Tag Archive: goals

Recommitting to the Goal, Again and Again


Right now, I’m in the midst of the two biggest challenges that I’ve ever chosen to undertake. What they have in common is that there is no linear path to the destination. Instead, there is a roundabout route with detours, roadblocks, and occasional dead ends. And, of course, there’s no road map.

My first challenge is parenting my toddler son with patience and compassion.

For me, taking care of a newborn was a piece of cake compared with parenting a toddler. I would take the spit-up and dozens of diaper changes and feedings every two hours around the clock in a heartbeat if I could trade the irrational tantrums, the constant demands and interruptions, and the times that my toddler bites me on the leg repeatedly and laughs about it. To him, it’s a fun game.

The last item has me at the end of my rope. I’ve read that toddlers bite for a number of reasons: to relieve teething pain, to get a reaction, to seek attention, or even to show affection — not because they will grow up to be a Dexter Morgan-class psychopath one day. But still, when I am trying to cook dinner and have to ward off his little fangs in my leg again and again, I find myself getting furious and exasperated instead of giving him a firm but loving course correction.

A major reason that I handled a newborn with relative ease was that I was on maternity leave then; the only thing I was doing was parenting, and I could recoup any lost sleep during the day. Now I am working a full-time job outside of the house, then I start my second shift as a mom, and after that, my third shift as a writer. Every day, I am exhausted.

I’ve found that parenting is a series of daily victories and failures. Among today’s victories were making my son giggle by playing peekaboo, and reading him the same books several times in a row. Among today’s failures were handing him to his father when he was screaming for no discernible reason, and saying, “You deal with him. I just can’t right now.”

I hope to do better tomorrow. I fail, I learn, and I recommit to being a loving parent. I focus on the goal of teaching my son to be a kind, resilient, curious person, and doing whatever it takes to get there.

My second challenge is writing the Reschool Yourself book.

As incredibly difficult as I’m finding it to be the parent of a toddler, it’s been even more difficult for me to write a book. I wish that reading a whole lot of inspirational, female-protagonist memoirs translated neatly to producing one myself, but unfortunately that has not been the case. I wish that writing countless blog posts added up to writing a book, but it turns out that they’re completely different beasts. Blog posts are short and make a single point. Books have a plot and structure, characters and dialogue, and a narrative arc that keeps readers turning the pages. Their sheer word count is daunting.

The six years that I’ve been working on the book have been comprised of a series of peaks and valleys. I’ll get some inspiration that will put fuel in the tank, and then it will run out and I’ll be stuck again.

Seth Godin describes this phenomenon as “The Dip,” or “the long slog between starting and mastery.” He describes the excitement that we all feel at the beginning of a new project, and the inevitable letdown once the novelty wears off and the hard work begins. All of a sudden, things get real. When they hit a low point, that’s the Dip. Godin says that if the goal is not worth the effort — that is, you don’t really want it, or your hard work won’t ever pay off — you should strategically quit, and quit fast. But if it is worth the effort, then you’ll be in the minority of winners if you keep going through the Dip and come out on the other side. A key to succeeding, he says, is knowing that the Dip is there, and that you’re currently in the middle of it.

I’ve let the Dip stop me from finishing the book many times, but what’s more important is that I’ve eventually picked myself back up and recommitted to my goal. Each time, it’s difficult to overcome the pure inertia — the habit of not working on the book — and the self-loathing I feel for having failed once again. But I do it anyway. I will keep pushing through Dip after Dip and recommitting to my goal as many times as it takes to get the book done.

I am also trying to keep in mind a vision of what it will feel like to achieve my goal, to run my hands over the cool, smooth covers of my book and to hear readers say that my words made a difference in their lives. The comments that people leave on my blog posts give me little glimpses of this feeling, and they refuel my tank when it’s running low.

To recap, what I’ve learned from being in the midst of these two tough challenges: Envision how you’ll feel once you achieve your goal. Know that you’ll hit peaks and valleys along the way, possibly more times than you can count. Celebrate your smallest of successes, forgive yourself for even your biggest failures, and recommit to your goal as many times as it takes. I’ll be right there with you.

This post is part of the seven-day Your Turn Challenge hosted by Seth Godin’s team. Flickr photo by keltickleton.

Introducing the Reschool Yourself Book Cover


One of my great fortunes in life is to have married an enormously talented graphic and web designer. Darren and I started dating just as I was beginning the Reschool Yourself project, and he volunteered to do the logo, website, business cards, and all manner of other design-related tasks. His latest beautiful creation is a cover for the future Reschool Yourself book.

Seeing this cover makes my stomach do a happy flip-flop because I can actually picture my book on the bookstore shelf next to my favorite memoirs of transformation, such as Eat, Pray, Love, The Happiness Project, and Wild. I can imagine running my hands over the cool, smooth covers of my hardback and seeing my own words in black and white as I flip through the pages.

