Long Term Goal Setting 101: How to make goals manageable and keep momentum all year long

Hi all my Courageous followers! 🙂 In an effort to create content that has meaning I’ve set my sights on organizational to-dos, goal setting tips, and all around motivation. Giving my life structure and focus after I graduated college (*gulp* 8 years ago) was one of the hardest things for me to overcome. It took years for me to figure out how to successfully goal set and stay motivated, especially as I have had countless side hustles along with a full-time job.

A pain point for me was all of the nonsense I found online. I’m not here to bash anyone, that’s not my style, but I couldn’t get over how much of the focus on organization was pretty planners with straight up ART in them. I aspired to be so organized that I would spend my Sundays with rolls of washi tape and stickers and creating beautiful, mystical maps of my life I could follow each week. To anyone that has that kind of skills, by all means, get creative, but for me and I imagine a huge chunk of folks, it’s just not what I was looking for.

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I wanted to make my life easier, not harder. I wanted the time I took to organize myself to be valuable for organizing. I wanted to save artistic expression for other areas. But it was truly hard to find information and support for “simple” and “basic” life organization. If it wasn’t gorgeous planners, it was goal setting that required me to get less sleep. And I love my sleep! At peak insanity I was trying to write a TV Show, write poetry, post blogs everyday, create a social presence, retrain my dog, get abs, learn French, and cook Pinterest meals every night. I was LITERALLY losing my mind and constantly stressed. I don’t remember actually pausing to enjoy my life or to notice it had gone off the rails.

I’m here to say that goal setting and organization does not have to be nuts! You do not have to tackle all of life’s goals this year. You do not need to HAVE IT ALL. As long as you have a system that works for you (and I will reiterate this until I go blue in the face) it doesn’t matter what it looks like to someone else. It’s your private system built to make life easy for you, not harder.

I recently asked my Instagram followers to chime in with what they wanted to learn about organization and planners. I got a handful of answers but I thought the one pertaining to long term goals would be the best place to start.

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How do I set a long term personal goal and stick to it?

Ah the beginning of January… there’s hope. We can start afresh, become new people, achieve all our greatest dreams.

Nah.

In reality you’re still the same person. BUT you can put processes in place to become the version of yourself you’ve always imagined. (Notice how I didn’t say BETTER.) I am not here to sling cheap motivational quotes about hard work. We all know dreams take work, it’s that we don’t always know how to start or how to move forward from each step. Hopefully I can make this easier to understand and help you set a long term goal.

I live and swear by REVERSE ENGINEERING. There are a million and one articles about reverse engineering out there. I read multiple ones a few years ago because they can differ, but here is a pretty good general post on it. To Reverse Engineer you need to do the following steps:

  1. Determine your goal (Try using the SMART method)
  2. Be realistic about where you are starting from (No shame!)
  3. Work backwards from the goal, breaking down into smaller more manageable goals
  4. START with Basic Goal #1

Determine Your Goal

I don’t always use the SMART method when I goal set (and honestly I really should) but if you’re just starting out this is a great way to stay focused and come up with something tangible and achievable.

SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound

To be Specific think of why you want this goal, what/who you will need to achieve it (certifications? a co-owner?). A Measurable goal is that one that has an “end’. Is your goal to open a bakery or is it to open a bakery that hits the black after year one? Notice how Measurable and Specific are intertwined? Achievable goals are ones you’re being realistic about. Could you really go to space this year? Or is a better goal going back to school for Physics? A Relevant goal is one that means something to YOU and no one else. I once thought that to be a writer I had to be a journalist but then I quickly learned I don’t want that and there are other ways to be a writer. Time Bound goals have due dates. To be an astronaut one day isn’t going to cut it, but be an astronaut by 2020, does.

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Be Realistic About Your Starting Point

This takes less words to understand. If you’re goal is to run a marathon by next year, but you’ve never run before, don’t start a training plan for runners who have already completed a 10K. You’ll hurt yourself AND get discouraged.

Work Backwards

Once you set your SMART goal, work backwards from it and start to break it down into smaller goals and different milestone dates. If you want to save $30k for the down payment of a house by 2020, calculate how much you will need to save each month, and then from there, what you can cut down on each month to help get you there. Or if you want to lose 50 pounds. Start with doing push-ups at home, advance to running, advance to attending classes. Same with cooking, aim to cook one night a week at home, then two, then three. Don’t EVER start all out, you’ll drive yourself crazy!

