Good Suggestions for the New Year

I didn’t get to write this yesterday, because my eldest spoiled child was on my PC and my laptop was busy with a re-installation of Windows 7.  Windows Updates took forever.  On the positive side, supper was cooked, and dishes and clothes were washed, so it wasn’t a total loss.

It’s now 2014 and many of us have turned our minds to our resolutions for the upcoming year, whether we would admit it aloud or not.  From my previous post, it might appear that I’m against making resolutions.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I think making good resolutions is imperative; otherwise, how would we grow and change?  I don’t think that a new year is the only time to set goals, but it is convenient. 

The concept of a “do-over” is one that I find to be helpful, because I tend to get bogged down in being busy and stressed.  The do-over helps me yank my feet out of the mud of inertia caused by being weighed down by too many burdens and expecting both too much and too little of myself.

Mostly, I’m a goal-oriented person with a “tomorrow is another day” attitude.  I usually engage in do-over and goal-setting behaviors at least three times a year.  The first is New Year’s.  The second is in March, around my birthday.  The third is in August, the traditional time for school to begin.  I’m not going to engage in a discussion of my usual goals to attain the killer physique I’ve wanted for years (but not quite as much as I want chocolate), and to whip my house into a presentable condition (but not nearly as much as I want to write and publish novels).  I think everybody should make resolutions and set goals, but I also view them as private things.  The prospect of humiliation from failure is worthless as a motivator, and people who are comfortable with their sameness aren’t always supportive of the idealistic endeavors of others.

Instead, I would like to present some information I recently heard on the “Business of Writing Today” podcast, by Peggy and Larry DeKay.  In the podcast — which was about setting goals as a writer — Peggy mentions a study done on Harvard graduates.  Ten years after graduation, it was discovered that 3% of graduates had accomplished and achieved more than the rest of their class, and that the common ground they shared was having achievable and written goals.  She lists eight “rules” for setting goals, and I’ve put her comments in italics.  My own commentary is between rules.

And so I present to you, Peggy DeKay’s “8 Basics of Goal-Setting”:

     1. Positive goals perform.  Negative goals negate.  Always write your goals in a positive manner.

I’ve read and listened to self-improvement speakers off and on for nearly twenty years, and the one thing they all agree on is that the mind doesn’t “get” negatives.  It only understands images.  If you think “I don’t want to be fat,” all your mind understands is “fat.”  If you think “I will eat healthy and exercise,” your mind understands “eat healthy and exercise.”

     2.  Be clear and definite.  Be precise.  A clear goal is an achievable goal.  In addition, part of completion is having a clear idea of what success really means.

For example, “I will use the Couch-to-5K app on my iPhone, 3 days a week, so I can run 5 kilometers.”   

     3. Prioritize.  Put first things first.  Work toward the goals that mean the most to you.  Make sure you know what is important to you.

This is a big one for me, and the reason that my house is about ready for an episode of one of those shows on hoarders.  I would love a sparkling clean house and a totally hot bod like Dana McDonald.  What keeps me from it?  I work a full time job that’s luckily only 3 days a week (36 hours).  My job is rewarding, but also mentally and physically exhausting.  When I’m off after being on my feet for 12 hours, I don’t want to run, lift weights, or do dishes and laundry.  That gives me 4 days to write, promote, exercise, cook, and clean.  The fact of the matter is that time has to be given to each of those things.  Eating healthy requires planning, shopping, and preparation.  If my muse could be wedged into a time slot, things would be a little easier.  As it stands, when inspiration strikes, I want to drop everything and grab my laptop.  Fortunately, running has been a source of many good ideas.  It can be a boring practice (kind of like housework), so my mind wanders to the greener pastures of the fantasy realms that my mind has created.  Obviously I’ve given priority to my books.  The trick is to make myself lift those weights when I’m finished writing and would rather pop in a “Walking Dead” DVD.

     4.  Write your goals down.

I kind of think this needs to be #1, but I guess before you write them down, you have to know how to do so, right?

     5.  A goal without a date is a dream.  It’s okay if you miss your deadline; the date just helps set the time frame in your subconscious, so you’ll be able to achieve it.

My goal for publishing “Traveler” was January 1st.  It wasn’t easy to do, with all the holiday preparations, gift shopping, and package mailing, but I made it.  Even the ebook was available on Amazon before the 1st.  The web site didn’t make it, but both Mark and I are working on that.  Sometimes you don’t make your goal date, but it’s better to have one than not.

     6.  Challenge yourself.

This year, my running goal is for a 10K.  I’m fine with running 5Ks, but after my co-workers started talking about running half-marathons, I was inspired.  So what if they’re fifteen years my junior?  Jeff Galloway has a book that I’ve been meaning to buy, called “Running Till You’re 100.”  He’s still running marathons, why can’t I?

     7.  Keep your goals measurable and achievable.

By this, Peggy means you have a little more than a snowball’s chance in hell of achieving it.  Running a 5K is doable and measurable.  Lifting weights three days a week is doable; working up from 1 lb dumbbells to 5 lb dumbbells is measurable.  Eating clean four days a week is doable for me… Mmm, not sure how this is measurable, unless you count how many days and meals?  Whatever.  You get the idea.

     8.  Review and envision.  For every goal you set, you should be able to see or describe what success looks like.  Spend time regularly to think:  “If failure was not an option, what could my life look like a year from now?”  Vividly imagine it in your mind.  Use a dream book.  Set up a dream wall.  Fill them with things that inspire you.  The mind has difficulty distinguishing between what is vividly imagined and what has actually happened.  If you vividly imagine a thing, the mind can be fooled into thinking:  “Wow, that really happened!”

I have a prime example of this occurring.  I was reading “The Sum of All Fears” by Tom Clancy, wherein (SPOILER), the Middle East crisis is solved by the creation of a triumvirate government of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian leaders.  When I finished the book, I still believed that the peace was real.  It took me 3 weeks of reminding myself that there was still war in the Middle East, which was one of the strangest experiences of my life.  I rationalized it to make sense to me at the time, but now I’m convinced that it was because I was so totally engrossed in the story that it became real to me.  My youngest son once asked me why I like reading so much, and I told him that reading a book is like watching a movie in my mind.  It’s just that vivid, and so after reading Clancy’s novel, my mind could not distinguish between my imagining and reality.

This podcast couldn’t have come at a better time for me.  I’m a couple of years behind in listening to it, but like most things in my life these days, I receive inspiration when I need it.  If you’re interested in listening to Peggy and Larry, their website is “The Business of Writing Today.” 

As I mentioned before, my first novel has finally been published (yay me!) and is available on Amazon in both print and ebook:  Traveler, Book One of the Druid Chronicles.  Ebook is free with print purchase, ’cause I don’t believe in charging you twice for the same story.

I’m going to go write my resolutions.  Happy New Year!

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