Goals have been on my mind this week. Since May 1, I have been participating in the 100/100 paddle board challenge with the goal of paddling 100 hours in 100 days. On Saturday I completed this challenge with my longest paddle of 3.5 hours covering 13.3 miles. Having this goal over the summer motivated me to paddle more often then I would have otherwise. The end result was I achieved something I would not have thought possible a year and a half ago. Achieved something I would not have thought possible, THAT, is exactly why setting goals, both long and short term, is important. We cannot realize our true potential by sitting on the couch, doing the same old thing. We have to set goals that push us beyond our comfort zone.
I believe that most everyone understands the concept and value of setting goals. Everyday I see people setting goals of managing their stress, exercising more regularly, ending their procrastination, finishing school, leaving an unhealthy relationship. Many people never achieve their goals because they get overwhelmed with the enormity of it or frustrated because it isn’t happening fast enough. They give up, only to start again in the future.
Through the course of my life and my work as a counselor I have found the following tips enhance the probability of achieving your goals.
As part of a blog hop I am posting seven lines from a piece of writing I am working on. This comes from a short story based on a true story in Oriental.
Cotton Sykes was born mean. He came into the world breech, ass backward. Bout killed his Momma because that was back before ultrasounds. Well maybe some people were getting them but not the wife of a fisherman from Pamlico County, North Carolina. Anyhow, Cotton was colicky and cried and cried as a baby. His Momma never did have any peace. Once he was old enough to walk, all hell broke lose in their house. He would break things, throw his food on the floor and pinch his baby brother Tony, lying quiet as you please in his crib. Can you believe that? Anyone who’d hurt an innocent baby just for meanness, well there’s no hope for him. I won’t even tell you what he did to that old tabby cat that hung around his Daddy’s dock, it being close to super and all. Might ruin your appetite.
Check out these wonderful Indie authors who are also sharing parts of their work this month.
As I continue to grow as a writer, I seek advice from those with more experience. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received so far was from Zelda Lockhart, leader of a weeklong writer’s workshop I attended. She told me, “It is your job as a writer to get your story out to your readers. The writing process is not done until this has happened.” She was vehement that if you had the inspiration to write something, fiction or non-fiction, there was always a reader out there who needed to hear your message. This advice stayed with me as I continued writing and kept me motivated as I figured out the maze of publishing options.
Since publishing Hungry Mother Creek, readers have shared how my novel touched them. Some were entertained by the story; some gained a new perspective on their marriage or relationship with their parents; others realized they needed a community of supportive women in their lives. Getting this feedback reinforced the time and effort it took to publish and made me grateful I hadn’t let my fear and self doubt stop me from sharing my work.
My life has also been influenced by writers. Sarah Addison Allen’s novel Garden Spells, inspired me to begin writing Hungry Mother Creek; Maya Angelou’s memoirs taught me about strength, self confidence and persistence and John Steinbeck’s travelogue, Travels with Charley was the catalyst for my bicycle trip across the United States after college graduation. I’m thankful these writers finished the job and shared their story with me, their reader. My life would have had a different trajectory if these writers had not chosen to publish their work.
I believe the directive I received to “get my story out there” applies to everyone, not just writers. We can all make a positive difference in the world by sharing our unique gifts. It may be a novel, song, or piece of art but could also be the ability to teach a special needs child, to help a client find the perfect house, or to secure a loan for an entrepreneur. Pay more attention to what evokes passion and enthusiasm and less attention to what others expect of you and you will be lead to the “story” you are meant to share.
I encourage everyone to follow the advice I received. When you are inspired to do something new or innovative in your personal life, creative life or your career, overcome your fear and follow through with this inspiration. Your work here is not complete until you share a part of yourself with the world.
I'm participating in a blog hop this month. I will post seven lines from my most recent writing and links to seven other authors who are doing the same.
Maya awoke just a millisecond before her alarm went off at 5:00 am. She slid up in bed and looked out the french doors leading to the second floor porch. Dawn was just a glow in the East. The peepers and frogs were welcoming the solstice with their song while Doodle Bug’s doggie snores provided back up accompaniment from the floor beside Maya’s bed. Maya slid the pillow up behind her and propped up in the large wrought iron bed, letting the impact of the day settle in. Today was the solstice and the longest day of the year. Well officially it was yesterday, but today was Saturday and the day her women’s circle would meet at the Mother Tree to celebrate the solstice. Today also would have been Hazel’s 80th birthday. Maya’s throat tightened and tears pricked at the back of her eyes.
Click on these links to learn about the new work of some wonderful Indie authors!