Start

This might be the hardest part. The small basic goals can seem minuscule and not worth celebrating. When I started my book last year, it felt hard to celebrate 5 pages. Really. But if you change your mindset to “that’s 5 more pages than yesterday” you’ll find yourself in a steady work state, getting a little more done each day.

Be Okay With Failure

Listen, you may reverse engineer incorrectly. You may think you can get to 12,000 words a month but maybe you overestimated the time you had free that month. Or maybe you thought running would be a breeze but you discover you have asthma or an injury. Setbacks WILL happen. It’s not an IF. Be okay with going back and adjusting your goals or your timeline. You aren’t losing if you’re paying attention and adjusting. It is when you give up, or refuse to give yourself a break that you’ll get stuck. I know this from experience. I spent YEARS doing this to myself. Don’t. Do. It. Keep moving, always!

Let me know what you think of this post. It’s much LONGER and more formal than my usual stuff so the feedback is most appreciated! Did you learn anything? Was it total garbage? Let me know so I can adjust my goals. 😉

 

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Love as Self Discovery

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I can’t believe it, but somehow in the past 5 years I’ve become a champion for relationships. I have gone from being, let’s admit it, a bit of an ice queen, to someone who genuinely believes in the value of love. That doesn’t mean I’ve completely gone off the deep end… I am still very much on the fence about the institution of marriage… but I’ve become a believer in the value of loving someone very deeply and for loving when you can.

I am someone who gets afraid of caring about people very easily. It gives them control and since I am controlling, that makes me nervous. Trusting someone with your heart, your past, and your present is a big deal that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But it is also not something to avoid. Meeting someone, loving someone, and even losing someone are self-defining moments. They help to mold us in areas that we can’t mold alone.

Just as traveling alone, sitting in a restaurant alone, and living alone are great markers of being at peace with yourself (you enjoy your own company as much as anyone else’s), sharing your precious time with another soul is a great marker of how giving you are. And balancing the two? Well, you’ve hit the self discovery jackpot, my friend.

Loving someone requires you to let your guard down and share flaws while at the same time accepting another person with all of their flaws. Love is really a great equalizer when it’s done right. It can put your arrogance in check (holy crap I AM flawed) but also open your eyes to just how patient you can be (holy crap I CAN listen to country music). Yes, I realize I just used country music as a flaw there, but stick with me.

It is for these reasons that I am such an advocate for dating, trying some people out, and seeing where it all goes. Does it absolutely suck when it falls apart? Yep, it does. Have I gone through that many times in my life? Yep, I have. Am I better for it? I like to think so. Failed relationships are great to learn from and also put you in a hyper aware state of who you are, what your actions mean, and where you are going. It’s painful but does wonders for pulling you back into the moment.

This all seems obvious to my readers who come from pre-Millennial generations. Of course loving someone helps you to grow, you say. Of course building relationships is good for you, you laugh. I know but take a minute to view it from a perspective of a group of people who were not only raised during the peak divorce years but also an insane technology boom where we grew attached to devices because, in many ways, they were easier to understand and get along with than our peers. That is some isolating stuff.

I also know that being young in general, no matter what year you were born, is a very selfish time. So as I emerge from my selfish years and simultaneously remove my Millennial-colored glasses, I am finding the importance of making relationships (both romantic and platonic) a priority in my life. Like creating a home, they require more than just a weekly clean. They require, design, thought, care and they need to be lived in.

PS – Why is it so scary to press publish on a blog about love?

Shakshuka for One & Getting Past Bad Days

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I’m having one of those weeks where I feel bogged down but can’t find the source of the bogging. I am searching in every drawer but I can’t find what it is bringing me down. The grind of 9-5 job doesn’t help despite the love and support of coworkers and each day I find myself coming home depleted, worn out, and demotivated. Probably sounds familiar and despite my sadness, it makes me feel better knowing I am not alone.

I am fully capable of psyching myself up, repeating mantras, believing, and feeling inspired but I find very few outlets for that good energy. I have yet to find my gift to give and the process is endlessly draining, discouraging, and tiring. Hanging on to the belief that I’ll find my gift is not easy.

