Goals (reprise)

In my post on goal setting for writers, I wrote about things like setting measurable, achievable goals. Today’s longer post dives deeper into the idea of using goals to achieve what you want in life. It’s inspired by Brian Tracy’s Goals! (The link is to the new edition that just came out in December; I got the audio version of the 2003 original from the library, in keeping with my longstanding goal to get a handle on my overflowing bookshelves.)

The 5-minute summary

Write down your goals, make plans to achieve them, and work on your plans every single day.

Success starts inside

Tracy says, “you become what you think about most of the time.” Once you have clear goals, you’ll move towards them. Think about the future, what you want out of life, and who you want to be, and that’s what your life will be about. Don’t constantly think about the past, all the reasons you haven’t succeeded yet, all the people who hurt you – those negative emotions will hold you down. To free yourself, see yourself as in control of your own fate. Psychologists call this “locus of control,” and you’re happier if you have an internal one as opposed to external.

The timing for this couldn’t be better for me. In November, I used NaNoWriMo to write a memoir-y piece in which I dug deep into old memories, looking for characters and emotions I could work into my fiction. Great idea, right? Except…it was kind of like opening Pandora’s box. I tapped right into a deep well of fears, doubts, resentments, and guilt. And blame, which Tracy describes as the trunk of the tree of negative emotions. Good for my fiction, no doubt.


Clarify your values, because your goals need to be congruent with them. Integrity is the overarching value. When you have integrity, you live in alignment with your values, which makes you a happier person. Create a big dream, clearly envision your future, and don’t let self-limiting beliefs of your own inadequacy get in your way. You need burning desire to sustain the kind of work you’ll need to put in to achieve the highest level of success. Analyze your beliefs because whatever you believe with conviction becomes your reality. Your own self-limiting beliefs can be the biggest obstacle to your success. You have the intelligence, talent, and creativity you need; you have more potential than you could ever use in your lifetime. Reprogram yourself with positive statements, and learn to see setbacks as part of the plan because you’ll learn from them.

Live as though you were already the excellent person you want to become.

Now that you’ve set the stage…

You’re ready to determine and clarify your goals. You can’t hit a target you can’t see. Keep returning to the question, what do I want for my life? Start general, then move to more and more specific goals. Do a baseline assessment: identify your starting point, what good habits are helping you, what bad ones are holding you back, what your best and weakest qualities are, and what new habits and qualities you need to develop. Set deadlines and benchmarks to measure your progress. Commit to them, and discipline yourself to complete them. If you miss a deadline, set a new one: the more you use deadlines, the better you get at setting and achieving them, and the more dependable you become.

Achieving your goals

Remove roadblocks instead of giving up. Brainstorm potential obstacles and focus on solving the ones that will make the most difference. Most of your constraints will be within yourself. Don’t focus on causes of the roadblocks, but rewrite them as positive goals. Expect to fail and fall short many times.

Failure is an opportunity to begin again more intelligently.

Tracy says the best way to develop yourself is in the direction of your natural talents. Signs to look for: you enjoy doing a thing, you do it well, time stands still when you do it, and you really admire and respect other people who do it. Once you know what “it” is, become an expert: commit to excellence, to becoming one of the best people in your field. Put your whole heart into it. Work on developing the skills you need to be the best, by practicing imperfectly until you can do them perfectly. Remember that the top people in your field were at one time not even in the field at all.

Look for opportunities to help other people and make their lives easier. You’ll need lots of help to achieve your goals. Be kind, courteous, and compassionate; get to know people, and recognize and compliment their work. Come prepared, arrive early, volunteer, and cultivate a reputation as the person everyone can depend on. Choose a reference group (the people you associate with) of people you look up to; positive, goal-oriented people that you like, admire, and respect. Don’t neglect your home life, either. Treat everyone like a million dollar customer, and look for ways to make their lives better.

Plan how to achieve your goal. Even if you never look at the plan again, the process enables you to organize your thinking, figure out how to compensate for flaws or weaknesses, identify resources you need, focus on first things first, and avoid wasting time on things that aren’t possible with existing resources. Expect plans to fail at first, and learn from those failures. Manage your time by maintaining prioritized lists of what you need to do to achieve your goals, making decisions about what’s the most valuable use of your time at the moment, and following through.

