You may think it’s a little late to be making New Year’s resolutions. That’s OK, since this post isn’t about New Year’s resolutions.
As Stan, my cardio dance teacher, said the first week of January, “If you get frustrated by how crowded the gym is these days, just hang in there. The New Year’s Resolution Warriors will taper off in a few weeks.”
He was right. Three weeks in to 2015, the gym surge has already subsided, proving once again that New Year’s resolutions are usually throw-aways.
But it’s natural to think about changes we’d like to make in our lives at the start of a new year. How will we move up life’s learning curve if we don’t challenge ourselves? How will we find fulfillment and a sense of purpose without at least a little self-reflection from time to time?
That conversation with yourself can begin any time of the year. New starts are waiting to happen every single day.
Here’s a technique to approach goal setting more mindfully than the short-stamina New Year’s Resolution Warriors…
Advice From Another Martha B
A recent blog post from life coach Martha Beck has helped me frame my own goal setting process this year.
In “Conjuring Good Magic: How to Set Powerful Goals,” Martha points out that people usually articulate goals in a verb/noun format. “I want to find a job,” or “I want to lose weight.”
Verb/noun goals, however, fail to address the reasons why you want those things. They say nothing about the quality of the experience you hope to have. Do you want a job or to lose weight regardless of the outcome? What if the job brings more stress and heartache than fulfillment? What if a crazy diet leaves you thinner but feeling crappy or more obsessive about food than you were before?
Martha Beck suggests framing your goal setting with adjectives rather than verbs and nouns. Think about how you would feel if your goals were met. Imagine every emotional detail of your hoped-for outcome. What’s the quality of the experience you want to achieve?
After trying it out for myself, I discovered that adjectives are, indeed, quite magical…
My 2015 Goals Transformed Through Adjectives
Martha Beck gave her readers the task of identifying three adjectives that best describe the essence of experience they seek.
I spent quite a while on this exercise, but I’ve never been good at specializing anywhere in my life. My academic work was always multidisciplinary. My portfolio as an international economist included 60 countries. I like small plate food so that I can try lots of different things. And the selection of adjectives in the English language is just too tantalizing to choose only three.
So here’s my list of adjective goals (3X3 instead of only 3), in no particular order of priority:
- Healthy (not just my body, but my mind and spirit as well)
I already feel good just looking at that list.
The magical part of this exercise is that when I think about verb/noun items on my 2015 to-do list (publish my book, for example), my adjectives answer a lot of questions.
Though the manuscript of Whispers From My Garden is with the copyeditor now (he had a few books to do ahead of mine and will be able to begin working on it soon) and more revisions will certainly be needed, I know that my mindfulness practice helped me write the book from a place of purpose. People who inspired me are in the book, and I hope the book will be inspirational to others. The story is about how I finally figured out how to live a balanced life with mind, body, and spirit health at the core of it all.
So no matter what happens from here on out, whether the book is “successful” or not (and that definition will vary person to person, of course), having written a book that I know is in alignment with my adjective goals is already a huge accomplishment.
Based on my research of the publishing industry over the past two years–and after digging even deeper these past few weeks–I’ve decided that self-publishing feels the most comfortable to me. “Empowered” is the key adjective here.
I haven’t looked for an agent. I haven’t sent a sample to publishers. I’m relying on a team of hand-picked, experienced professionals whom I respect for feedback on the quality of the work. I’ll be asking friends to review the draft after the next round of revisions (let me know if you’d like to be included in that group — the more eyes, the better!). I’ll hire a cover designer and formatters for the ebook and hard copy versions. I’ll be diving into the depths of social media for marketing. I’ll use IndieReader’s In-Store program to get hard copies into bookstores (thank you, LG O’Connor for this tip!). I’ll use Amazon for the electronic version. I’ll be asking hundreds of questions, begging for help, and making mistakes.
But all of that feels creative, empowering, and purposeful–totally within my own control. I don’t need a traditional publisher to make me feel valued when I’m meeting my adjective goals. On the flip side, I won’t have a traditional publisher to blame. I’m good with that.
Suffice it to say, I’m a little scared but very excited to become what Guy Kawasaki calls an APE (Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur). In his book by the same name, Kawasaki calls this “artisanal publishing.” I like that concept. You can read my artisanal book while drinking an artisanal beer or eating artisanal chocolate.
Getting back to goal-setting, I’ll be using my adjectives list as a touchstone from here on out.
As Martha Beck wrote in “Conjuring Good Magic”:
“I realize that all this sounds a little woo-woo, but psychological research on happiness backs up my strategy. Over and over, researchers studying happiness have found that the situational elements people crave—money, social status, possessions—don’t reliably lead to an experience of well-being. By contrast, learning to find joy in the present moment (a.k.a. focusing on experiences you truly want in your life) increases life satisfaction, improves health, and allows us to live longer, more fulfilling lives.”
So how about you? What does your adjective list look like? Share your three (or more) adjectives in the comments!
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