How writing down my goals helps me achieve them

Write It Down, Make It Happen, by Henriette Anne Klauser, provides many different ways to approach reaching your goals. I like the variety of techniques and how concrete the lessons are, as well as how focused and well-organized the book is. Each chapter illustrates a different person’s story and how the technique in that chapter helped manifest goals. The chapter ends with a “Now You” summary recapping how to employ that technique. I find a lot of journaling advice to be too corny or unfocused; in contrast, Klauser has a warm and friendly tone, without coming across as New Age silly. She seems like a very practical person.

Klauser is an advocate of the belief system that writing down what you want helps you become clear about what exactly you want, why you want it, and how to achieve it. When we write down our goals, we become more attuned in our daily lives to unlocking the steps that will help even major, seemingly impossible, dreams come true.

I appreciated that this book doesn’t require you to follow an overwhelming “system.” There are no worksheets to fill out or daily journals to keep or other exercises that would make me feel like a failure if I didn’t complete them. You can pick up any single chapter of the book and do something useful with it.

Here are some of her ideas that I’ve used to achieve personal goals:

  1. When you write down what you want to achieve, it starts to make it seem more “real” to you, and therefore you becoming willing to ask others for help in achieving your goal. Being open about what I want has helped me connect to people and learn about opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about. I’m writing a novel about massage therapy, step-parenting, and multiple sclerosis. Most writers keep their novels close to the vest – we are told that talking about the plot dissipates the energy we’d otherwise put into writing – but I find the more I share, the more people show up in my life to bring information or other support. After asking for help, I had great conversations with people who were experts on all of the above topics, and it got me moving in a better direction with my novel.

 

  1. Sometimes you think you must have a certain outcome, but you realize later there was an essence you needed, not the particular outcome. Writing down your fears and desires helps crystalize what you really want to have in your life and when it’s not happening, you start to see the things that block you from getting there. In my own life, I felt like I couldn’t handle taking my kids on a trip alone, even though I’ve wanted to do so for the past few years. I had never traveled without a husband, mother, or mother-in-law. I felt like my family was “incomplete” without a husband. I wrote about these feelings several times and realized that if I can handle taking care of my kids at home, I can take them on a trip. The three of us are a family! You should have seen my hands shaking just before I clicked “confirm reservation,” but now we are all looking forward to an awesome vacation and my confidence is growing, knowing I will be doing something I’ve never done before.

 

  1. Writing down your goals teaches you patience. I am not a patient person. I have a seemingly calm exterior, but inside I am churning with aspirations. I have high standards, highest of all for myself. There were times I seemingly failed at different things, only to realize through writing that I wasn’t ready to achieve those goals. One memorable story in the book was about a woman who waited years to find the husband of her dreams. She wrote letters to her “soul mate” long before she ever met him, and in the process, realized how many things she had to fix in her own life to be ready for this soul mate. There are still areas in my life in which I feel like I’m failing, but this perspective helps me realize it’s not a “no,” it’s a “not yet.”

 

  1. Writing is a good place to express your fears (and then let them go). There have been many days where I felt emotional and unfocused. Talking with others only led me to be argumentative and feeling even more disconnected. When I sat and wrote instead, I could vent everything I may not have wanted to really to say to others, and then release it. The good part was to look back on this writing later when I was feeling calmer and see how the tumblers started clicking into place. My writing would start off as a bunch of disjointed ideas and start to gel into more coherent thought as I processed the ideas jumping out of my head.

 

  1. Being thankful to others brings many returns. One of my favorite parts of this book is how gratefully the author expresses her thanks for the people who have helped her, and for the chapter in which a teenage girl wrote letters to God asking for help in various areas of her life, but always starting first with praise and thanks. Klauser’s writing reminded me that one of my goals is to practice “literary citizenship,” or open gratitude to writers I admire. Klauser has a bibliography that includes other books similar to her topic. She is not trying to hoard the market on setting goals through writing, and she writes about several other authors whose books paved the way for hers. I do not expect tit-for-tat promotion, but I do believe in the abundance of the universe – that if I do as much as I can to help the authors I love, some of that love will come back for my writing as well someday.

 

I started my blog for this week on a totally different topic, but I wasn’t feeling enthused about it and the more I wrote, the more it sounded like a pathetic, whiny rant. Who needs to put that out into the universe? Writing through my stress helped me get to a place of gratitude and optimism (and I’m hoping a blog you find much more useful and enjoyable!).

 

Please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices.

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What a month of yoga did for a regular person…

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In a rare fit of consistency, I decided to practice yoga every day for a month. I am not a yogini, but an average, works-out-a-few-times-a-week kind of woman. I told myself that I would commit to just 15 minutes a day, nothing crazy. In the process, I started to feel better physically (less tension in my neck and shoulders, no more back twinges) and I learned some new things about what I could accomplish.