The step that will change your life

Get a spiral notebook and write your goals daily. Without looking at yesterday’s goals, list your top 10-15 goals, using the 3P formula: positive, present tense, personal. “I weigh X pounds by December 31, 2018.” Your goals will change from day to day, but over time you’ll refine them into a consistent list. What you’re doing is programming your subconscious so it will help ensure all your actions are consistent with your goals. Do it last thing at night so your subconscious will work on it while you sleep, or first thing in the morning to set up your day. To multiply the effectiveness, add three actions you can take to achieve each goal, also using the 3 Ps: “I plan my meals in advance. I eat fruit for dessert. I exercise every day.”

Take control of your mind

Use mental rehearsal and constructive visualization to help you achieve your goals. By changing your internal pictures, you’ll change your reality. Improvement starts with improving your mental pictures. This sounded like mumbo jumbo to me until Tracy pointed out the flip side of this coin: when you worry excessively, you’re mentally rehearsing the negative, with the result that your life is worse than it needs to be. I do believe that, and have a handful of aphorisms squirreled away in my brain, like:

Don’t borrow trouble, or the more fun-to-say don’t trouble trouble till trouble troubles you.

So my mind is open, which is Tracy’s next point: be open to possibility that comes through serendipity or synchronicity, and be open to new ideas. Change will happen, and you have to deal with things as they are. Be flexible – be clear about your goals, but flexible about the process of achieving them. Tap into your intuition by either working on your goal wholeheartedly or taking a break and getting your mind busy elsewhere.

Strengthen your creativity by using “mind storming” to generate ideas. Write your problem as a question, and force yourself to come up with at least 20 answers. The last ones will be really hard, but sometimes that’s where the breakthrough insight occurs. You can take the best idea and repeat the exercise by writing it as a question (“how can I…”); and you can repeat the exercise on the original question every day until you get the insight you need. Use mind storming to do scenario planning; start by thinking of the three worst and three best things that could happen in the next few months, then ask how to guard against the setbacks and how to encourage and take advantage of the good things. You need to have options so you can respond to change.

Action, self-discipline, and courage

Do something every day towards achieving your goals. Go beyond what’s expected, and persist until you succeed. Build the habit of persistence; do what you need to do, whether you feel like it or not. Disappointments and adversity are normal parts of life. The higher and more challenging your goals, the more adversity you’ll face. The way you respond to disappointment predicts your success. Don’t give up.

Tackle your fears head-on. Most of us fear failure and rejection, and that’s okay – courage is mastery of fear, not absence of fear. Confronting your fears will diminish them and build your confidence, while hiding from them allows them to grow. Write a list of your fears, identify the one that’s holding you back the most, and ask how it’s holding you back, how it’s helping you, and what the payoff would be for eliminating it. Take actions consistent with courage and self-confidence, and think of yourself as courageous and self-reliant.

Where do I go from here?

There’s a lot of great advice in Brian Tracy’s book, but as he says, the best advice in the world won’t help you if you don’t act on it. I’m going to try the write-your-goals-daily thing for the rest of January 2018, and I believe that will also help me with developing a clear vision and keeping it alive in my conscious and subconscious mind. I love his advice about treating other people well, and his counsel that you become what you think about most of the time. I might cross-stitch that on a sampler to hang over my desk.

What do you think? If you’ve tried any of these ideas, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.



Purging books

Today, I’m acknowledging three things. #1, I am not going to live forever. (What?!?) #2, I am never going to live in an English country manor with an enormous library with shelves to the ceiling. #3, my daughter and granddaughters are not going to see it as a positive thing if they inherit thousands of books. Okay, four things: #4, my paperback Soylent Greencopy of Harry Harrison’s Make Room, Make Room with the movie tie-in picture from Soylent Green, cover price 95 cents, whose glue has disintegrated so the cover is just a holder for the loose pages, isn’t worth any money now and never will be.

So I’m purging my shelves

The Marie Kondo approach didn’t work for me. You know – take all your books out of the shelves and touch each one, and only give shelf space to the ones that spark joy. I’m not the exact same person every day, and I don’t trust myself to guess what will spark joy for Future Me.

Deciding if you can safely purge

The best advice I found online is The Booklover’s Guide to Purging Books, which recommends using Google to help figure out what to get rid of:

  • Can you get it digitally for free?
  • Is it obsolete? This applies mostly to nonfiction.
  • Is it worth something?
  • Is it still in print? I would add, is it available as a paid ebook?

