Posts Tagged ‘goals’

Changing Your Mind(set)

I'm a veteran at figuring out precisely what I want, then getting stuck partway along the path. Wink At that point, ya gotta decide if the thing you thought you wanted is really what you still want — or if you needed something entirely different, and that's why the roadblock popped up in the first place. At first, you might have a hard time accepting that shift, because it feels like you didn't know what you were doing in the first place. But getting derailed or changing your mind is not failure. We've developed a counterproductive idea in our society that deciding to go in a different direction means admitting defeat — when often, it's the smartest decision you can make. As W.C. Fields said, “If at first you don't succeed, try try again. Then quit. There's no use being a damn fool about it.” Knowing when to say no is a valuable skill!

My career is a perfect example of the winding, unpredictable, and thoroughly satisfying road my life has taken. I started out as a Social Worker, but hit a wall when I wasn't being allowed to fully serve my clients (and I realized that I was going to turn into a government bureaucrat if I didn't get the hell out of there!) I had to make a decision to stay and be miserable or walk away and do something else — but what? This was my “calling.” Where would I go? What would I do? It was hard, but I made the leap and started my own business (first as an organizer, now also a photographer and blogger). In time, that decision has also allowed my husband to quit his job, and for us to become full-time RVers — I don't regret having “quit” for one second!

My life and career continue to branch and shift (and I'll share stories about these changes in later posts), but my larger point is that being willing to say “no” to something that wasn't working for me opened up a whole new world of possibilities — opportunities that I wouldn't have even dreamed of it I had just “stuck it out”, the way we're often taught to do. That quitters-never-win-and-winners-never-quit thing is a bunch of malarkey!

Evolving And Growing

My sister once said to me (in a rather derisive tone), “Every time I see you, you're a completely different person. I never know who you're going to be from day to day.” Thank you! I actually take that as a compliment — continuing to change and evolve and adjust as circumstances in your life shift is the only way to grow.

I can't imagine staying stuck in one place your whole life — one job, one town, or one way of thinking. And while change can be a little scary, it's also kind of exciting not knowing what's going to happen tomorrow. I can be anyone I want to be at any point in time — I just have to be willing to let go of who I am today to get there.

Given the chance, are there situations and circumstances in your life that you would like to change? Maybe a relationship that isn't working, a job that wears you out, 10 pounds you want to lose, or even just a pile of clutter that is driving you up the wall. Who do you want to be tomorrow and what changes are you going to have to make for that to happen?

Success Is A Trade-Off

When life doesn't go the way we planned, we become big-time excuse-makers — it's human nature, a defense mechanism. People often blame “circumstances” for keeping them from achieving their dreams. This is code for “I would have had to do things differently to make it happen, and I just wasn't willing to pay the price.” What they're really saying is that they didn't want it badly enough to work for it. Want to be president of your company? How do 80-hour work weeks sound to you? You can be debt-free, but you'll have to put a moratorium on unnecessary spending for a while (no eating out, no movies, no impulse buys) — can you do that? Do you want to write a book? It will only if you turn off the TV. Wish you were in better shape? Are you ready to sweat — every single day of the week?

It's like that famous quote about the world-renowned pianist. At a concert someone said, “I wish I could play like you.” The pianist replied, “If you knew what I had to do to get here, you wouldn't.” You can have anything (and I mean ANYTHING) you want in life, as long as you're willing to make space for it to happen. But most people settle for what life hands them, instead of going after what they really desire most — usually because they have a hard time recognizing their long-term goals in the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Knowing What You Really Want

The big question is what are you willing to give up NOW to have what you want most? It's easy to become shortsighted — with so many immediate responsibilities and distractions (delayed gratification is not most people's strong suit!) But when you fail to see beyond the end of the week or the end of the month or even December 31st, you're giving your future happiness a short shrift.