This past weekend I had the pleasure of competing in The Carolina Cup, a stand up paddle board (SUP) race. It's a well known race that attracts professional paddlers from around the world as well as hundreds of SUP enthusiasts from across the country. I participated in the 10K intermediate race. This was my second race at this distance and since I came in last at my first 10k SUP race, I was hoping for an improvement.
When the race began I was ready for the quick start and fast cadence, but it didn't take long for most of the pack to pull away from me. Around the halfway point I looked behind me and saw a short string of paddlers. I was feeling strong, and paddling hard but still near the back. My friends were long gone in front of me and I felt defeated. I wallowed in my pity for a few minutes and snapped out of it when I passed a support boat whose captain was playing the ukulele for the racers. He cheered for me like I was in first place!
I realized that my angst was caused by comparing myself to others. I felt slow compared to the folks in front of me. I wondered why I couldn't pass the man beside me because I felt sure my stoke was better and I looked at the paddlers behind me as potential enemies, putting me in very last if they passed me. I pulled my focus back to my board, into my body and onto my race. I realized that I definitely felt stronger then past races. I reminded myself that my focus had been on building endurance so hadn't trained yet to be fast. I was successfully navigating with tide and current, variables I don't have in my local paddling waters. As soon as I stopped comparing myself to others and focused on my performance and personal goals I was back to enjoying the experience of the race and even felt proud of my improvements over the past 6 months.
We can get caught in the trap of comparing ourselves to others which usually results in not being enough; not smart enough, fast enough, thin enough, pretty enough, rich enough. You get the picture. If we do this too often we feel self defeated and insecure as I did during the race. Constant comparison inhibits the true expression of who we are because we are so worried that we aren't enough. Several times after reading a book by an author I admired, I would stop work on my novel, Hungry Mother Creek, because my writing seemed so amateurish compared to theirs.
It is important for each of us to resist the temptation to compare ourselves to others and focus on following our passions and living life in a way that makes us happy. When we stop trying to measure up to others and just be ourselves, we ensure that the unique gift we have brought to this world will be expressed. It might be making others laugh, creating a beautiful piece of art, starting a successful business or writing a novel. Most likely if you are doing things just a little bit differently then the people around you, then you are doing things exactly right for you!
For the past six years I've been working on my novel, Hungry Mother Creek - writing, going to writing workshops, editing, seeking advice, figuring out the maze of publishing options. Three weeks ago Hungry Mother Creek was published!! A dream come true. It is overwhelming that the story and characters that have been in my head for six years are now being discovered by my readers. As I've reflected on my journey from inspiration to publication three important lessons stand out to me.
First, to achieve anything that pushes your limits, you have to believe in yourself. As soon as I decided to write a novel self doubt set it. that harsh inner critic said, "Who are you to write a novel"; "You'll never finish"; "Nobody will want to read it". And on and on. I did my best to ignore this voice but sometimes I wouldn't write for a month or more because it was so strong. As time went on I got better at ignoring my inner critic. My mantra became, "Keep writing. Just keep writing." I began to pay more attention to the calm and steady inner voice saying I could to this. As I sit here with my novel in hand and some positive feedback from readers, I see which voice was correct. I believe ignoring my tough inner critic allowed me to achieve something I was meant to do. I challenge you to do the same!
Secondly, writing Hungry Mother Creek reinforced the power of patience. I didn't know how long the whole process would take when I started and I certainly got frustrated along the way when I didn't feel I was making fast enough progress. But what was fast enough? It was mainly my inner critic again saying I was going too slow. I keep writing when I could and celebrated the small steps along the way, scences developing into chapters, chapters printed and put in a notebook, unedited rough draft, first edited draft, second edited draft and so on. I held onto the vision of holding my book in my hand and trusted all the small steps would get me there eventually. The day I completed my first draft there was a motivational post on my Facebook page. The picture was a pile of small turtles and the quote was from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience."
Lastly, writing Hungry Mother Creek showed me how interconnected we all are. Nobody achieves anything without the influence of others. Hungry Mother Creek would not be here without family and friends believing in me when my self doubt flared, teachers helping me improve my writing, other authors inspiring me with their words, my editor providing me with grammatical and plot feedback, technical support helping me with formatting and web page design. Reaching out for help, support and advice allowed me to achieve a dream that I would never have attained alone and I am eternally grateful for everyone who was on this journey with me.
As you pursue your dreams, believe in yourself and learn to quiet your inner critic, have patience and faith that small steps will lead you to your goal and finally embrace our interconnectedness and let others support, inspire and teach you. The stronger your web of connections the more likely you are to reach your goal.