Once you’ve done your research, you can decide:

  • Would you absolutely love reading it again?
  • Is it a book you cherish and want to keep? (Ah, there’s that spark of joy!)

And I would add to that:

  • Is it cited often? I like being able to pull my Modern Library edition of Poe Poeoff the shelf to read The Raven when I come across a reference to it. Same with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics and Shakespeare’s plays. I know I can easily find these things online but what if the internet’s down?

Which brings me to the zombie apocalypse. Or, if you prefer, the lingering illness or debilitating injury. I can easily imagine a scenario in which I’m trapped at home and have no internet or even have no electricity, so couldn’t charge up my Kindle. (And by the way, I’m on my fourth Kindle; they don’t last forever.) This is the real reason I’ve accumulated so many books – the fear of having nothing to read (Twitter calls this abibliophobia).

I’m pretty sure that once I’ve finished my purge, there will still be plenty of things to read in my house. So I’m making a start today with the top shelf of my science fiction paperback bookcase – Aldiss through Bova, with a smattering of others that snuck in because their own shelves were full.

How do you manage to keep your bookshelves under control? I have a feeling I’ll be working on this for a long time. Any tips gladly appreciated.

Living better the Nashville way

I went to an all-day seminar last weekend with my friend Maureen and a group of people from my old office. We got a great group price on tickets. As it turns out, some elements of the conference weren’t exactly my cup of tea (like the woman who planted herself in our friend Tanya’s seat during the morning break and refused to budge – we got the last laugh, though, because after lunch the venue moved our group to a VIP suite), but with 9 speakers, I came away with a bucket full of ideas for making life better.

Intentionality (Dave Ramsey)

  • You become what you think about. Be intentional about what you think about.
  • Decide to change, then change. Set goals that are specific, measurable, have a time limit, are your own, and are in writing.
  • You’re not failing if you don’t quit – you’re experimenting. Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.
  • When choosing between options, think about where you want to be in 10 years.

Priorities (Christy Wright)

  • Spend your time on what’s important to you. Cut out what doesn’t matter, and do more of what you love.
  • Be 100% present. If you tend to get caught by social media (who doesn’t?) think about two questions: 1 – is it more important to know what the rest of the world is doing than to experience what I’m doing? 2 – it is more important for the rest of the world to know what I’m doing than for me to experience it myself?
  • Say yes to your own priorities, not everyone else’s. For people-pleasers: there’s a difference between doing something to be loving and doing it to be loved.

Gratitude and generosity (Chris Brown)

  • You can be resentful or you can be grateful. Gratitude makes you want to give to others.
  • You don’t have to feel rich to act rich – the magic number for feeling rich is always double whatever you have. Be generous.
  • Gratitude breeds contentment and generosity. Try this: every morning when you wake up, think about two things you’re grateful for. Write them down on a running list.

Money (Rachel Cruze and Chris Hogan)

  • Don’t compare yourself to other people. (You’re probably only seeing their highlight reel, anyway.)
  • Stay out of debt, have a plan for your money (a budget), and think before you spend. Rachel Cruze recommends the everydollar app for budgeting.
  • Save for emergencies, then to have 3-6 months of living expenses, and then for the future.
  • Give a little until you can give a lot.
  • Talk about money with your partner and your kids, even if it’s uncomfortable.
  • Plan for retirement so you don’t have to worry about money.
  • Talk about your retirement dreams with your partner. Make the dreams vivid and specific, so you know where you’re going.

Relationships (Les Parrott)

  • The four horsemen that ruin relationships are criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.
  • In contrast to the world of work where the “praise sandwich” has a bad reputation – poor performers may not get the message, and be surprised when they lose their jobs – in a personal relationship, wrapping a negative between two positives makes the message go down easier.
  • Marriage doesn’t make you happy; you make your marriage happy.

Parenting (Meg Meeker)

  • Kids need to know they’re important to their parents. Spend time with them.
  • Don’t take teenager behavior personally.
  • Model great character – integrity, patience, courage, and perseverance.
  • Praise for character, not just for achievements.

Growing up (Anthony O’Neal)

  • Be determined to be the best you can.
  • Be uncomfortable. Don’t let comfort kill your dreams.
  • Mistakes in the past don’t define us, they refine us.

