Ten goals to change the rest of your life
I’ve been scrolling through social media this first week of January. There are lots of resolutions for 2024. One post had so many resolutions for the New Year that I started panting as if I was running a marathon. Wow.
Do you make New Year's resolutions?
I stopped a couple of years ago.
It’s not that I think self-improvement is unimportant. Actually, I try improving myself just a teeny bit every day, weekly, monthly and yearly. It’s not a one-day event of New Year’s resolutions; it’s a lifetime commitment.
The other reason I stopped making New Year's resolutions is it felt as if society was telling me the only resolution that mattered was losing weight so I could fit into a sexy swimsuit. Not happening.
Since people are talking about goals and resolutions, I will share some of my techniques to making goals and striving to keep them. Maybe they’ll help you.
One - small, manageable, realistic
I will climb Mt. Everest today. I’m running a marathon next week. I’m writing a novel that will get published next month (unless you have a contract, this is almost as unsurmountable at the Mt. Everest climb).
These types of goals are too large and often lead to giving up. I have not climbed Mt. Everest, but experts say it takes about a year to properly train before the climb. Maybe your first goal would be to discover what it takes to climb Mt. Everest. You might want to join a class or a group of climbers. Each of these smaller steps are leading you to your larger goal.
Not only do you want to break up the steps to reaching your goals, but be realistic. When you achieve a goal, it doesn't mean everything in your life is going to magically be perfect. Sometimes we hold up these achievements as the be-all-end-all of our lives. I remember getting a job as a co-host on a radio show. I thought, "Wow, I finally made it." It was a great experience. I learned so much. But at the end of the day I was still Carol L. Paur who had a husband and family and responsibilities to these people and others. Reaching our goals are ways to help us become better people but they don't make us gods.
Two - Focus on what you can control
There are people and things you can’t control. You can’t control your neighbor who yells at you. You can’t control your spouse. You can’t even control the scale when you step on it (so don't make the resolution that you are going to lose fifty pounds. Try something such as this approach - I will not eat six cookies today but five).
If you’re feeling frustrated about a situation or person check if this is something you can fix or change. If you can’t, either move on or seek outside help like a therapist, pastor, or dietician.
Three - Expect roadblocks and detours
Let’s go back to Mt. Everest. I’ve read countless articles about people training and preparing to climb the great mountain only to encounter terrible weather conditions. It’s bound to happen.
Closer to home, sometimes I have my day planned out for research and the Internet isn’t working.
Other days I have upped my exercise routine only to have a sore leg or knee. Sometimes family obligations get into the way.
These are simple road blocks. I think about people who are trying to get healthy and discover they have cancer. They might be wondering what was the point of trying to improve their lives.
All these are disappointing at the very least and can derail your goals and plans. Despite this, the medical professionals I know tell me that outcomes from serious health issues are better for those who are taking better care of the bodies - decent diet, moderate exercise, limiting alcohol, no smoking, and improving mental health. The same goes for other goals - the outcomes are not guaranteed but are better when we are working and learning to reach them.
Four - Slow Down
We live in a microwave society. Put your goals into the box and twenty seconds later they’re achieved.
One of my screenwriting teachers, Hal Croasmun, said something that stuck. I will paraphrase it – There are no overnight sensations. Even if someone tells you it will only take a certain amount of time. You think, "I should have this figured out already." Maybe. But maybe not.
It’s hard, especially when you see “success” all around you. You don’t know their stories, however. And even if they are overnight successes, that is not your path. Just stay true to what you have for your life.
AVOID scams that promise a "skip the line" ticket. Don’t pay agents or producers. Don’t pay exercise gurus unless they’re with a reputable club. I'm working on a movie script that is an adaptation of The Tortoise and the Hare. We all know who won that race. It wasn't the speedy rabbit but the methodical and careful tortoise.
Learning is not an admission of inadequacy. It's a realization that we need to keep our ideas fresh.
