Last month my children went to school. ALL of my children went to school.
Like school NOT in my house.
People, do you know how big this is? For the first time in fourteen years, I have regular time with no short people begging for snacks or squabbling over crayons. Between the hours of 7:30 and 2:30 if I put something down, when I come back 10 minutes later, IT’S STILL THERE.
This is HUGE, as our (not so) estimable President is fond of saying.
After milling around confused for a couple weeks, I decided to treat this as the watershed moment it is. It is time to make some changes.
Because my consumerism is awakened at any thought of challenge, the first thing I did was buy a new planner. My bullet journal was almost full, and my friend Virginia had been raving about her Best Self Journal since our trip to Ojai. So, I bought me one.
Here it is. Isn’t it pretty? It’s navy to boot. These people speak my love language.
There was one small problem. This journal/planner thing was based around the idea of meeting three large goals in three months. And… to make it worse, at the beginning of the journal you actually have to write down your goals.
For the last five years, my goals have been something like this:
- Make it to bed alive (without killing anyone else, if possible).
- Put on clean underwear every.damn.day.
- Try not to drink the entire bottle of wine.
Somehow that didn’t seem like it was going to cut it.
I needed big goals. Lofty goals. New Season of Life goals. AND…goals I had some chance in hell of achieving. Obviously, “purchase self-cleaning house,” wouldn’t make the list.
So, I walked and I thought. And thought. And thought. I dismissed goals that were subjective and fundamentally about other people. Out with, “Be a better mother.” I dismissed all the anti-goals: “Quit eating crap,” and “Stop whining.” I abandoned the goals that seemed great at first, but really had nothing to do with what I wanted to spend my time on, “Read the classics,” “Buy a new car.”
Somewhere around day three, mile 15, it came to me. The three goals that would change my life. Not because they were so amazing, but because achieving them would prove to me, once and for all, that I can do any damn thing I set my mind to.
Goal #1: Write a really bad (or not so bad) novel.
Yes, in 13 weeks. Lucky for me, National Novel Writing Month is November, so for at least four weeks, there will be tens of thousands of other crazy people trying to pull off a 50,000 book in record time.
Quality is not the issue here. No pressure to be brilliant, which is good, because fiction is not in my wheelhouse. Just a goal to write a story with something resembling a beginning, middle, and end by the deadline of December 31st.
Why? Because it scares the crap out of me. I don’t like doing things poorly. I get so hung up on doing a thing well, that I often don’t do it at all. Where’s the fun in that?
Goal #2: Run a 10K.
I should probably mention that currently, I can’t run a 5K. Or a 1K, come to think of it. I ran cross country in high school a million years ago, but I was terrible. I’m pretty sure my six-year-old could beat my best time. But I have the Couch-to-10K app (which conveniently comes packaged in a 12-week program) and a new pair of running shoes (see goal induced consumerism above) and I’m going to run 6.2 miles by Christmas.
Why? Because it scares the crap out of me. For 30+ years I’ve fallen back on the excuse of “I’m just not very athletic,” to explain why I don’t run races or race bikes or rock-climb or any of those other things that I admire in other people. Besides, I’ve heard there’s this great endorphin high that comes from running, and since I’m WAY too old for drugs, I think I’ll check it out.
Goal #3: Make $12,000.
Gulp. This one seems so base and graceless. And also so HARD. Because whereas Goal #1 and Goal #2 are essentially completion grades (if I plug away at them daily, they will happen) and utterly under my control, this particular goal is merit-based, and somewhat out of my hands. I could TOTALLY fail.
I’m a freelance writer. I get paid when people hire me, or when they support this blog (more on that in a minute). I’ve been working part-time for a long time. It’s great. I get to do what I’m good at and avoid the stuff that makes me squirm. Moving to full time will require me to do the one thing I’ve resisted for my entire life – engage in relentless self-promotion.
So why do it? Because it scares the crap out of me. Also, I have five kids. Five kids that demand to be fed several times a day and refuse to cram their feet into shoes they’ve outgrown. Last year my husband co-founded an arts education non-profit. It’s the big dream he’s been chasing for 20 years, but it doesn’t come with a big paycheck. If I don’t make this work, he’ll be forced to throw in the towel right as everything is taking off. I refuse to let that happen. So, self-marketing here I come.
Why am I telling all of you all of this?
I just read Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. She’s the author of the Happiness Project, and in this latest book, she explores how we form and change our everyday habits. It’s a great book, well thought-out, well researched, and inspiring. Rubin talks about the four tendencies, which I won’t get into too much here, except to say that I fall solidly within the Obliger camp. Obligers are externally motivated. They will bend over backward to keep commitments to others but without accountability, they struggle to keep commitments to themselves.
Instead of suggesting that Obligers become more self-accountable, Rubin recommends we stop fighting our natural tendency and find a way to make it work for us. She suggests accountability partners.
You see where I’m going here, right?
You, all of you, are my accountability partners. Congratulations.
I’ve made this big public declaration and now I HAVE to live up to it (or die trying). So, for the next 13 weeks, I’ll be taking you along for the ride. It’ll be like Extreme Makeover: Life Edition, and you’ll have a front-row seat. You can watch me flail and founder and pick myself back up and do better and try harder.
I did a complete site overhaul to celebrate (you noticed that, did you?)
Don’t worry, I’ll still be posting about the regular ridiculousness. With five kids and President Trump, that’s unlikely to go away anytime soon. But I’ll also be giving you the down and dirty about tackling all the things that scare the crap out of me in the midst of it.
If you want a closer look – sneak peaks of the novel drafts, behind the scenes photos, videos, & rantings – come join me over on Patreon. Patreon is a platform designed to let people support creators and creations that they enjoy. They recently overhauled the site and it’s pretty exciting. If you sign up to be a patron you’ll have access to all sorts of extras. It’s a way to help me hit my goals and satisfy your inner voyeur at the same time. Win-win.
So, here we go.
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