The presenters are headquartered in Nashville, and several of the speakers had that passionate bible-belt presentation style that got the crowd on its feet. They all have books and podcasts. The ones I plan to check out myself are from Christy WrightRachel Cruze, Anthony O’Neal, and the star of the show, Dave Ramsey.


There’s something about being human that makes us less happy than we ought to be. I grew up on A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson and knew a lot of the poems by heart when I was little. One little poem has bounced around in my head all these years:

The world is so full of a number of things,

I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

Research has shown that the benefits of an optimistic outlook include flexible thinking, creativity, longevity, and better health. What better way to solve the problems of the world, then, than to cultivate happiness in ourselves?

According to Dr. Lamees Khorshid, about 40% of our happiness comes from our genetic preset, our predisposition towards being sunny or gloomy. That means over half can be influenced by “happiness habits.”

Happiness and Mindfulness

  • Cultivate positive emotions and work on countering the natural negativity bias (a survival trait when it was important to remember the lion attack). Rewire your brain through practice:
    • Choose to see problems as challenges and opportunities. This will increase your sense of control.
    • Reverse the tendency to blame others when they make mistakes – we tend to blame the environment when we mess up, but think other people cut us off in traffic on purpose. Let it go.
    • Change the channel – choose to forget negative things after they happen.
    • Think happy thoughts.
  • Practice gratitude.
    • Make a list of what you’re grateful for. Keep going past the obvious first few things.
    • Pick one of the people you’re grateful for and write a paragraph about why. Read it to them. It will be good for both of you.
  • Engage in life. Plan your time so you include the things that give you pleasure.
    • Figure out the things that take you to a flow state where you lose track of time, and plan your day to include those things.
    • Identify your time thieves and the things that replenish you. Schedule time for the things that nourish you. Things that give you short-term happiness, like watching tv, can detract from your long-term happiness.
  • Get adequate sleep. Without it, it’s harder to regulate your emotions. You function better and your memory’s better when you have good sleep. A lot of people have trouble sleeping. If you do:
    • Create a sleep climate about an hour before. Dim the lights, do relaxing things. Don’t eat for 2-3 hours before bed, don’t exercise for 4-5 hours before, and avoid stimulants after 2 p.m.
    • Keep a regular schedule, even on weekends.
    • Don’t have a tv, phone, etc. in the bedroom. Keep the lights off.
    • If you’ve been trying to get to sleep (or get back to sleep) for 30 minutes, get up and go do something boring. If you still can’t sleep, do it again. Don’t just lie there and worry about how you ought to be sleeping.
    • Naps reverse your sleep drive. If you have insomnia, skip the naps.
  • Movement and music. If you can only do one thing to improve your mental well-being, make it exercise. A brisk 10-minute walk is better for mild to moderate anxiety and depression than medication. If you have to choose between 30 minutes of sleep and 30 minutes of exercise, you’ll get more benefits from exercise.
    • Don’t schedule exercise for your most tired time of day.
    • Morning workouts give you a stress buffer that lasts through the day, and your schedule’s less likely to be interrupted by things that come up during the day – but if you aren’t a morning person, you won’t stick with it.
    • Make it a routine, not dependent on whether you feel like it. You still get the benefits of doing it even if you don’t want to.
  • Nutrition. A low glycemic diet is best for your mood; it keeps your blood sugar on an even keel. Frequent small meals are better than a couple of large ones. Avoid sugar, which lights up a part of your brain that makes you want more and more – this is even true of sugar you don’t taste that’s been added to non-sweet foods.
  • Manage stress. Identify your stress triggers so you can avoid them or prepare for them. Having a baseline level of energy and physical health (sleep, exercise, nutrition) will help. Use relaxation techniques like deep breathing and rely on your social supports and relationships. If your stress comes from all the unfinished tasks on your to-do list, start with the one thing on the list that will make the greatest difference today.
  • Practice mindfulness. We recycle 95% of the same thoughts every day. Mindfulness keeps us in the here and now. Use meditation, which will improve your ability to process emotions and be less reactive.
    • Non-judging awareness: notice your wandering thought, name it, and then come back to the here and now.
    • Beginner’s mind: don’t expect a life-changing epiphany every time you sit.
  • Take care of relationships. Other people can be a major source of both happiness and stress.
    • The 4 horsemen of broken relationships are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. This applies to friends  and coworkers just as much as it does to couples and families.
    • Check out the Seattle Love Lab for tons of information on this topic.
    • If you have gridlock problems that you can never fix – like your and your uncle’s opposite views on politics – it’s actually healthier not to talk about them.
    • Practice the art of the start: the way you introduce a topic predicts how the discussion will end.
    • Support the other person’s goals, hopes, and dreams. Ask their opinion. Look for moments of connection.
    • Learn the other person’s “love language” – what makes them feel loved. It could be gifts, acts of service (doing things for them), physical touch, words of affirmation, or quality time spent together. This works both ways: you can give the other person what they need, and you can also recognize the ways they’re trying to show you their feelings.
  • Find your purpose. Not having a purpose or mission is as bad for your health as smoking. When you’re doing things that align with your values, you’re happier. Figure out your own top values, and set goals that align with them. Dr. John Izzo studied end-of-life reflections and identified being true to yourself and following your heart and dreams as two important factors in a well-lived life.
  • Simplify. Forgive and let go, don’t make social comparisons, and spend on experiences instead of things.
  • Adopt a growth mindset. I wrote a bit about this a few weeks ago when I talked about Mike Robbins’ class. If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.
  • Use humor and laughter! Learn to appreciate the ironies in life. Bring funny stuff into your life – photos, videos, comics, comedy shows, that coffee mug showing nervous little dogs preparing for their day by making espresso. Laughter is contagious. It induces a relaxation response and it benefits the immune system.

