Friday, January 7, 2011

Some thoughts on Goal Setting

Some of my regular reads have been sharing their New Year's resolutions (here and here), or their theme for the year.  I love it - I love all the hopes and dreams stuff.  Dreaming and planning can be really exhilarating don't you think?
Make more time for my family
I asked a friend recently what her New Years resolutions were and she replied "I don't make goals around New Year, its just setting myself up to fail".  Whoa!  That's such an interesting take on things and I wonder if anyone else feels that way?  I'm a dreamer and a schemer (in the nicest possible way).  I spent most of my childhood holed up in my imagination or with my nose in a book, so I guess setting goals - imagining myself in a rosy future comes naturally to me. 

Of course, setting the goal is only part of it - action is the second step and I guess this is where a lot of us get stuck (I'm not saying 'fail', just stuck).  The trouble is, life gets in the way.  The commitments, the responsibilities, even the mundane everyday stuff - dishes, washing, picking up and dropping off....  There are plenty of free ideas floating round the webosphere on how to physically make the time to work on your goals, but I think one reason for 'stuck' has nothing to do with the physical and everything to do with the emotional.
Be more forgiving of others
My personal growth in my twenties was all about turning thought into action.  The trouble was, no matter how hard I tried the future never looked exactly how I thought it would.  Things beyond my control would change my course through life; road blocks such as ill health, lost of income, the breakup of relationships would take me down detours of moving cities, retraining and finding employment in a completely different industry.  I felt like a failure because I didn't achieve that exact future of my imagining.  Sounds really silly now that I'm writing it right?  Well maybe, but I'm pretty sure there will be someone reading this and nodding away.

Somewhere along the way I got so fearful of failing it shut down my creativity.  I wasn't willing to start anything because it wouldn't turn out the way I planned and therefore it would be a big 'ol 'F' for fail. 

Yes I was in the grip of perfectionism and it totally changed who I was.  For three years I didn't design, I didn't sew, I didn't write, I didn't paint, I didn't craft.....and I wasn't 'failing' but I had a constant nagging dissatisfaction with my life - because for a creative, not creating is like not breathing - kinda impossible. 

The turning point for me was an invitation from a friend curating an exhibition.  The brief was so wide open (create a collage) - anything I did was a success.  In fact the only way to fail was to not do it.  So I did it.  I didn't invest too much thought into the outcome, it was just an outpouring of pent up creativity.  It got me started again, and yes I still felt like a failure, but I did it anyway.  It was a 'fake it till you make it' stage in my life.  Single Dad Laughing wrote a very thought provoking post on perfection here and I encourage you to read it - its really powerful stuff!
Be kinder to myself
The theme of my personal growth in my thirties is "be kind to myself" or don't beat myself up because things haven't turned out as planned.  This has been my key to celebrating (and enjoying) my creativity once again. 

Part of that is acknowledging that the goal posts change constantly.  In fact, when you are setting your goals its pretty much the only thing you can be certain of.  Things will change, you will change and you know what?  That's great - humans evolve - we're designed that way!!  Maybe on your journey from here to there you will realise you don't actually want to be there at all.  I can't count the number of times I have stubbornly continued on a path I knew wasn't quite right for me, because to change my course would not fulfil my goal, therefore I would fail that goal.  What a waste of my time and energy!  Being flexible about your goal and about how you achieve it isn't cheating or woosing out, its being realistic and you know what - it will get you there.

Seriously, give yourself a break.  Your life isn't an exam, its your life.  Its not meant to be perfect, but I reckon its meant to be fun and meaningful and fulfilling.  Where's the fun and fulfillment in beating yourself up for not achieving that goal?  Who does this serve?  Chances are if you stop listening to that internal voice that tells you your useless and a failure and whats the point the world if full of more talented, more imaginative creatives than you (trust me I've been there), you'll hear and see and feel others around you saying "Your wicked/talented/driven/creative/amazing...". 

Take exercise 3 x 30mins per week
While I'm a fan of looking to the future, its important to consider what you do have, what you have done, what your doing right now.  I've been tidying up my electronic files of photographs recently.  This is a great way to look back over a year of creativity - I had forgotten about some of the bespoke items I made.  Often, I'm in such a rush to get it completed, so that I can get on to the next thing that I forget to give myself a pat on the back for the care and love and hours I've heaped on a creation.  Celebrate what you have - chances are you are really good at forgetting your successes, but somehow your failures stick out a mile.  Do yourself a favour and flip that notion on its head.  Bring the successes to the fore.

So set goals I say, dream that dream but know that:
  • goalposts are fluid - hey that's life;
  • let go of 'perfect'.  Holding on to perfect is setting yourself up to fail.
  • Be prepared to take a detour.  Employing flexibility and creativity around the concept of success is far more likely to get you there.  Dang it you deserve to get there, so stop making it so hard to do so! 
  • Celebrate what you have, rather than focusing too much on what you haven't - its waaay more rewarding
and before you know it you will be living in that rosy future, but it probably won't look exactly as you imagined - it may well be better.
Stick to the financial plan
Yup those captions under the pictures are my New Year's resolutions.


  1. Gorgeous post Nin, so well written and love the photos. Lots to think about! Good luck for your 2011 xo

  2. Wonderful, wonderful post. In fact I'm going to scroll back up to the top and read it all again!

  3. P.S love the photo of you and your little girl!

  4. I really enjoyed reading that Notchie Noo! Very beautiful! Happy New Exciting and Creative Year to you. I hope you achieve your goals you want to.. Lots of love xxx

  5. This is a great post. All my goals disappeared when I became a single SAHM so I lived day to day and did what I thought needed to be done. I eventually met another partner, added another family member and my reward for 'getting on with things' is 2 intelligent, social, confident young adults and a pre-teen who thinks she could run the country and still have time to ride her horse whenever she wants :P. Sometimes life sets your goals for you and you achieve them but you don't realise it till later.

  6. Great to see you today at Stitch! You've got some great goals for the year. I have vowed to create more this year. I've got an extremely creative imagination, but it is making the jump from my mind to a finished product that I have trouble with. I've let go of perfection and have decided to just get stuck in and see where it leads me. Best wishes XX

  7. I loved reading this post. You write of things so many of us go through (in fact most of us do) - thank you for being bold and stating it! Some lovely words here - I so enjoy your posts. :)


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