When I got home last night, unable to use my subway commute to determine what I should do with my life, I focused on dinner. I wanted to eat something that would taste like comfort food to take my mind off of the chaos for a bit. I wanted something to stick to my ribs but not weigh me down anymore than my own thoughts already do. So I decided to make shakshuka and make it for the first time. And of course, being as inwardly focused as I am, I recorded the process and wrote a little recipe.

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I started by surveying what kind of spices and vegetables I had on hand to build this yummy egg dish around. I did not use a recipe. I am happiest when I am just grabbing whatever I have on hand and experimenting.

I love cooking but don’t have strong feelings toward recipes. I am including one here today and yes, I read them all the time. I believe the true pleasure of cooking is not following rules but taking something and make it your own. I like to use recipes as guidelines.

From my fridge and cabinets I pulled and used the following:

3 cloves of garlic
1 stalk of green onion
1 handful of Picholine olives
Olive Oil
3/4 cups of tomato sauce
Pepper, parsley flakes, and turmeric
3 eggs
1 cup of arugula

I do love simple and minimal recipes and this one certainly falls into that category with a fairly short ingredient list and the use of a single pan.

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Eating olives instead of cooking

To start I diced up the garlic while heating up a decent amount of olive oil in my pan. I kept the heat on low as I added the garlic. Next I rough chopped the green onion and tossed it in. And followed it up with some olives. The only olives I had on hand had pits so I spent a good amount of time both eating them and pitting them. Do yourself a favor and just go buy pitted olives and rough chop them as well. Toss them in with everything else and keep the heat low. Low heat requires patience but I usually use that time getting myself organized.

I let everything get tender but not mushy and poured in my tomato sauce. I used a Barilla pasta sauce that, while cheap, is pretty tasty. I stirred everything all together.

After that I sprinkled on some pepper, parsley flakes, and a tiny bit of turmeric because I like its anti-inflammatory properties and add it where I can. I did not stir these in, I left them on top to help season my eggs. Which I cracked right on top of the mixture. I wish all 3 eggs would have sunk in a little bit more from an aesthetic standpoint but in the end they all cooked nicely so it wasn’t a big deal.

After the eggs were cracked and plopped in, I covered the whole thing and turned up the heat to medium. I let them cook for about 10 minutes but should have done 7. The sauce cooked down just a touch too much. Full disclosure, I was texting my friends and making my lunch for the next day so I wasn’t paying as close attention as I should have!

I pulled everything off the heat and after a little photo shoot I dumped the mixture onto a bed of arugula.

And then I ate until I felt better. Which is perhaps not a healthy statement, but it is true.

Cooking is soothing and keeps me feeling level when days are long and difficult. Cooking dinner gives me a sense of purpose when I feel like I have none. I think perhaps that is why I cooked elaborate meals every single night when my former relationship was falling apart. It makes me feel needed and accomplished. It is the best escape.

Give the recipe a try and let me know what changes you make. There is a million things you can add to this! (Avocado, feta cheese, tomatoes, etc.) Also, what do you cook when you are feeling blue? Why does it make you feel better?

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SHAKSHUKA FOR ONE
3 cloves of garlic
1 stalk of green onion
1 handful of Picholine olives
Olive Oil
3/4 cups of tomato sauce
Pepper, parsley flakes, and turmeric, to taste
3 eggs
1 cup of arugula

  1. In a small to medium pan, heat olive oil over a low heat and add diced garlic, green onion, and olives
  2. Once tender, pour in tomato sauce and stir
  3. Sprinkle with pepper, parsley, and turmeric, do not stir
  4. Crack eggs on top of sauce
  5. Cover and turn heat up to medium
  6. Cook for about 7 minutes or until eggs are baked through
  7. Remove from heat and lay on a bed of arugula
  8. Enjoy!

 

 

A New Borough & Drive Renewed

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Moving absolutely depleted me. And for that I am grateful.

It doesn’t need to be explained again, but I am a person that enjoys feeling busy. Actually “enjoy” is probably too positive a word. I am a person that needs to feel busy, I find value in busy, and that is a very dangerous way to be. I fill my days to their max which in many ways makes me very accomplished but in many ways inefficient and completing tasks that don’t mean much to me.

