Monday, February 12, 2018

7 Steps to EFFECTIVE Goal Setting

            Have you given up on your goals and dreams and let others’ goals and dreams become yours? Do you constantly let life sidetrack you? Do you know how to practice deliberate avoidance?

            Today we complete our series of posts about goal setting. While the other posts helped you dig deeply into the person you are, put your life and history into perspective, identify your talents and gifts, and discover how others see you, today you’ll learn some techniques for setting focused and achievable goals. You’ll discover ways to live life on purpose rather than in a reactionary, chaotic way. And with that will come success, peace, and a satisfying sense of accomplishment. So let’s get started!

Know where you’re going
            First, you don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’re going. Or, to put it another way: If you don’t know where you’re going then any train will get you there. I think you get the point. If your life has no direction, and you don’t know your final destination, then any ticket will do. But do you want just any old ticket and any old destination? How satisfying would that be?

A life story
            I just returned from Hawaii, the land of my growing-up-years. I didn’t go there on a “Gee, I’d-like-to-return-to-Hawaii” whim. Last year, I got a strong sense that I needed to return. It was more than a sense, actually. I could feel the Spirit of God urging me to go, that I had work to do there. Work on myself.
            It’s not as though it’s been a while since we’ve been back. For the last ten years, we usually return every couple of years. Several times I’ve returned for high school reunions. One year the engineer and I returned to renew our marriage vows on Waikiki Beach. But this year wouldn’t be packed with fun and games, or incorporate a lot of beach lounging.
            Without going into detail, I had a rough childhood both mentally and physically. Spiritually, too. And all of these years later, I still have psychological demons running races in my head about all of it, a mental memory box loaded with regrets, shame, unhappiness, pain, resentment and anger. And as I approach my milestone birthday this month, I knew (after the Lord’s pressing) that I needed to slay those demons and get on with life. I needed to do some forgiving, ask for forgiveness, and return to the sites of some of the events to do the unloading.
            So I told the engineer and asked him if he’d be interested in returning in late January/early February, to both accomplish those goals, experience Hawaii in the winter, and attend my school’s huge fundraising carnival to work in one of the food booths with other members of my class.
            It didn’t take too much convincing. For years he’s been talking about traveling to Hawaii in February to see the humpback whales that make Hawaii their home from November to April. I warned him this trip wouldn’t be the vacationy type, but he agreed. Even said he’d hold my hand.
            So we went, and I unloaded my baggage and started viewing life in a different way and seeing some of the events with a different perspective. I developed a deeper appreciation for some of the places I used to inhabit, and spent some serious time divulging my pain with a dear high school friend who I wanted to reconnect with on a deeper level. Some of it wasn’t pretty; most of it wasn’t easy. Oftentimes I was exhausted after the mental releasing. But it was a success. And I now feel more healed, refreshed and at peace. I feel as though the next chapter of my life can begin without the pitiful load I’d been dragging around all of these years. I feel free.

            And the engineer got to see whales! Oodles of them. And the lunar eclipse, and a spectacular sunrise over the islands of Molokai, Maui and Lanai. Soon after sunrise the humpbacks puffed water spouts into the air, flipped their flukes, smacked them down on the water and even breached a few times for us. Water gushed up like Old Faithful geyser. The whales put on quite a show. And the engineer and I were content. We returned to our hotel room, took a short nap, went stand-up paddling and then floated around in the Waikiki Beach water for an hour or more, just watching the clouds and tourists. It was a great way to end the trip.
            And now I’m back in my Southwest home, grateful that I accomplished my goals. I feel accomplished. I know in my heart that I was on the right path. I had the right ticket. I can finally embrace my history and the place I was raised.

            But what if I planned to go to Hawaii, but, instead, the ticket agent put me on a flight to Canada, or Europe? Because I wasn’t specific about where I wanted to go. Because I told her any destination would do?
            Nice places to go, yes, but why would I be going to those locations if I had work to do elsewhere. How would I have accomplished my goals in Canada or Europe? I wouldn’t have accomplished anything outside of sightseeing because I wasn’t supposed to be in those places, at that time. I had a purpose, and Canada or Europe weren’t in the plans.
            I needed to formulate my goals, my plans and make my reservations. I needed to be intentional. And you do too.