My husband and I have given up a lot of things — the huge house, the hot sexy car, and a lot of expensive “playthings” — because we have our eye on the bigger prize. Our goal is freedom — the ability to do what we want when we want it, to be able to travel endlessly without having to ask for time off, and especially financial freedom (which we define as having enough money to cover our daily expenses without having to hold a full-time job). We're looking at a longer timeline than just what we do for enjoyment “today”.

Our Story

In order to do this, we've chosen a fairly unconventional life. Matt and I both used to work for someone else doing the 9 to 5 grind thing until we started our own business. It was scary, we worried that we wouldn't have enough money (thankfully that didn't happen) — but we can work in our pajamas, and take the day off any time we like. That's freedom.

Our lives are not as “tied down” as a lot of people's. We have cats instead of kids (but we never considered not having children a sacrifice!) Tried homeownership, didn't like it — so we're full-time nomads, living out of a 29-foot Airstream Excella instead. We travel the country, stopping to “live” for a while anyplace that strikes our fancy. That's freedom.

Matt and I try to live frugally, because we don't want to spend our lives working to pay the bills. We have no debt and we refuse to pay anyone interest for anything if we can avoid it (which means we have to save up to afford each purchase — no financing). We only have one car, when we need a new one we buy used (with cash), and then we drive that vehicle to death. We don't eat out every day of the week, I shop for most of my clothes at thrift and consignment stores, and we don't pay the exorbitant fees that most folks do for cable or satellite TV (we wait until the end of the season and get our shows on DVD from the library or Netflix. And we put money away in savings every month toward our goal of financial independence. That's freedom.

How About You?

The point is not to say “ooh look at how great we are” or brag about our lives — it's simply to point out that everything Matt and I “give up” is a conscious decision, and we do it because there is something else out there that we want even more. Some people think we're weird and wouldn't want our lifestyle for anything in the world, and that's fine — everyone has to decide what their dream is and what they are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve it.

So I guess I would ask — what kind of life are you leading now, what would you really rather be doing, and what would you need to give up in order to have that? How badly do you want your dream to come true? Are you willing to go there, no matter what it takes? And what will your first step be? It's all up to you!

Knowing What's Really Important

We often focus too much on the daily grind (paying bills, keeping the house clean, writing reports, etc.) and too little on our real priorities. Those many details may seem urgent at the time — but if you look at the bigger picture, that they really aren't all that pressing. And it's sad when we end up missing out on the important things in life (experiences and relationships) because we're so caught up in the minutiae. Do you really need to be organizing the garage, or spending time with your kids at the park? Is it a higher priority that you decide how to arrange the chairs at the upcoming sales meeting, or that you develop a strong agenda and provide guidance during the group discussion? Will you benefit more from zoning out in front of the television, or taking a walk around the neighborhood with your spouse? Ask yourself where you will get the biggest bang for your buck. That should be where you focus your attention, and let someone else handle the rest. A not-to-do list helps identify those chores, errands, and daily responsibilities that can (and should) be delegated.

Keep a notepad handy, and record your activities for a week. You don't have to log every second of your day (“8:00 — got up / 8:05 — used bathroom / 8:15 — had breakfast” isn't going to help you be more effective and efficient!) But if you can start tracking your work responsibilities (a paid job, housework, or whatever fills your day), travel time to and from activities, and any other external responsibilities (committee meetings, carpools, volunteering), you will begin to see places where you can trim and tighten your schedule through delegation. Make a note of what you are doing — such as “checking e-mails” or “cleaning oven” or “buying groceries.” Then, estimate how much time you have spent on that particular chore (don't forget travel and prep time). Later we'll look at whether this action needs to be done at all (!!) and whether it needs to be done by you. But for now, that's the start of your “not-to-do” list.