Read more

In Dr. Lamees Khorshid‘s book, I Want to Be Happy, which provides a 21-day plan for forming happy habits. Her class at my office inspired this post.

In Jon Kabat-Zinn‘s books, like Wherever You Go, There You Are, to learn more about mindfulness and meditation, and to find video guides.

In Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project (and on her website & podcasts).

On Eric Barker’s blog, Barking Up the Wrong Tree (he writes about this topic often!):

Mike Robbins on Authenticity

I had the good fortune to participate in a Mike Robbins workshop on authenticity a few weeks ago. Mike is a Stanford graduate and a former pro baseball player who injured his pitching arm in his first year in the Kansas City Royals’ farm team. He turned his bad luck into good luck for the rest of us. Now, he’s an author and an inspiring, energizing speaker. His website has loads of resources, including a blog, a podcast, and links to other things like a free meditation audio and a 4-part class on authenticity.


Emotional intelligence and the growth mindset

We all know by now that emotional intelligence is just as important as intellect in determining success. It involves self-awareness and social awareness; the ability to manage relationships with other people.

  • One component is the growth mindset that Carol Dweck identified and wrote about: when faced with a problem or challenge, you are curious and engaged and work hard to figure it out (as opposed to a fixed mindset where you want to get the answer fast, and if it’s hard you assume you just weren’t born with the right abilities). Dweck recently updated her 2006 book on the subject because she found people were misusing the concept; see this Dec. 2016 Atlantic article on the difference between a true growth mindset and praise for effort as a consolation prize.
  • When bad things happen, our first reaction might be to ask “why is this happening to me?” This is a dangerous, insidious question that makes us a victim. Mike says a better question is “why is this happening for me?” which shifts your perspective and gives you more power. In other words, what can I learn from this? How will this make me better and stronger?
  • Accept things the way they are. It’s the first step in having the power to change. When you argue with reality, you lose.
  • Communication is the bedrock of relationships. Each person in a conversation may be having a different kind of conversation. Listening is harder than you think – Mike had us pair up and just listen to each other without interruption or comment or thinking about how we’d respond; it was really difficult. But if you can figure out how to pay attention it makes the other person communicate better – those people who just ramble on are usually doing it because no one is actually listening to them.
    • Be present – the first level is attention to what’s being said, the information. Notice when you check out of the conversation; you’ll be surprised at how often you get distracted and miss part of it. Try admitting it to the other person.
    • Look for and feel underlying emotion with empathy – the second level is listening to what’s not being said, like how the other person is feeling, where they’re coming from. Notice the triggers that get you to stop paying attention.
    • Let go of negative judgments – the third level is noticing your own filters and upgrading them. We all have filters we listen through. To upgrade your filter, deal with the issue directly until it gets resolved, or let it go – really let it go, don’t just act that way.