Some of the specifics you need to keep in mind when you set goals are:

1. Be determined to stop letting life continually sidetrack you. Be more deliberate about your choices.
2. Practice deliberate avoidance, while leaving some room for intrusions that will bless you and others and grow you physically, emotionally and spiritually. God-ordained intrusions. (Avoiding things, people and activities that drain the life out of you and deter you from achieving your goals is critical to success.)
3. Learn to integrate you—your talents, gifts, and passions—into every area of your life.
4. Focus on increasing your peace, joy and happiness. Congregate around people of peace, those like-minded in your faith to re-energize and focus.
5. Pursue the right goals or focus points for you and your family. Unless you believe, or are sure, another person’s goals would benefit you, don’t be hasty about trying to duplicate them in your life.
6. Say no to things and people that dull your soul. (This includes what you read, watch and listen to.)
7. Make conscious, well thought-out decisions about your life and career.
8. Try to have a clear perspective on life—how you want and should use your talents, gifts, and energy.
9. Be intentional about what you do and how you do it.
10. Cultivate your gifts so you can glorify God, bless others, and know you’re running your race well.

            These aren’t laws to live by but methods to use to live a more balanced, enjoyable, productive life. When you live that way you have the energy to give to good things, and, when you do get exhausted in the work, you still have a giddy sense of accomplishment and a deep satisfaction that you are living the life God wants you to live.

            Now for the mechanics of specific setting goals:

1. Make the goal specific—not general.
Don’t just plan to lose weight. Write down how much weight you want to lose. Or what dress size you want to get to. Make it specific.

2. Make the goal measurable.
You’ve got to be able to put a number, or a date, on it. If you’re trying to save money for something, know exactly how much it costs, how much you can reasonably save per week toward the item (be realistic), and then set up an account (or piggy bank) to put those funds in. When our older son was little, he liked to save for Legos. BIG ones. So, I’d construct a goal graph with a stamp of a hot air balloon at the top. For every fifteen minutes of homework he did, without complaining, another section of the graph was colored in. (He got to do the coloring.) Those chunks represented actual money to him, which he would get from me when his goal was met. He could see his goal and how he was progressing. It’s a great mental motivator.

3. Make your goal attainable.
Can you really afford that brand new sports car you’re desiring? Are you really going to lose ten pounds of fat in one week? (Maybe, if you are deathly ill. Otherwise, it’s unlikely.) Since some medical professionals say losing a bundle of weight in a short period of time is harder on your heart than gaining it, this would not only be an unreasonable goal but a foolish one.

4. Write down your goal(s).
Research shows that people who write down their goals are more likely to accomplish them. 42% more! Keep a journal, write it down. Share it with someone else.

5. Have an accountability buddy.
Have a trusted person you can share your frustrations and goals and setbacks and successes with. You'll raise your success rate likelihood to over 70%!

6. Use tools if necessary, or possible, to help you.
Athletes use goal sheets and performance graphs. I used a financial goal graph with my son. I write down my daily goals in a notebook and check them off as I accomplish them. I have a focus for the year and write those down. When I tend to be general in my goal setting, like when I say I’d like to make a certain amount of money with my writing in a year without doing the math to figure out just exactly what I have to sell and at how much a word so I know what to focus on, I’m not as successful. Increase your chance of successfulness. Find tools you like and will use, and put them to work for you.

7. Plaster those goals around your house so they’re visible.
They’re great reminders as to why you do what you do, and what you’re working for. And don’t forget to assess at the end of each month to see what kind of progress you’re making, and make any necessary adjustments. Don’t quit, unless you’ve decided you really shouldn’t be pursuing that particular goal any longer. Just make adjustments, or see how your goal morphs naturally into something else.

Before we leave this topic, here are a couple more questions to ask:

1. What’s one big thing you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done? Maybe it’s no longer possible. If not, mourn it and bury it. If it is possible, then move on to the following question:

2. Why not? What, or who, is holding you back? And be honest about your answers. More than likely, you’ll discover the limiting factor to be you.

Upcoming Social Media Changes!

As a heads up to my readers, I will be taking a blogging break for about a month to celebrate my big birthday month and embark on a new goal the Lord has set before me to utilize my gifts in another way.

In mid-March, I’ll have a brand new website dedicated to helping you live better—emotionally, physically and spiritually. It will combine my health and fitness background with the important spiritual components, and I’ll be able to provide you with information about professionals who can help you delve more deeply into the psycho-emotional aspects of your life. 