  1. I can make a new habit. Doing yoga every day taught me that if I can do this every day, then I can do other things every day too (like write, read to my kids, make sure the dishes are done before bedtime). It gave me confidence that I can build other little habits into my routine. My drive toward self-improvement sometimes gets out of control, but keeping my expectations modest actually boosted me up rather than left me feeling hopeless, like I did in the past when I’d get overwhelmed trying for things that were big, long-term commitments (writing a book, running for a half hour straight) without breaking them down into manageable chunks.
  1. I can be realistic. Last January, I tried to do yoga every day, but I made grandiose plans. I was going to build up to an hour a day and I was going to be doing the advanced classes and be able to master every pose in the yoga app I was using. This time around, I didn’t make any promises about what I’d accomplish from doing yoga, just that I’d do it. Better done than perfect, I say. We are always taught to focus on our desired outcome, but sometimes the goal is so far off that it can feel overwhelming. If I keep this up, maybe I will get to advanced-level yoga, but even if I don’t, I’m still reaping the benefits of daily practice. The rest would just be cool party tricks anyway.
  1. I can follow a schedule, but I don’t have to be rigid about it. Generally, I go through a cycle of classes: strength, relaxation, combination, flexibility, repeat. But sometimes I feel really tired and crummy, and I give myself permission to do the easiest routine (the relaxation one, of course!). Because I’m a teacher, most of my day is pretty much set into blocks of time, and that regimentation carries into my home life as well. But I learned with my commitment to 15 minutes a day of yoga that sometimes I’d have to do it in the morning, sometimes at night, and sometimes I’d have to skip something else that day so that I could still have time for the yoga.

Some days yoga has been life-changing, and others, it’s just another thing to cross off on my to-do list, but no matter what, I’m feeling better.

If you are interested, the app I use (for the iPad) is called Yoga Studio.

The picture is me in lizard pose, and by the way, doing yoga does not look as sexy as it feels.

 

Please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices.

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Amazon |  Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks |

Kobo Books | BAM | IndieBound | Powell’s

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Worst Ways to Start the New Year

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Hi, I’m Adrienne.  Happy new year!  I’m one of those people who gets bogged down by high expectations from the possibilities of January 1.  Learn from my experience as I present to you The Seven Worst Ways to Start the New Year:

 

7. Hung over and in a carb coma.  This was no big deal when I was younger.  But that was before I encountered the TWO-DAY hangover.   Just as our eyesight and hearing tend to get worse with age, apparently so does our liver’s ability to deal with a toxic blast of vodka, chicken wings, and Doritos.  What an awful way to start the new year – full of resolve and too sick to do anything about it.

6. Paying upfront for a gym membership.  I also went to the other extreme… there was that one year when I decided to go to bed before midnight and start the new year right with a grand workout routine.  The tan, fit college girl with blonde braids at my local gym convinced me to sign up for six months because I’d save a good chunk of change over paying month to month.  She failed to tell me I’d lose all that money anyway after I made one visit to the gym, completely overdid it to save face in front of the regulars who work out all year, and then limped home in shame never to return again.

5. Making resolutions for other people.  Sometimes I can’t believe how pretentious I was.  It wasn’t enough to make my own resolutions that I couldn’t keep… I had to make a list for my husband too and post it on the refrigerator.  It reliably gave me something to nag him about, which gave him a chance to ignore me, which allowed me to snap out on him for ignoring me, and well, you know how that goes.

4. Deciding that your entire wardrobe needs to be sorted and organized TODAY.  It’s a scientific fact that I am my fattest self at the end of December.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, and eating for hibernation in the fall all lead to me wearing the same couple of big sweaters and pants for a month or two until I rein myself in (with New Year’s resolutions!).  One year I pulled every item of clothing out of my closet and drawers, started crying when I realized how few of these clothes looked good on me, and then slept on the sofa to avoid dealing with putting them all away.

3. Looking at anything that comes from Martha Stewart.  If you want to feel like a failure, you need only check out her lists for keeping a household running smoothly.  What, you missed cleaning out the gutters and wiping down the undersides of your baseboard radiators?  Don’t worry, there are overwhelming lists for every season of the year as well as the BEST way to do your laundry, cook fresh cranberry sauce, and assemble party favors.  Thank goodness she doesn’t delve into the BEST way to rear children, or I’d be suicidal.

2. Making resolutions you can’t keep. I’ve written those lofty lists in which I vow to do everything better without having an action plan for how that’s going to happen.  No wonder it fails.  Goals work best when they are achieved by incremental changes, not complete and instant overhauls.  Our society is always looking for the quick solution.  What else would explain the popularity of shows where people lose a hundred pounds in a matter of months, become professional dancers in a few weeks, or meet, date, and get engaged in less than a season?

1. Doing nothing at all.  For as many times as I’ve failed, I’m still not giving up.  A new year is a chance to reflect on where we’ve been and where we still want to go.  I’m giving up the lists.  I’m not using my day off to make major changes that will overwhelm me.  But I am going to resolve to be more patient and loving and to appreciate the blessings in my life.

Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed, you can read about some even bigger mistakes I’ve made in Giving Myself Away.

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