Five - Learn
If you slow down a bit, take time to learn. There are countless free classes out there or ones you can pay for. I try to take as many writing classes that are free or inexpensive (Occasionally I will take more expensive classes). Sometimes libraries offer classes. Join a professional group – for me those are writing groups. They often offer classes that spark my creativity or help me find ways to pitch my ideas. Taking the extra step to learn might be the change you need to spark success.
Learning is not an admission of inadequacy. It's a realization that we need to keep our ideas fresh. Personally, I wouldn't want to visit a doctor who wasn't up on the latest cures and medicine.
You also need to take time to learn about your dreams. It's tempting to look around and think you need to be the next Tik Tok sensation. Maybe, but don't get caught up in the latest fads if you really want to get into quilting.
Six - Failure happens
Recently I queried an agent. I thought I had her name spelled correctly. I checked and rechecked the letter. It was great. Send.
Later I went back to that query and realized I had the agent’s name spelled incorrectly. It was a moment of sheer agony for my stupidity. I was so tempted to stop writing – forever. How stupid can I be? I (literally) shouted.
A good friend, Amber, sent me an encouraging email. Instead of quitting, I learned. Now I copy and paste the agent’s name (from his/her website) into the letter instead of relying on my dyslexic brain that tends to switch letters around.
Seven – Encourage Others
Life is a struggle. Some of us have the luxury of pursuing our dreams. Others can barely make it a go with bills or health problems. I try to tell myself every day that if I can inspire or help one person in a day, it's worth it. Maybe it won’t be through my writing, though that is one of the reasons I write. Amber encouraged me via email. You can also encourage through applauding others’ accomplishments. It’s hard sometimes when it seems as if those around you are succeeding while you are not. I get it. When someone posts they got so many reviews or won an award, the little green monster pops up. Congratulate the person and kick out that monster.
Eight – Don’t Settle
I meet countless people who say they wanted to write but couldn’t get something published or produced so quit. Failure and rejection are not excuses to quit (though I was so ready to quit after my agent spelling debacle). It does mean you have to put in the time - whether it's small or grows into a behemoth. I used to tell people I wanted to be a writer. I dreamt of being a writer. But, I didn't do any writing. Then once I tried something out and it didn't work out the way I wanted it to (AKA-rejections), I thought I should quit. Be honest with yourself. What are you doing that is preventing progress?
I think quitting is a recipe for resentment. Even tiny progress will help you feel as if you’re still in the game.
Nine - stars
One of my most anxiety provoking tasks as a writer is pitching or querying agents, producers, and publishers. When I’m in the middle of this process, my Garmin watch will pop up a message that says, “Calm down. Drink a glass of water.” Because of this anxiety I used to only pitch agents and publishers sporadically.
It was my mother's illness that prompted me to change this habit. Mom's body was failing. She loved four books that I wrote but didn't query. Knowing that Mom was in a state of decline, in July of 2023 I decided to become intentional with querying. However, I had to deal with my panic and anxiety. How was I going to overcome these? The answer was to give myself a reward each time I pitched a book. It had to be something that didn’t cost much or make my pants tight.
I found it – stars!
Did you get stars on your papers when you were a child? I loved those stars. They were little lights that told me I was doing great.
I made a calendar. It hangs on the wall next to me. Each time I send out a query I stick one of those lovelies on the calendar. Last month I had fourteen stars. This month’s goal is fifteen and I already have one star. Stars give me a little boost of joy to keep me going. Find that little something to keep you going.
Ten - Be the Best You
There is only one Carol L. Paur in this world with my set of DNA. I might not become Ernest Hemmingway or win a Pulitzer but I can become the best Carol L. Paur. Being the best Carol L. Paur is loving more in concrete ways through patience, kindness and less jumping to conclusions without the facts. They're lofty goals and will take time and learning to achieve them. I know I'll fail sometimes but will take joy when I succeed.
There is only one you! Take the steps needed to become the best you. There is no one else who can take your place. Just remember - make it manageable and take it slow.
Thank you for reading.
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Have a blessed, joy-filled and healthy life - which begins today!