Resolutions vs. Goals

dreamstime_xs_92607184I’m not a resolutions person.  It seems that too often I make a resolution at the beginning of the year to do something big, set it aside, and never look at it again.  For me, resolutions are passive because I don’t act on them.

I prefer goals.  For me, goals are active.  First there is goal-planning and then developing strategies for goal-implementation.  Goals, or at least strategies, are also active in that they are fluid.  They change.  If one strategy doesn’t work, I try something different.  If many strategies don’t work, then I look at whether I need to change the goal.

The important thing, of course, is that we accomplish what we want.  If making resolutions work for you, great.  If goals work better for you, that is great as well.  Do whatever works for you to make 2018 the year you want.

Gain and Pain

dreamstime_xs_35911205, croppedYou have probably heard the concept that we have two basic choices.  We can choose long-term gain for short-term pain or we can choose short-term gain for long-term pain.

Most of the decisions I have made in my life were long-term gain for short-term pain.  In college I regularly choose to study instead of party.  In my careers I regularly chose to work long, hard hours and to do my best rather than slacking.  I have usually chosen to do what was right or responsible rather than what I felt like doing at the time.

These decisions have paid off for me.  I consider myself to have a happy, successful life, both professionally and personally.

What I realized the other day, though, was that I am at a point in my life where I can ease up.  I can do more of what I want because I want to.  I’ve reached the long-term gain and I don’t really need to worry so much about the short-term pain.  I’m glad I’ve made this realization now, where I can enjoy it fully.

If you are like me, and have consistently made the long-term gain decisions, I suggest that you stop and access where you are in life.  Could you do a little more of the short-term gain items?  With where you are now, is there much long-term pain to worry about?

Use the Back of Your Brain

dreamstime_xs_62496032When I was in college it always took me awhile to complete the research for papers.  The major reason was that I always found so many interesting studies to read.  They might not have been relevant for the paper I was writing, but it was hard to resist reading them anyway.

One related to brain functioning.  It said that either the subconscious or unconscious (I forget which—or maybe it was both—let’s call it the back of the brain) was always working.  Since it was always working, we might as well have the conscious part of our brain (let’s call it the front of the brain) tell the back of the brain what we wanted it to do.

I was going to college full-time and working 30-40 hours a week to pay for college.  I needed all the help I could get to make best use of the time I had, so I started experimenting with this.  I would tell the back of my brain things like: “I have to write a paper on XYZ.  What should I include?  How should I organize it?”  Then I would work on other things for a day or two.  When I sat down to work on the paper, the information flowed.  I had much more information than I ever had when I tried to write something “cold.”

The more I used this technique, the better it worked.  I still use it.

For example, a few days ago I had the idea that this topic would make a good blog.  If I had sat down and tried writing it the minute I had the idea, I would have struggled.  Instead, the front of my brain told the back of my brain to work on this idea.  Now, the thoughts are pouring out, faster than I can type.

I use this for large projects, such as writing books.  With a book, I tell the back of my brain to work first on the overall concepts and content of the book and as I start writing, I tell it to work in more detail on the next chapter.  It works!  I have more trouble finding time to write than I do in getting thoughts on paper once I have time to do it.

I also use this for little things such as planning parties, holiday dinners, and vacations.  People comment on how organized I am.  To a large degree, I think it is because I use the back of my brain to work on things while the front of my brain is focused on other items.

If you don’t already do this, I suggest that you try it.  If it works, you might find that you are more productive.  If it doesn’t work, you haven’t lost a thing.

 

The Best and the Brightest

dreamstime_xs_29054082A friend and I were reminiscing at our 40th high school reunion about, of all things, high school.  During the conversation, she made a comment about how she and our other friends were surprised that for so long my goal was to become a secretary.  The reason it surprised them, she said, was that I was one of the smartest in the class and could have done anything.

That conversation brought back memories that I have not thought about for a long time.  On one level, I knew I was one of the smartest in my class.  Grades weren’t a secret and mine were consistently at the top.  And yet I did not think I was smart enough to go to college.  It probably wasn’t until my senior year that I finally realized that if I wasn’t smart enough, who was?  There were plenty of students, with lower grades than mine, that were planning on going.  If they could, why couldn’t I?