The blog posts will be more snack-sized, so you can read quickly and incorporate the tips more easily and effectively into your life. I’ll also let you know what’s going on in my inspirational writing world and direct you to books and articles I think you’ll find helpful in your quest to live a more balanced, happy life. I know you’re going to be just as excited about the change as I am!

At that time, this blog will revert to its original purpose—to help families recover emotionally, physically and spiritually after the loss of a baby at birth, soon after birth, or in pregnancy. Posts will be made monthly, with pregnancy news and updated research provided.

Keep checking in here, though. I’ll keep you updated with the progress and give you more information on what the website and blog will focus on.

New year, new decade, new season of life, new purpose. We all have them. What’s yours?

May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

Photos courtesy of Google Images and Andrea Arthur Owan

Monday, February 5, 2018

Putting Your Life Into Perspective: Part 3

IN OUR EFFORT TO PUT OUR LIVES IN PERSPECTIVE, we need to take a step that can sometimes be uncomfortable or painful, and which is always eye opening.

How do others perceive you?
            After you’ve answered all of your introspective questions, you need to take a brave step. And that step includes asking your loved ones and friends to give their assessment of “you.” You need to ask them—and LISTEN WITHOUT TALKING—to their response.
            Some of the questions you could ask are:

1. What do you think my strengths are?
2. What are my weaknesses?
3. Where have I fallen short in our relationship?
4. In what areas could I do better?
5. Am I a good listener?
6. What do you see as my gifts?
7. What bad habits do I have that bother you?
8. What are my positive traits?
9. What are my negative traits?
10. When you think of me, what words and behaviors come to mind?         

            Their viewpoint might not be spot on all of the time, but you need this type of assessment in order to see yourself fully and clearly, from all angles. Listen to them. Ask them to clarify if necessary, but DO NOT try to defend yourself or your actions. That will only shut them down, and they won’t share. And you need them to share and feel safe doing it. So stuff any combative, contrary thoughts. Take notes. Use a recorder. And then thank them for their honesty.

How do you perceive yourself?
            Quite often we’re easier on ourselves than we should be, and just as often we’re harder on ourselves. And that last truth can impact every aspect of our lives—positively or negatively.
            Back in 2013, the famous soap company Dove released a series of short films featuring women who were the subjects of FBI-trained forensic artist Gil Zamora. Zamora. He did not see the woman but would ask her to describe herself and then draw a picture of her based on what she told the him she looked like, how she described herself. Then he drew a picture of the woman based entirely on how a stranger described her. In every case the stranger’s perception of the woman always produced a more beautiful drawing than the one produced on the description she provided of herself. 
            The moral of that story? Our lack of contentment and feelings of inadequacy often come from within rather than from reality; and we usually pay too much attention to what advertisers and marketers tell us we should look like and their implications of where we’re falling short! (To see the YouTube video on the artist drawing and the women's responses, I have provided a link to one of the videos. You'll find it at the end of this post.)

            So ask someone else how they see you. It's scary, but you might be pleasantly surprised. And it might completely change what goals you're going to set for yourself next week!

            That’s a tough assignment for you, so we’ll stop there.
            Next week we’ll move into goal setting and how to form your goals and write them in such a way as to increase your chance of success at achieving them!

Here's the link!

Make it a great week!

May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

Photos courtesy of Google Images           

Monday, January 29, 2018

Putting Your Life in Perspective: Part 2

WERE YOU ABLE TO TAKE THE QUESTIONS from last week’s post and put your less-than-laudable life events into perspective?
            It’s not easy. Humans tend to hold grudges. For some of us, that’s all we hold. Or something triggers the memory of a negative life event, and there we are. Right back in it, hearing words, seeing the people, feeling the pain, with the adrenaline kicking in and the anger festering. Reliving it in all its gruesome glory. Letting your life be consumed by it.
            That’s one of the things we need to do—stop that process in its tracks, before we’ve opened the door on it and invited it in. There are a couple of ways we can do that.


Take every thought captive
            There’s a great passage in Scripture that gives us the template for how to control our thoughts. You can find it in Second Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 5. But I’m going to start at verse 3, to get the full affect of the concept.

            “ For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.
            For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but might in God for
            pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high
            thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every
            thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (emphasis mine).

            I like the way Eugene Peterson renders it in his contemporary Bible reading, The   

            “The world is unprincipled. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there! The world
            doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way — never
            have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or
            manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt
            culture. We use our powerful god-tools for smashing warped
            philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God,
            fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of
            life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground
            of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.”

