, and they will, just release them with your next exhale and return your focus to the breath. Just try it. Add music if that helps.

5. Reading inspirational literature in the morning really orients my mind to the positive. I love the mental rush I get from learning and making new connections, and my spirit loves the light that comes in and uplifts me. Because reading the news, my Facebook feed, deal blogs or email can leave me feeling scattered or even depressed, I always wait to attend to those things until I’ve put in some prime time with the most important and uplifting words and information. It gives me a more positive perspective on everything else I read or watch the rest of the day. Find something that lifts and feeds you, something that goes beyond mere entertainment. Also, it need not be limited to “spiritual”  or religious material. Some examples are inspiring biographies, self-improvement books, poetry, historical accounts, or uplifting short stories. Feed your mind and spirit daily.

6. I’ve been trying to write in my digital journal each day, whether it be one sentence or a longer entry. I used to only journal when I felt like I had something “significant” to write about, but that didn’t capture my everyday experiences, which more accurately represent my real life. Other times I would write for what I thought were therapeutic reasons, to deal with problems I was ruminating about, but writing about it always magnified the problems and was the opposite of helpful. That’s because what you focus on expands. Now I’m choosing to focus primarily on gratitude by writing about wonderful things that happen in my life or things I notice around me, no matter how small, whether it’s the joy of watching my children splash in puddles or being awe-struck by an elaborate spider web (without getting any of it on me, of course!). It pre-programs my mind to notice future lovely and joyful things, and writing about them allows me to re-experience those good feelings a second time. I also love writing more extensive entries sometimes, which allows my mind to make further connections and discovering insights I never would have had if I hadn’t begun to write.

And that’s what I’m striving for each morning, even though I hardly ever do each and every one of these things as perfectly or consistently as I’d like to. I would love to add a couple more items to my a.m. routine, as well as design an evening routine, so I’m going to experiment with some different things and figure out which investments of my time create the largest payoff in my personal effectiveness and joy.

I hope that you will put some thought into your own morning routine. It’s so important. Don’t just take my word for it. I plan to write a post in the near future listing the things highly-successful people do to start out their days, which you can then pick and choose from to design the routine that’s best for you. I’d love some feedback, though, before I write that post. Those of you who already use a routine, even if it’s just one thing you do consistently each morning, what habits do you recommend? Have you found success with any of the six I mentioned, or something completely different? And for what reasons has this been meaningful or helpful in your day-to-day life?

Procrastination and Perfectionism

I haven’t posted in awhile, and it’s because I’ve been committed to finishing this calligraphy project. And I did it! Here’s the thing, though: I told a neighbor I would write out this favorite quote of hers something like SIX YEARS AGO. I have mixed feelings about finishing this. I’m happy that it’s finally done, but man! I’m completely lame that it took me this long! And it wasn’t even that hard to do, once I got down to it. Last weekend we had a church activity featuring a talent show and visual art displays, so I finally decided that this would be my self-imposed deadline. Turns out a deadline was all I needed, even though it wouldn’t have mattered to anyone else but me whether I had had this piece on display or not.
This unfulfilled obligation had been a burden and drain on my mind, conscience, and energy for so long. So why didn’t I just get it done long ago? Well, because I clung to excuses, like:
1. I haven’t done calligraphy in years, so I’ll need to practice consistently for a long time to get it back.
2. It’s not that important anyway, and I’m sure she’s completely forgotten about it after all this time. (I haven’t even seen her since I moved two years ago, and probably never will again.)
3. I don’t have my art paper since it’s in storage in a box buried under a ton of other boxes.
These excuses are so dumb, but isn’t it interesting that we so often take chicken-exits just like these? This first one has to do with perfectionism. I’m sure we’ve all let this hold us back from time to time. It’s been said that “Perfect is the enemy of good,” and I must agree. Perfection is unattainable. It’s important to do quality work, but at some point, it’s even more important to just be done already and use our time, energy, and resources in more constructive ways.
The second cop-out has to do with an assumption I created about someone else. Even if you find out later that your assumption was correct, assumptions are not real, because you just make them up in your mind. What’s more, it doesn’t matter whether or not she forgot about it; I, clearly, had not forgotten. (Well, I actually did forget about it for a couple years, but I never completely forgot.)
The third excuse is simply one of convenience. It was solved so easily. I just went to the art store and bought a new pad of paper for like $8. Yes, I don’t like to go out and buy something when I know I already have it somewhere, but if a lousy $8 is stopping me from getting my goal, then I’m lazy and cheaper than cheap.
I learned a lot about myself as I examined my contrived excuses, which I had constructed in an attempt to assuage my guilt about not following through with my commitment. Although I’m generally an Upholder (see Gretchen Rubin’s 4 Tendencies in response to expectations), I tend to procrastinate especially those things that I feel reflect on me as a person. I erroneously think that taking more time will improve my performance on whatever it is, but that’s not usually true. It just stresses me out. And sometimes makes me even less effective. And besides, every artist or performer I’ve ever known is hyper-aware of every little flaw in their creations, but it turns out that almost no one else even notices or cares. We think people are always going around judging everything about us, but I doubt many people are really that petty. Just think about it. How much of your own thought-energy goes into judging others and what they’ve created? Probably, hopefully, not too much.
I’ve also realized that if something doesn’t feel urgent or timely, I require some kind of external motivation or I’ll never get it done. This is how I am with compiling family memories into photo books. Since it’s not an urgent undertaking, everything else always out-prioritizes it. So I’ve figured out that if I buy a voucher for a photo book, the expiration date on the voucher becomes my deadline, and I’m motivated to finish because I hate wasting money.
I wish I could just choose a day and time as an arbitrary deadline for any of my goals, but the thing is, if I invent the deadline for myself, I know it’s not real and I ignore it. Usually, if someone else chooses the deadline, then it’s suddenly important. (My husband is learning this about me, too. I can see weeds in the garden as well as he can, but I probably won’t weed unless he specifically asks me to get it done this week, or by tomorrow, etc.)
I’d really like to be one of those completely self-motivated people, and maybe someday I can be, but for now, I choose to accept myself the way I am and find ways to make it work for me. Are you this way, too? I think most people generally are. Having a mentor or simply an accountability partner can help you create and stick to deadlines for your goals (and action steps within a larger goal), and may even empower you in following through and being as effective as you can be.
I’d love to hear from you, readers. What kinds of excuses routinely hold back your progress? Do you require external deadlines? How do you motivate yourself to follow through?