Because I am a busy bee, I lack focus, and jump from one project to the next with reckless abandon wondering why I’ll never “publish that book” or “finish that collage” or just “get my shit together.” I know what I am like and I am trying, really trying, to change. (Mean it!)

Having to move forced me to focus. For the past three weeks my mind has been set on a singular project, with many different tasks, with a very strict deadline. It was all I thought about and all I worked on. I was focused and driven and exhausted! But… It got done. I moved. And I love my new place! I even found my passport after I panicked that I had lost it in the move.

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Post Move//Pre AC & Bed Frame

The move reinforced what I already knew– that I work best under pressure and with an immovable deadline. Now to create those sorts of deadlines for myself… well… I am working on this. I need to find an accountability partner. (Taking applications now! Must be a hard ass!) Or a system that will place high value on real deadlines.

The move also showed me how much time I have in a day if I really dedicate it and direct it to one goal, not many. I was worn out, exhausted, and sore every night but I also was moving through my tasks on deadline (sometimes ahead of deadline) and went to bed each night with a sense of accomplishment and little panic about how I was going to get it all done. Because I was getting it all done. (The novelty.)

Moving myself, with no partner or roommates, was a terrifying task. But as I moved through the steps I realized that I was fully capable of doing it. I even called my mom and said, “Apparently I became an adult at some point and missed it.” Moving, like living alone, is not something you think you can do by yourself until you just do it by yourself.

And like my best friend, Kate, once told me, “Fear means go.” And so… as I shop for curtains and strange wall art I need to regain my strength to totally and completely drain myself with the projects that mean something to me. And to focus for crying out loud.

Food for Healing

Lets JamA lot of old pain bubbled up this month, mostly stemming from my rent being raised and my scramble to find a new home. I’m still looking, but not as passionately as I should be. It is one of those rare moments that I am faced with decisions I’d rather avoid and hide from. It seems so much easier to pretend that it’s not happening and that I don’t have to make a decision that will so greatly impact my life. It’s hard living in a city where your home can be thrown into complete flux. It makes you feel imbalanced. And very alone.

Strangely, as a result, I find myself spending more time alone. I didn’t notice it until days passed and I hadn’t spoken to anyone but my dog. I wasn’t working on projects either. Just sitting, thinking, reading (maybe). I am what you would call listless and what for me is a rarity. I feel my fire put out and I am worried it isn’t just the apartment thing anymore but a host of other things, all simmering just below surface. What they are, I’m not sure, but my desire to do anything other than worry about where I will live, has been quelled. I do not, in any sense, feel like myself.

So where did I go?

More importantly, how do I come back?

Over this same course of time I’ve been thinking very hard about what I want to write. Have you ever seen a writer who doesn’t have a genre, a home, a comfortable place? It’s embarrassing, frankly. I’ve been trying to teach myself to listen and look for opportunities where I would normally ignore them. What I heard a couple of times was the same question, “Why don’t you ever write about food?” Which is funny since I spend 80% of my time thinking about food in one capacity or another. I am either hungry, researching restaurants, ordering groceries, reading about trends, or eating.

It had never once occurred to me to write about food in a serious way. I think in the back of my head I just assumed that food writing was for people that were chefs, or former chefs, or food critics with insane palates. I guess I never thought about letting just a simple passion manifest itself in such a way.

As I mulled this over I also considered how I stopped cooking (really cooking) this time last year. While I’ve been marinating in limbo I didn’t realize I had stopped cooking or baking. That a year had gone by without any attention paid to one of my favorite pastimes. I used to cook full, intricate, and delicious meal 3-4 nights a week. I’d bake. I’d scheme. I’d eat. A year has passed of so-so meals, tried and true recipes. Flavorless turkey burgers and bowls of cereal. I lost the thrill I had for cooking. It went away with the close of a long relationship.

I let it leave the baggage and take my cooking away. My heart breaks to even write this knowing that I drowned out an important part of me because someone else used to play a part in it. Here I was thinking that I was fine but I erased something important to me because it reminded me of something sad. I wasn’t that strong after all.

So here I am, a year later and prepared to face some weird food demons. But it will be interesting and (maybe exciting) to reconnect with a former version of myself. I also can not wait to share whatever fun things I find along the way with you. It’s been a challenging couple of weeks but I keep hearing that when things get tough is when the magic happens.