Once you've made a list of items that you would love to delegate — who do you hand them off to? You have so many options! Just remember, you aren't in it alone. You simply have to decide whatyou want to delegate and then be willing to ask for help. At home, you can get your family involved in the act (see my dear hubby doing dishes?) Kids and spouses are just as capable of handling those daily chores as you are! At the office, don't be afraid to ask a co-worker for some assistance — and offer to help out the next time he or she needs a little bit of a break. Also make use of your support staff (administrative clerks, assistants, and other assorted minions) — that's what they are there for. If you don't have these sorts of support networks to call upon, hire an independent contractor or freelancer to help with household and business tasks that you don't have time for. You might also think about developing a local co-op for sharing those time-consuming domestic (trading off on cooking, cleaning, errand-running, or child care) — or set up an informal swap with a neighbor.

Learning How To Quantify

When you were a kid, you probably didn't think much about what it took to earn money — you just asked for what you wanted and somehow, mommy and daddy made it happen. You didn't worry about what stuff cost, and you didn't understand when someone told you it was too “expensive.” Then you got an after-school job or started working for your allowance — and I'll bet you became a lot more discriminating about what you did with hard-earned cash!

It's the same with time.  Very few people really know what their time is worth, in concrete financial terms. They just go through their day on autopilot, wondering where the hours go. Until you recognize that your time is intrinsically valuable, you will never be able to make informed decisions about where your effort is best spent.  Here's a general guide illustrating how much an hour of your time is worth, and how just one hour a day (spent poorly or wisely) adds up over a year's time:

YOUR
ANNUAL INCOME
WHAT ONE HOUR
IS WORTH
ONE HOUR PER DAY
FOR A YEAR
$25,000 $12.61 $3,125
$40,000 $20.49 $5,000
$50,000 $25.61 $6,205
$75,000 $38.42 $9,375
$100,000 $51.23 $12,500
$125,000 $65.10 $15,884
$150,000 $76.84 $18.750
$175,000 $89.65 $21,875
$200,000 $102.46 $25,000
$250,000 $128.07 $31,250
$300,000 $153.69 $37,500

** Based on 244 working days per year

You can always look at delegating in terms of the biggest financial payoff. When I hire someone to take care of an item on my not-to-do list — and I pay them $25 an hour while my hour is worth $60 — I'm coming out ahead. The same is true when I can hire someone to do a task in a half hour that would take me 3 hours to complete. I can be focusing on higher priorities — things that feed my soul or grow my business or let me know I'm alive — without worrying that the work isn't being done.

A Better Use Of Down Time

Most people's days are so filled to overflowing with responsibilities, that there's is almost no way to get it all done in the hours available. Some things (like work and school) eat up big chunks of your day, and you have no control over when or how they happen. Others can be squeezed in whenever you've got a few free minutes here or there. And where do you tend to have a lot of available time? While you're waiting! You could be sitting in a medical office, stuck in traffic, caught in a long line at the post office or bank, hoping to have your flight start boarding soon, trapped on a train during an hour-long commute, or early for a scheduled meeting. Instead of bitching about wasted time, use those precious minutes to get something done!

  • clean out your purse, briefcase, or backpack
  • listen to a book on tape or a recording of a seminar you've been wanting to hear
  • make a wish list of books to read, movies to see, restaurants to try, etc.
  • make a to-do list of things you want and need to get done in the next week
  • plan your menu and grocery shopping lists for the week
  • read that magazine article or book you haven't had time for
  • review and update your calendar
  • schedule an appointment you've been putting off
  • sort through your incoming mail, separating to-do's from trash
  • write a letter to a friend
  • make a phone call that you've been procrastinating on
  • pay your bills, either online or writing a check to go in the mail
  • balance your checkbook
  • work on your Christmas gift list
  • write and address holiday greeting cards
  • work on any sort of report / homework / project with an upcoming deadline
  • write in your journal or diary
  • meditate
  • file your nails (although I probably would discourage a pedicure in public!)
  • just relax and enjoy a moment of silence in the middle of a hectic day

See how easy that was? Wink