Thursday, December 31, 2009

Review, Reflect & Renew

"The object of goals is getting there... the object of dreams is the journey." Delle Jacobs

New Year's Eve has arrived and once again I am sitting down to review, to reflect and to renew my personal life map. I prefer to think of setting goals as making a map.

My goals aren't immovable objects I must reach. They are check points along life's highway. Sometimes they are easy hills to climb and conquer. Other times they are not. Occasionally, life throws me a curveball, and I have to take a detour which leads to unexpected places. And then my life journey's GPS signal has to recalculate the route.

All along the way, I bring out my map and see where I've gone before I move forward. I adjust my schedule and I set other goals based on the surprises I encounter.

I have a process I use every year which I refined about five years ago when I started a year long journey with three other women who had reached a crossroads with me. We all came from different backgrounds, had different pressures facing us, and we all wanted to take control of our energy and refocus it in a positive way.

We stumbled upon a book called LIFE MAKEOVERS by Cheryl Richardson and decided to embark on going through the book together. By the time I had finished the journey with my friends, I had clarified my need to write and had written my first book. We all benefitted from the book so much, we revisited it again. Now I draw it out to start my new year and cover the chapters that helped me solidify my goals and map out my journey.

So, with all respect and thanks to Cheryl Richardson, here is part one of my goal setting, map making journey. Before I make a new map, I review my past year. I don't focus on what I didn't check off the list. I focus on what I accomplished. I write down 25 things I accomplished during the year. The accomplishments are not limited to my writing. They include my life as a mom and as a wife and as a friend. The first year I wrote down this accomplishment: I drove my daughter to school every day. Seems small, but that drive gave us valuable bonding time. And I treasure those moments with her.
Subsequent years have seen more and more writing accomplishments on the list of 25. And that shows I am growing as a writer who is actively pursuing her career.

Second, I narrow down the accomplishments to the top five achievements. Based on the book, I ask myself what qualities they showed in me. How did I grow as a human being? What strengths did they demonstrate? Third, I make a focus statement based on where I want to go on my journey. Yes, I do this every year. This year's focus statement will probably be very similar to last year's: I enjoy being bold, courageous and focused as I pursue my dream of becoming published writer. On a personal level, I also write a focus statement: I enjoy being a physically, spiritually and mentally strong person.

Next, again this is based on the LIFE MAKEOVER BOOK, I come up with a top five priority YES list. I usually tweak it every quarter to reflect changes in the family needs and my professional life. This list is vital (and I must admit I needed to review it more often this past year) because it solidifies for me where I absolutely will say NO to outside requests. No explanation. No reasons as to why not. And no guilt. If the request doesn't fit into my Top 5 Yes Priority List, I simply say, "No." Try it. Saying no is a heady experience. Sometimes, based on my list, I say, "Yes, but here is what is coming up and I need to know if you are okay with me bowing out should it become necessary."

Once I have clarified where I've been, what I've learned and how I want to shine internally, I sit down and make my goal list for the following year. First I write down the top things I want to accomplish based on my focus statement. I do this for my writing and for my personal family life. Then I make a spread sheet and break down my goals into bite size pieces. The spread sheet has each month along the left hand side, a section for writing goals and family needs/goals along the top. This way I can visually see what events are coming. If I have a due date, I add that to the list. I usually tweak this spread sheet every couple of months or quarter of the year.

Now that I've told you how I go about setting goals, I want to add a codicil. These are my methods. They work for me. I formulated them over time. And they are bound to ideas learned and culled from other, much smarter people than I. Ultimately, how a YOU assess your life and create your goals for your journey toward your dreams is up to you.

The most important thing to learn from me is Have A Plan. Know where you are going. How we get there will vary. Another important lesson I've learned is I need to incorporate WIGGLE ROOM in my personal journey. I need to have a space that's empty that leaves room for surprises, positive and negative, that might change the direction of my journey.