            Certainly all of us have felt, at one time or another, that the world is dog-eat-dog, fend for yourself, and that the world doesn’t fight fair. Unfortunately, many well-meaning teachers tell you that—inside—people are generally good. They’re not. All you have to do is read the papers, listen to the news, and look at some of the things that have happened to you to know it’s not true. I don’t need to give you Scripture verification to prove it, although I could.
            When it comes right down to it, hard work never guarantees anything; and the world is a rough place. But there is good in it, and that goodness comes from God’s mercy, love and Holy Spirit that guides men’s good thoughts and right actions. Other, evil forces—and our general bent toward selfishness, pride, and preservation—generate other behaviors.
            And knowing that helps us put all of those negative events into perspective.
            And knowing that God will give you a new heart and make all things new when you turn your life over to Christ helps immensely in navigating life and putting into proper perspective. Unfortunately, we don’t always do that or know how to do that.

Doing your part
            It took a while for it to dawn on me that the passage says, “…take every thought captive…” I’d always prayed that God would remove it from me. All I had to do was pray that he would. Beg Him to remove it.
            Then I realized the significance, and meaning, of that word “take.” That meant the responsibility was mine to put a lasso around it, bundle it up and actually cart it to God. And when I got it to Him, I needed to leave it there and shut the door on it. I needed to trust Him to know what to do with it, and then go on my merry way. With my load lightened and my perspective altered. Or at last not hampered by my negative thoughts, anxieties and fears.
            If you’re a believer, you have the tools. You just need to use them. It’s your responsibility. He’s not going to just rush in and remove them. You need to take those painful, anger-provoking memories to Christ. And then refuse to let them have their way with you physically, emotionally and spiritually again! Enough complaining. Enough negative reminiscing. Enough finger pointing. Take responsibility for your thoughts and stop letting them control you.

            In an on-line article on (link below), you’ll find steps you can use to make this easier, although it isn’t always easy. The more you practice it, the better it gets, and the more power you realize you have over your thought life and behaviors. The article title is “6 Ways to Take Your Thoughts Captive.” The six steps are:

1. Accept responsibility for your thoughts.
2. Your mind—not just your behavior—must change. (Romans 12:2
3. Think through your problems rather than just react to them.
4. Take your disabling thoughts captive through confession. (Romans 12:21)
5. Choose to focus your thoughts on the right things. (Phil. 4:8)
6. It is possible.

A second way you can capture your thoughts is by—

Writing them down and then letting them go

            Journaling can be a great cathartic. You can spill out your guts on a piece of paper. A place no one else’s eyeballs can eavesdrop. A place you can stain the pages with your tears and no one else will know. And then you can slam the book and never read it again. You can symbolically let it go. And if you work really hard at it, the symbolism will be effective in yanking it from your mind permanently!

            And I found a great little journal the other day at a local women’s store that could help you. It’s called Write It Down, Let It Go: A Worry Relief Journal.

           The little journal-sized book by Lindsay Kramer offers a great introduction to the process of lassoing negative and painful thoughts and transferring them to the written page. (Hand writing them is much better than typing them on your computer because of how handwriting engages and affects the brain.) I love how she says that after writing down your worries and stressful words to
            “decide that those worrisome and stressful words are imprisoned on
            the page, never to make their way back into your body Allow them
            to be held captive on the paper because they have found a new
            home and a new space to fill.”

            Kramer also gives you prompts to get you thinking and writing, and she intersperses the negative writing pages with positive, uplifting prompts. Snapped one up myself! You can find the book on (And I DO NOT get any royalties from the recommendation or sale of this book!)
            I’ve also done things like write down my worries, agonies and pain, prayed over them and thrown them in a stoked fireplace. Or ripped the paper into shreds and tossed it into the Pacific Ocean. The physical act of letting it go serves as a reminder that you did let it go and shouldn’t entertain its return when it does coming rapping on your door again.

            You always need to remember that life consists of chapters that you cannot re-write or blot out. You are on a transformational journey. As author James Scott Bell calls them “doorways of no return.”
            What you need to ask yourself right now is:
            What doorways do I need to close?
            What doorways do I need to walk through this year?


Next week we’ll continue putting life into perspective on our journey to develop focus points and specific goals. Next week will be short, although perhaps a challenge. It’ll be worth doing, though!

“6 Ways to Take Your Thoughts Captive” link
Until next week.

May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

Photos courtesy of Google Images and Andrea Arthur Owan