The result is that I went to college, obtained two bachelor of science degrees and a minor, graduated magna cum laude, and did it in 4 1/2 years while working 30-40 hours a week at 2-3 different jobs.

I was one of the best and the brightest, yet I didn’t see it.

Are you in that situation?  Are you one of the best and the brightest and don’t realize it?  Would you have greater success in your life if you recognized that you are capable of achieving it?

Are there girls in your life (daughters, granddaughters, nieces) that might be in that situation?  Do they realize that they are one of the best and the brightest, that they can do anything they want?  Would some encouragement from you help them see themselves more clearly?  (And remember that boys need encouragement, too.)

Often, the thing holding us back the most is our own self-perception.  We can change that!

Aim Higher

Blog Drawing SquareI recently attended my 40th high school reunion.  During a conversation with a friend since elementary school (not an old friend—neither of us are old!) I was reminded of something one of the high school guidance counselors told me many years ago.  He explained it differently than I will here, but the concept is the same.  (Since we were face to face, he could talk with his hands as well.  That doesn’t work so well in a blog.)

Imagine a vertical line.  Near the top of the line is point A.  Around the middle is point B.  Near the bottom is point C.  He said that he would rather see students aim for point A and only achieve point B than to aim for point C and achieve it.  Even if they don’t achieve point A, by achieving point B they will have achieved more than if they settled for point C from the beginning.

At the time, I couldn’t begin to realize how important that concept is.  At least I grasped enough that it encouraged me to go for a bachelor’s degree rather than an associate degree after graduating high school.

I hate to admit it, but there have been times in my life when I did not try for point A because I did not think I could make it.  Sometimes I aimed for point B and got it, but sometimes I settled for point C when I could have done more had I aimed higher.

Have you done this?  Are you doing this now?  Could you achieve more if you aimed higher than you thought you could achieve?  What could your life be like if you did?

College Bound

1, SF_52WeeksOfWisdom_FINAL COVER_022215, front_edited-1, squareFarrell_Don'tActLikePrey_FULLCOVER_FINAL_090714, cropped_edited-1Are there any women in your life that are going to college this fall?  Someone who has graduated from high school and is starting the next phase of her education?  Someone who has been in the “real world” for awhile and has decided that a college degree is what she needs to accomplish her career goals?  Someone who is going back to college for an advanced degree?

If so, my books would be great gifts to let them know you are thinking of them, as well as assisting them in meeting their goals through self reflection.

Don’t Act Like Prey! A Guide to Self Leadership for Women uses stories and metaphors to discuss the costs of being passive, the costs of being aggressive, the benefits of being assertive, and how to find the delicate balance of assertiveness.

52 Weeks of Wisdom, A Guide to Self Leadership for Women provides 52 short stories to encourage the reader to think about what she does, why she does it, and does she want to change.

For additional information, and to order from your preferred supplier in your preferred format, go to SusanLFarrell.com.

Show What You Know

dreamstimefree_2404805My husband and I went to a baseball game recently.  Listening to the National Anthem brought back a memory from grade school.  The experience turned out to be one that probably shaped my life more than I thought.

I was in 5th or 6th grade.  The teacher gave us an assignment for the next day:  learn “The Star Spangled Banner.”  I was more than a little concerned—that’s four long verses!  When I got home and told Mom, she told me I’d better start working on it.  After supper, she helped me.  By the time I went to bed, I had the entire anthem memorized.  I didn’t really understand all of it, but I had the words memorized, and in the right order.

At school the next day, the teacher called on my classmates to recite the song.  One by one they went to the front of the class and recited anywhere from a few words to a few lines.  A couple may have recited the first verse.  That was it!

I remember wondering what I should do.  I knew the entire anthem.  That was the assignment and so that’s what I did.  Part of me thought I should stand up and demonstrate what I had done and what I knew.

But part of me wanted to belong.  I didn’t want to stand out from everyone.  I didn’t want to be different.  It would be easy to recite less than what I knew—maybe one verse.  That would be a good compromise, wouldn’t it?  Demonstrate some of my knowledge while not being too different.

I still hadn’t decided what to do when the teacher called my name.  As I was walking to the front of the class, though, I decided to do it.  I had spent the entire evening learning it, Mom had spent time helping me, why shouldn’t I show what I knew?

When I finished all four verses, there was a brief silence (and I thought, “Oh no!  What did I do?!”) and then wild clapping.