Little by little, I’m getting closer to realizing the dream. There are many more steps to take before I can publish the book — more writing and editing and finding an agent and building an audience — but the cover gives me fresh motivation to keep moving forward. This image will be the centerpiece of my vision collage for the coming year, which has a pretty good track record of keeping me focused on my goals and making them a reality.

Perhaps one day soon you’ll see this cover in a bookstore near you. A girl can dream!

Top 10 Themes of My 2011 Vision Collage

The reason that I look forward to the New Year isn’t champagne, or the national holiday. It’s the chance to make a fresh start with a new vision collage.

Last year Darren, my friend Jamie, and I got together to make collages and presented them to each other. On New Year’s Day this year, we shared our 2010 collages again before explaining our new ones. There’s something about cutting out a picture of what you want to create in your life and gluing it to posterboard that brings you closer to it. I found it fascinating how we’d achieved most of our 2010 goals (see mine here). Jamie found the man she wants to marry, and I got engaged to mine. Darren launched Creative Distillery, our creative agency, and he ate a steak (yes, that was actually one of his goals).

It’s also fun to see how each person’s collage reflects his or her personality. Darren’s was so graphically stylish that it could hang in a modern art museum. Jamie’s was organized and precise. Mine was colorful and filled the entire canvas.

Darren's vision collage is a work of art

Darren's vision collage is a work of art

Here are this year’s Top 10 Themes of my vision collage:

1. Blessings. The words in the center are from “Real Simple,” which asked its readers to name what they were grateful for, then compiled their answers. Glancing at these words remind me to be thankful for blessings like my family, laughter, Friday, and chocolate.

2. Personal strength. I’m committed to taking up more space in a room (figuratively, not physically!). We could all learn something from Oprah. She is a role model who capitalizes on her own power and uses it to help other people become their fullest selves.

3. Pitching and publishing. I’m pitching the “Reschool Yourself” book at the Writer’s Digest conference in New York tomorrow. I’ve decided that 2011 is the year that I make the book happen.

4. Personal finance. It’s an ongoing challenge for me to manage my money. Look at George. He’s happy. I will be happier, too, when I become better friends with him.

5. Healthy lifestyle. This has vastly improved since I moved to Mississippi, but I still could enjoy the outdoors more often, have coffee with my girlfriends, laugh about my kittens’ antics, stretch, sleep, and smile.

6. Explore the South. I often travel outside the state but haven’t explored many nearby destinations. This year I’d like to take scenic drives to Natchez, Oxford, Memphis, and the Gulf Coast.

7. Appearance. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to wear at least one accessory per day, even if I’m working from home. Dressing up a little makes me feel good about myself and more pulled together.

8. Organization. “Declutter Your Life” is another ongoing challenge for me. I’ve invested in Rubbermaid tubs and filing cabinets to clear clutter from surfaces, and I usually abide by my friend Sara’s “touch mail once” rule. Dealing with it right away prevents those dreaded stacks of old mail that stick around for ages.

9. Volunteering. The picture of the little girl represents my desire to volunteer. Those of us who work for nonprofits tend to think that our paid work takes the place of volunteering, but there’s something different about giving one’s time for nothing but the joy of it. I think I’d like to read to children. I miss being around them.

10. Training my brain. With all the distractions I deal with every day, my focus and memory have suffered. I firmly believe that you can get a flabby brain into shape, so I’ve bought new books of crossword puzzles and brain teasers to do just that. I’ll be refreshing my Spanish to help scale up IDEA’s education work in Puerto Rico. There’s nothing like learning a foreign language to exercise one’s mind.

I’m going to hang the collage above my desk, as I did last year, to put me back on track when I lose my way. I’m already looking forward to next year’s collage so I can see what I was able to manifest in my life.


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Have you done a vision collage or a vision board? What was your experience like?

Four Ways to Make Life More Like a Road Trip

Since I got back from a six-day, cross-country trip on Tuesday, I’ve been craving the open road. Last week Darren and I left my hometown of Sonoma, California, and drove my Jetta and most of my belongings to my new home in Jackson, Mississippi. Each day of the trip was so exciting that it’s felt like a bit of a letdown to readjust to a normal routine. In order to maintain the energy of the road trip, I’ve decided to take four major lessons from it and try to apply them to my everyday life.

1. Do things that you enjoy, especially with someone who makes everything fun.

Darren, my partner in crime, was thoughtful enough to fly to the Bay Area for just a couple of days to help me pack and keep me company on the drive east. I’m glad that we already spend so much time together working from home, so there was no question that we could handle nearly a week of 24-7 together time. Even though I don’t love being cooped up in the car, we made it fun by playing cheesy road trip mixes (including “Country Roads,” “King of the Road,” and Darren’s least favorite of the bunch, “Loveshack”) and making up games.