It takes trust and courage to be authentic. Mike views it as a continuum, from being a complete phony at one end, through honesty in the middle, with authentic at the far end beyond honesty:

honest – self-righteous + vulnerable = authentic

Inauthenticity shows up because of social norms, or when we don’t know or understand something (but we pretend we do), and when we’re having a difficult conversation. Often, what stands between you and authenticity is a 10-minute sweaty palmed conversation. It takes mental gymnastics to be inauthentic, because you have to keep remembering what level of honesty you have with each person.

Self-righteousness is having opinions and knowing you’re right; thinking your opinions are facts. It fundamentally separates you from other people. We react to others’ self-righteousness with defensiveness. You might win the argument, but you damage the relationship. There may be other ways to see things.

A key driver in human relationships is trust, which requires vulnerability. The natural human response to vulnerability is empathy. A growth mindset requires vulnerability: you have to tolerate the discomfort of not knowing. Ask for help! Everyone loves to help, although nobody likes to ask. If you compare yourself to an iceberg, with the greater part hidden from public view, it turns out that the further down you go on the iceberg, the more universal the experience.

Mike said at one point in his life when he was down, one of his mentors told him:

“You live your life like you want to survive it, but nobody ever has.” 

Summing up: Ways to practice authenticity

  • When something happens that you don’t like, ask why is this happening for me?
  • Focus on the things you can control (your attitude, perspective, and effort)
  • Give people your undivided attention – don’t multitask
  • Use email, text, etc. for idea/info sharing, not conflict resolution and problem solving
  • Admit when you don’t know something, need help, or make a mistake – be real
  • Ask for support from others in a genuine way
  • Address challenges directly; don’t let things fester
  • Challenge yourself to take yourself out of your comfort zone and take bold action
  • Lower the waterline on your iceberg – allow yourself to be vulnerable to others

A lot of things about this workshop resonated with me, but the one thing I want to make a priority is that idea of self-righteousness. Especially now, after the divisive election season and with everything that’s going on with the new president, I see things several times a day that push my buttons. I intend to do better at examining my own opinions and reactions, and work harder to find common ground with the people who, for one reason or another, see things differently than I do. As Mike put it in a blog post on his website, “The challenge I’m sitting with personally at the moment is how to speak up for what I believe to be true and important, and at the same time do so in a way that brings me closer to those who may disagree with me?”

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments.



New Year, New Goals

Well, 2016 was not my favorite year.

It reminded me of another year that lives in infamy in my memory: 1968. At the beginning of 1968, I was halfway through my first year as a boarding student at Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s School in Salt Lake City, still adjusting to the change from Cedar City Junior High. The classes were harder, the other kids were smarter, the world was bigger and more present in our lives, and it was our job to make the world better, more peaceful, and more just. But then… Martin Luther King was assassinated in April, and riots followed in cities across the country. Bobby Kennedy offered new hope, but he was assassinated in June. There was chaos everywhere, with violent police clashing with protestors in Chicago, student protests in France, and the war on tv every day. With body counts. And don’t get me started on George Wallace’s third party presidential campaign: the politics of rage weren’t invented in 2016. On the positive side, I became an aunt in November of that year when my amazing nephew Joey was born. Even so, I was glad when the year was over.

365 Day Writing Challenge

This year, I’ve signed up for a challenge and committed to write every day. My goal is 1,000 words a day, and I plan to accomplish that through a mix of:

  • Editing the novel I finally finished last year. It’s a mystery of the amateur sleuth variety. It’s way too long. It’s lumpy. I wrote part of it during NaNoWriMo or in word sprints with writer friends, so there are scenes in there whose only function is to bump up my word count, not to mention things like unnecessary dialogue tags (“he said”). I’ve been getting feedback on it from my critique group a few pages at a time, and I’ve sent it to my two nephews who volunteered to try to read the whole thing. I figure I can write 1,000 words an hour if I’m not trying to make them good, so I’m going to count an hour of editing as meeting my daily goal.
  • Blog posts. I want to finish my self-imposed task of taking notes on Brandon Sanderson’s BYU class and writing them up here. My granddaughter Lorisa pointed out that I don’t have many blog posts that aren’t writing related, so once I’m finished with the Sanderson class I might write a bit more about learning to play the banjo, traveling, and other stuff. One idea I’ve had is to try to compile a one-stop place to find out about all the live theatre that’s happening in the Phoenix area on any given day, with links to the different theatre companies and links to newspaper reviews.
  • New stories. In Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing, he described his approach to writing when he was young. He’d write a new story on Monday, revise and polish through the week, and by the end of the week he’d have sent it off. Elsewhere I’ve read that he recommended writing a story a week because it’s impossible to write 52 bad stories a year – it’s bound to improve your writing. I have a couple of books that I’ll use to help me generate ideas.