My classmates didn’t care that I learned more than they did.  They weren’t going to shun me for that.  It was all good!

I think it is good to show what we know.  If we don’t, no one will know except us.  And others need to know if we are going to succeed.  I have since learned that it’s important to be respectful, to use a certain amount of courteousness and tact at times, but don’t be afraid to show what you know.

Find a New Balance

dreamstime_xs_32614115We need to balance all aspects of our professional and personal lives.  We need to balance not only our time but also our energy, mental focus, and finances. We know this.  We try to do it.  The trickiest part, I think, is that our lives change and then we need to find a new balance.

If we change from being single to being married, it means finding a new balance.  If we go from being married to divorced, that necessitates finding a new balance.  We need to find new balances when we have children, as they grow, and again when they leave home.  We find new balances as our parents age and need more assistance.  Often if we start a new job or career and it requires more of our time, we need to find a new balance.

My husband is recently retired.  Of course, he has a major balance change.  Unlike some people, though, he is not having any difficulty in finding things he wants to do.

I’m finding that I also need to find a new balance related to his retirement.  I still want a writing career.  However, I also want to spend time with him.  We enjoy traveling, hiking, golfing, and other activities that we feel we should do now while we physically can.  My challenge is finding how to balance all the things I want to do.

My current plan is to consider myself semi-retired.  I have found that it helps me feel less guilty about not spending as much time working as I did.  I haven’t quite found a balance that feels “just right,” but that’s o.k.  Often finding a new balance is as much of a process as it is a destination.

Clean as You Go

dreamstime_xs_71944316A food service concept is “clean as you go.”  Basically, that means that you keep your work area clean.  As you complete one task, you clean the area before beginning the next task.  If you spill something, you clean it up.  As you have time, you wash pots, pans, and dishes.  All this helps keep food safe.  Plus, it is easier and more efficient than trying to clean a disaster of a kitchen at the end of the day.

This concept is something that can be used in our professional and personal lives.  As we complete one task, we can clean our desk, kitchen counters, or other work area before moving to the next task.  If we make a mess, we can clean it up immediately.  It can make us more productive.

We can use this concept from a mental standpoint.  When we complete one task, we can clear our minds before starting the next task.  It can help us focus.

We can use this concept from an emotional standpoint.  If there is something bothering us, we can deal with it rather than ignoring it.  It can help our emotional health.

The concept of “clean as you go” really is that we take care of things when they are small and easier to do rather than waiting until they are large and more difficult to do.

Planning Backwards

dreamstime_xs_54563294Although we usually think of planning as starting at the beginning and finishing at the end, it can be beneficial to start with the end and continue backwards to the beginning.

Most of us probably do this frequently in small ways.  For example, to determine when we need to get up in the morning to get to work on time, we might plan something like this:

  • I start work at 8:00, so…
  • I need to arrive at work at 7:45 to park the car, punch in, etc. to be on the job by 8:00.
  • It takes 45 minutes to drive to work, so I need to leave home at 7:00.
  • It takes 90 minutes to get ready and take care of the pets, so I need to get up at 5:30.
  • However, it’s snowing, the roads will probably be bad in the morning, so I need to allow an extra 30 minutes to drive to work. I need to set the alarm for 5:00.

This process can also be beneficial for our large dreams and goals, especially if they are very specific.

For example, if someone wanted to design motorcycles for a specific company, good information to obtain could be:

  • Is this an entry level position? If not, what entry level position can lead to the desired position?  What advancement is necessary within the company?
  • What experience is required to be hired by the company? How can it be obtained?
  • What education/degree is required? Where do most of these graduates attend college?
  • What needs to be done to be accepted into that college and that degree program?
  • What needs to be done to be able to attend that college? (For example, would it require moving? Financial assistance?)

The plan, of course, would include the details on how to make this work.  Additional questions might include the following.  Would an internship meet the experience requirement and could that be completed during college?  If the person is in high school, what classes could she take and what grades would she need to be accepted to the college?  If she is already in the workforce, can some of her work experience assist her in being accepted to the college?  Are there classes she needs to take before she will be accepted either into that college or into that program?  What financial assistance is available?  What support, if any, will she need from family?

The next time you need to plan something, try planning backwards and see if it helps you develop a better, more detailed plan.