Driving Towards Goals

snowyroad

January is flying by and any resolutions that were promised at the beginning are becoming distant objects in the rear view mirror. Every year I promise myself that I’m not going to let that happen, but it still does. Again, I’m making the promise to get those things done that I want and to do it in this new year.

Something needs to change this time and I went looking for the solution. Other than a strong resolve, there isn’t a lot of innovative thinking when it comes to achieving goals.

Nearly everyone who pontificates about goal setting tells us to write them down. OK. Done that. Now, where did I put that list?

For me, it isn’t enough to just write the goal down. I need more help.

Of course, goals must be achievable. That hasn’t been my problem either. I think we all know that there are some things we can never achieve no matter how often we write it down. We can’t find talent we don’t have in the pages of a loose-leaf binder.

My problem is not thinking things through in detail. For instance, I want to do some redecorating in my home. What am I going to do to achieve “redecorating?” In the past, I would have some ideas in my head but they flitted in and out and, often, never made it into the real world.

The goal for goals this year is to write details. I found I need some detailed guidelines to stay on track, so that’s what I’m working on. I know I want to recover the throw pillows in the living room and repaint the front door. My redecorating goal is becoming itemized. I’ve already bought the perfect fabric for the pillows and I know what color paint to buy. (I had to convince my spouse that the color I wanted to use would look good. Thank goodness for pictures on the web.)

I will add things to my “redecorating” goal and I will get specific on all the other goals, too. Some will need just a list, like my decorating projects. Others will need a complete road map with the first step clearly spelled out. The amount of detail depends on the goal, of course. Think of how tedious it would be to do a step-by-step about recovering my throw pillows.

Step 1: Decide to recover
Step 2: Decide on a color or theme
Step 3: Decide to go to the fabric store
Etc, etc, etc…

This is my answer to keeping up with all those New Year’s goals. Yours may be different. The key concept is to find something that works for you. I’ll get back to you with a progress report later this year.

Here are a few more ideas to ponder. You can use one, two, all or none:

Rewrite your goals daily
Tell your goals to someone else
Align your goals with your dreams
Visualize
Use affirmations
Have only a few goals at a time
Take daily action
Track your progress
Celebrate milestones

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Throw Out the Bucket List

Do we need to call a list of goals a bucket list? That has a desperate connotation to it and goals shouldn’t be pursued just because the end is near. Any list should be positive as well as useful.

Many years ago, I wrote out a list of 100 goals. My list of 100 was random, at best. I did it as part of a challenge from someone’s website, the name of which is lost to history. The point made in an article on that website was: Why stop at 1 goal or 5 goals? Why not create 100 goals to follow? I bit. Why not? I didn’t date it, but my earliest notation of reaching a goal was in 2002. I’ve completed about 40% of the list without really working at it.

Some of the remaining things on the list pertained to household projects that I wanted to do, such as landscaping and remodeling. We sold that house in early 2009 and our new house didn’t need those upgrades. Do I count those things in the undone column or the completed column? I was able to sell that house without everything that I had hoped to do, so does that count as anything?

Some things I will never complete because they are too vague. I was running out of ideas and put down “Be Happy” as one of my goals. There is no way to achieve that unless I define it. I guess it’s like pornography: I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.

It’s possible to have 100 goals but it was clear that I did not. In my frenzy to reach 100 entries, I wrote down “be happy” and “find meaningful work.” No wonder I still have so many outstanding goals because those goals would never really be achieved without a clearer definition.

I’m ready to create a new list of goals but I’m going to tame the chaos of my original list. What I should have done at that time was to separate my goals by category. Some I categories I could have used are:

Goals
Work/Career
Finances
Education
Relationships/Family
Artistic
Experiences
Health/Fitness
Pleasure
Community
Personal
Physical items
Spiritual

Rather than my shotgun approach, I will now take each category and determine if there is something I want to work towards in that area. Some of the categories won’t have anything to pursue while others may have many goals. It’s not permanent, either. As a human, I have the ability to change my mind and change directions.

I know that fluidity is sometimes detrimental to my success. It’s that ability to change my mind that forces me to write things down or I start to wander. I’ll admit that shiny objects distract me from my path but the written task keeps me focused. I explained one of the lists that I keep for myself here. It has always worked for me as long as I work the list. Writing my goals down keeps me on track, too, if I remember to look at the paper occasionally. That is really the secret to success with lists and written goals. Never put the paper away and forget about it. If it’s in front of my face, I remember. If it isn’t, that shiny object holds my eye.