In 2009, I surprised myself by learning how to Pitch and I went to the RWA National Conference where I practiced my skill. Wow, I got requests. New life path. New little detour. I also surprised myself with adding blogging as a guest blogger as part of the Southern Magic Romance Magicians blog. I started my own, almost daily blog, and I became a writing contest judge. Those items weren't on my "goal list." But by allowing myself time to wiggle, I could add them. I also added some items and tasks that I regretted later. But one cannot learn one's strengths until one learns her weaknesses as well. Now I know what NOT to try next year. Not a bad lesson.

I know 2010 will not be easy to navigate already based on my Father in Law's illness. There will be unexpected travels, difficult situations to maneuver, and the heartbreak emotionally of seeing a good man felled by cancer. I must allow for wiggle room to bend and flow with those waves. I also know I have a husband who is going to undergo hip replacement surgery in February 2010. I must clear the docks for that event. At the same time I must also continue pursuing my professional goals whenever I can. I must prepare.

And those are only the expected life events. I know much more will happen. Some will be negative, but many other life events will be positive. I want to be ready for them. And the best way I can prepare for the way my journey might detour is to focus on my goals, be prepared for change, and carry a flexible attitude.

So, in a nutshell here's my process for setting up my journey through each year:

*reflect upon past accomplishments
*make a focus statement that brings you into the new year
*establish a top 5 priority list
*write your goals down and have a plan
*break down your goals into bite size pieces
*review your goals on a quarterly basis
*leave wiggle room for life's interesting surprises

Life is journey. Enjoy it. Live it. Flow with it. Mark Twain said it best: Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. EXPLORE. DREAM. DISCOVER.

All the best to you as you set your map's check points for 2010!


marthawarner said...

You know, for all my planning ways, I don't get that deep with my resolutions. I take a lighter approach to them (which is my post for tomorrow).

It is interesting to me the last words of your post: EXPLORE. DREAM. DISCOVER.

The words I live by? live, love, laugh. I think I might add Mark Twain's as well.

Happy New Year!

Christine said...

Martha, I love your words, too. I use them as well. I think combining all six would be a wonderful way to live life.


Fine words to live by.

I think I am an emotionally deep planner because I run on high octane. I need to recharge and reconnect with myself before I can move forward.

Looking forward to your post!

Delle Jacobs said...

Wow, you've quoted me! I'm honored, Christine. And I love the Mark Twain quote too. You can find it on the blog I designed for another friend, Laurie Alice Eakes,

because it describes the life she leads so perfectly. We should all lead such exciting lives!

Christine said...

Delle, I have your quote on my office door. I wrote it out and taped it to the door almost a year ago. I love it. It describes the process of dreaming and making goals perfectly. I can't wait to see your friend's blog.

Happy New Year!

M.V.Freeman said...

LOVE IT!!!!!
So very true, I am working on my list even as I speak.

That's why you will are aware of where you are going, and what an amazing journey it is and will be! ;-)

Christine said...

Mary, you are one in a million. Glad you are one of my friends. I know your goals will reflect your personal life map beautifully.


Ellen B said...

Christine, this is a great post - I really like your method, and I love your attitude too :)

My resolutions tend to be very wide-ranging. I think they're actually close to your Top 5 Priority List. for the last two years, the main ones have been travel more and write more. Which is a nice general way of saying 'Prioritise these areas'. So if I make it to one new country, or write more than I did the year before, I'm doing good.

There's some great advice in here that I'll be taking on board as I review my own life. Thanks for the post, and I hope 2010 brings you many wonderful things!

Christine said...

Ellen, I love the idea of adding traveling more to my top priority list. I tend to focus on the main focus goals in my personal life/writing life and traveling definitely fits!

Best to you in 2010!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Love the Mark Twain quote, and your process for goal setting. I have long compared goals to places on a map (and I almost used the GPS analogy in my own post yesterday!).

I always say I have to know where I'm going, but not exactly how I'll get there. If I start in California on I-80, heading for the east coast, I may have to detour to I-40 or even I-10 due to bad weather, but I can still get there.

Along the way, I may get to see places I've never been, and I'm free to take side trips. I want the journey to be fun, too.

Great post--good luck with all of your goals for 2010!

Christine said...

Gwen, great analogy. I love it. Yeah, we might hit a few potholes along the way, but we'll get there one way or another.

I'm looking forward to jumping the hurdles, skirting the corners and keeping my eye on the prize.