One thing I’ve learned about myself is that if I don’t write every day, it’s harder to write. I lose the thread of the plot, I forget who the characters are, I don’t know where I’m going. Rachel Aaron‘s first step in going to 10,000 words a day (!!!) was to know what she’s writing before she starts, and you can’t do that if you don’t write every day. At least I can’t.

Health and fitness personal challenge 

The Monday before Christmas, I started Weight Watchers with my friend Lois. You could call the timing insane, but I call it brilliant. I lost almost two pounds during the week of Christmas, which I figure is equivalent to losing seven based on my past history of gaining five every year.  I succeeded on their program 22 years ago, but gradually crept up to where I started. I calculate that if the same pattern holds, I’ll be over 85 by the time I see that number on the scale again. I love the new Weight Watchers program, which encourages healthy eating by making all fruits and most vegetables zero points and encourages healthy activity by setting a weekly goal. If I stay on the program, I’ll be where I want to be way before the end of 2017.

Two years ago, I started walking my dogs every day. I’ve only missed a few days since July 2015. In July 2016, I added yoga twice a week at Floating Lotus, and I still work out once a week with Jeremy at Funktional Fitness. In 2017, I plan to add another workout to the weekly mix. I’m going to start by trying out some other yoga classes, and I’ll probably drop in occasionally at the Biltmore Studio, the hot yoga studio Lois goes to. I went with her to a hot barre class last week. Or while it’s still cool out, I can play racquetball and climb A Mountain and hike South Mountain. I’m going to keep that fourth workout flexible to start with, but if I find I’m not keeping up with it, I’ll make a firmer schedule.

I’m also going to continue trying to get more sleep. There’s a great iPhone app called Positivity that’s a great help in getting to sleep some nights, and I’ll keep using the Bedtime app that comes with the latest operating system.

Happiness Project

I’m continuing my goals from last year to follow some of the advice in Gretchen Rubin’s book. In addition to the ones that overlap with my health and fitness goals, she recommends:

  • Good marriage practices like adjusting your own attitude and expectations and managing your own behavior, which is really all you can control. This is still a work in progress after 24 years.
  • Keep happy memories alive by doing things like looking at pictures, telling stories, and keeping up traditions.
  • Master a new skill like photography or bookbinding. Or writing! I think I’ve written before that I somehow came out of school with the mistaken idea that because I read fiction, I could write it without consciously studying it. Boy, was I wrong.
  • Emulate people I admire. I think this is going to be more than ever important in the coming years. Courage and the willingness to stand up for what’s right, take action against what’s wrong, and defend people and the environment. I don’t need to be Gandhi but if I can be a little more like my friends Kim, Ned, and Lucy, the world will be a little bit better.
  • Make time for friends.

Goals around the house and so on

Another goal that overlaps with the Happiness Project recommendations is tackling a nagging task. Last month I finally cleared some boxes out of my home office – these were boxes of papers and things that have been sitting there since my mom died in 2012. Even though I didn’t finish the task, I got a tremendous boost from making progress on something that’s been hanging over my head for years. 2017 is going to be the year I get that office into shape.

In 2017, I’m going to design and adopt a daily routine. I retired in 2013, removing the structure of having to be somewhere every day within defined hours. It’s been nice having the freedom to schedule travel whenever I want, stay up late and sleep in, and spend whole days reading the new Stephen King. But now it’s time to develop my own structure, so I can accomplish all the things I want to do. My mornings tend to get away from me because I don’t have to go to the office – I used to get up at 5:30 so I’d have a couple of hours to read the paper, read my book, do the Sudoku, maybe have a hot bath before I had to leave. Now, I don’t have that natural end point, and there’s really no reason I have to do those things early to set my mood for the day.

I don’t think I need to set a goal to keep tracking the books I read and the movies I see – it’s finally a habit I can count on. I am going to tweak my journal to track my banjo practice more effectively and a couple of other things, though.

I think that’s about it. Do you write goals or resolutions? Tell me about them in the comments if you dare.  Happy New Year!