A quick search online for the benefits of written goals brings up many, many sites referring to a 1953 study of the Yale graduating class. It’s bunk. Not the written goals part but the existence of the study part. It didn’t happen, yet even well-known gurus cite it as gospel. A study done at Dominican University does support concept that those who write down goals achieve more than those who don’t write them down. (This study actually exists.)

Personally, I find that my written list serves several purposes:

  1. It forces me to clarify what I truly want to achieve
  2. It provides motivation to take the action I need to achieve the goal
  3. It helps me resist the shiny objects by keeping my focus on my goal
  4. It allows the great satisfaction of crossing something off that I have completed

There are still plenty of things I want to accomplish in life. A bucket list screams that death is nigh. It might very well be just around the corner, but I want to focus on living instead. No bucket list for me. I’m calling it a life list.

Together Again

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I can’t tell you I’ve been on an extended vacation. I wasn’t.

I can’t tell you that I’ve been unable to contribute to this blog. I was able, but didn’t.

I can’t tell you that any other external reason kept me from posting. What I can say is that I didn’t know where I was going with this blog, or with life. There are too many choices and, with more years behind me than ahead, some tough choices had to be made.

Living frugally my entire life has helped us get to this point. We always lived within our means. We avoided debt. We have been happy with older cars. It all adds up to being financially secure in retirement.

It took some time for our income to stabilize now that the regular paychecks are gone. Being frugal eased our way through that time and I focused on those topics here. While I will always practice frugality, I don’t want to make it the centerpiece.

My goal from this point is to chronicle my journey to the best retirement years I can imagine. I have to learn some new skills. I have to leave my comfort zone. I have to be bold and grab what I want or the years will simply pass by and I’ll be in the same place as I am now. Nothing would be more disappointing.

This blog will continue to be my outlet for things learned, for celebrating successes, and for the teachable moments that only come from failure

Little Steps, Big Changes

Starting something new is overwhelming. Have you ever tried to read something that is a new subject and it seemed like it was written in Klingon? Only through systematic chipping, taking small bites, can you finally unravel the mystery.

Developing a new lifestyle is the same process. Take small steps and soon you’re changes are habit and not torture.

It’s fun to read how people live frugally. Some of their ideas are workable and will fit into my life easily. Some are a bit out there, to be kind. I draw the line at eliminating toilet paper from our home. The work involved in washing and drying doesn’t outweigh the convenience of TP. There’s also the yuck factor. Just not gonna do it.

toilet-paper-150912_1280
I’ve been in a financially tough time when paper towels were a luxury and not a part of my kitchen supplies. I could go back to that again, but I haven’t. I guess times just aren’t tough enough right now.

There are things that I do now which make me wonder why I didn’t do them all along. I spent some time yesterday making jam. My husband spent part of his day making jerky. (He makes it because he eats it. I don’t) Am I saving a bunch making my own jam? Not really, because I buy the fruit. If I could go out a pick fruit to use, then the savings would be obvious. The jerky, on the other hand, is a fraction of the price of anything we can buy.

Jars of Jam
The benefit of making things at home is that I know what’s in it. I don’t use anything I can’t pronounce. To me, that’s a big benefit. The other, especially with jam, is the reduction in waste. I reuse the jars. An empty jar from the store isn’t reusable, usually.

These are just two small steps in my overall frugal-living plan. I’ve already posted some of the recipes I use to make staples and cleaning supplies.

DIY Laundry Detergent
The Dreaded Dusting Chore
The Baking Mix Scoop
No, Really? No Poo
DIY Liquid Hand Soap
DIY Yogurt
DIY Disinfecting Wipes
5 Favorite From Scratch Recipes
Orange is the New Clean

There are dozens more that I haven’t yet tried. I’ve also abandoned some things that I tried and found they didn’t work well for me. One was my own dishwasher soap. I’ve tried a couple of formulas and I felt they didn’t do the job that a commercial product does, so I no longer make my own soap. Frugal living is not only a step-by-step process, it’s a trial and error one, too.

It’s all about the little efforts and you don’t have to learn Klingon.

Life Morphs

A picture of a path isn’t a very original or creative illustration for an article about life planning. I’ve been guilty of being unoriginal in my life plan, but now I’m stretching my creative wings to plan a retirement that is anything but ordinary.

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Our life plan has experienced some recent changes. My spouse finally came around to my way of thinking. I’m not sure what his reluctance was about, but he finally saw the light. The interesting thing about his change in thinking is that what I’ve been proposing recently is something we dreamed of doing many years ago. It’s now possible. It wasn’t possible then.

You know when something isn’t right when you aren’t enthusiastic about it. The things we were discussing about our retirement were ordinary. There was nothing about our plans that was exciting or even interesting. I knew I would have regrets if we followed that path. It’s all about making the best choices and when you find the right path, you will be filled with motivation. It’s still possible to fail, but staying on track minimizes that possibility. Keeping focused is key.

The problem with setting goals and envisioning how your life will progress is the constant changes of life. We’ve all done it: decided what we want, determined the steps to get there, and before we achieve success, we found that we didn’t want it anymore. .

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
-George Elliot-

Now, it’s all about a new direction. Start by creating a vision and not just goals. How does a vision differ from a plan or a goal? A vision is the general direction. A goal is more specific. Think of a clear vision as a compass which will continually point you in the correct direction. Having your own vision prevents others from directing your choices. My vision of our retirement is to elicit a “Wow” reaction from people I tell about it. Nothing else will do.

This will take some time and it must be cultivated before you can design the details. Answer the general “What do you want?” question. It seems like a simple thing. Keep focused on what you want and leave what you don’t want out of the process. If you pursue what you want, then things you don’t want will likely stay out of the way. Of course, this has to be realistic. You can’t plan bad things out of life. They happen.

Give yourself permission to dream, and to dream big. This isn’t about what should happen in your life. Things we must do are a part of life and will never go away, but they are often confused with the “shoulds.” Know the difference between things that have to be done and those that should be done. There aren’t many choices in “have to” but there are many in the “shoulds.”

One last piece of my dubious wisdom: Enjoy the journey. Life is short.

This Time It’s Gotta Be Right

I always thought I should earn an advanced degree.
I always wanted to write.
I always wanted to travel extensively.
I should have majored in photography.

These are a few of the overwhelming array of possibilities that I could pursue in retirement. Maybe, I should have done all of these things by now, but the reasons I haven’t yet pursued them are irrelevant.

Many of us have regrets in life, especially when it comes to what we could have been when we grew up. I am no different. While I don’t think I did poorly, I do think that when I was young, I didn’t set a search that was broad enough.

options

This time, with retirement, I’m looking at everything I can think of that’s possible for me to do. There’s only a little time left, as depressing as that sounds. Certainly, there are more years behind me than ahead, but there is still time to do something major if I want to and more than enough time to do a bunch of little stuff.

It all boils down to the question: What do I really want to do? That’s harder for me to answer than I thought. I guess I’ve never decided what I want to be when I grew up. I’ve had lots of ideas, but the little devil on my shoulder, whispering all the pitfalls that will come with a decision, often wins and I abandon the thought.

There is time for some things, but not all of them so deciding what’s important and doable is the goal. How to Make Decisions is an article published on the Real Simple website. The author divides us based on our decision-making style:

Poll Taker
Procrastinator
Overcautious
Make Snap Judgments
Overanalyzer
Overconfident
Waffler

I see myself in several of the descriptions.

I sometimes put off making a decision thinking that there will be time later. When there are too many choices, it results in a paralysis. I’m afraid I’ll make the wrong decision, and there won’t be time for a do-over. Sometimes, I make immediate decisions without adequate thought.

In my mind, a procrastinator and someone who is overcautious are two sides of the same coin. Am I procrastinating because I’m overcautious or is my caution causing me to put off the decision? Which came first and does it really matter?

giraffe

In the movie We Bought a Zoo, Matt Damon’s character explains that sometimes in life, you only need 20 seconds of courage to get what you want.

That’s what deciding what to do in retirement is about–finding 20 seconds of courage to make a decision and not worrying beforehand that it might be wrong.

Orchids and Other Stuff

When you no longer have a job, it is tough to find a reason to get up every morning. What is it about work that defines us and why is it so difficult to replace that purpose? Enter the hobby.

Orchids

I bought Orchids for Dummies nearly 10 years ago with the thought of giving orchids a try. A couple of years ago, we bought our first orchid. We now have several and we would buy more if space allowed. Contrary to common belief, they aren’t difficult to grow. Like all plants, they have their preferences for water and light and, if you get those right, they do very well.

orchids2

Growing orchids, or any other type of plant, is a hobby worth pursuing. So is woodworking, crocheting, building model airplanes or dozens of other pursuits. I truly believe that the quality of your life is improved by having hobbies.

Orchid

Now in retirement, our hobbies are particularly important. It provides a bit of incentive to get out of bed each day.

Check these links for some really good hobby ideas:
A Huge list of Hobbies
A Massive List of Hobbies