Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Goal Setting for 2014: Part I

Happy New Year! Goal-setting time.

Writing things down actually makes me more successful at doing them. I know. Wow, Captain Obvious. So, once again I'm using these questions to focus my goal setting. Since I started taking the time to respond to them, I've been pretty amazed at how much they have led to more intention in each year. You can read my previous years' posts here: 2011, 2012, & 2013.

I. Personal Growth

1. What healthy character traits would you like to see developed in your life this year? What are some specific steps you can take to develop these?

Last year I wanted to be more focused when I sat down to write or to do a task, and to be more assertive about asking people for what I want. I think I accomplished the first one, and I got better at the second. This year I want especially to build on that second trait. Instead of just asserting myself, I want to work on being bold enough to assert myself even if I know I'm going to face opposition. I got better last year at asking for what I wanted, but only so far as I knew I wouldn't get too much flak for it. I talk a big game about doing what I want, but I'm a former good girl at heart who still likes to think people are pleased with me. I want to try to let some of that go. Sometimes in negotiations I will ask for what I want, get shut down, and then give up. I don't want to do that anymore. I think it's keeping me from moving forward a bit. I'm not saying I need to change my personality, but I think that trusting myself and accepting my own perspective a little more could be a good thing. I want to continue to work on my assertiveness, and on making decisions that are right for me even when they're not going to be popular with others.

Another trait I'd like to develop--or continue to develop--is to continue to work on scheduling writing into my post-MFA life in a way that will help me to be successful doing it. Yes, scheduling. I can't do anything unless I plan for it. If I leave it to chance I'll just pick the couch and I'll never write again. And I know from training for (running) races and such that the only way I'm successful at maintaining any kind of regular schedule for something is if I find a way to integrate it into my life and routine so it feels natural. If it feels arbitrary or it doesn't work with my natural rhythms and what my mind and body want to do, I'll give it up immediately. I want more than anything to be a writer, to actually write. But that only happens if I make space for it in my daily routine. That takes planning and sitting down to do it every day. I want to be consistent in preparing so I can be consistent at doing it.

2. What is your plan for maintaining accountability for progressing in personal growth?

The first one is something I'll always be working on. Accountability is hard with that one, because there's no test. No check-in. But I know that the act of writing it down here will make me think of it; I will probably end up talking to E about it, too. Fortunately the second goal is much easier to track. I have my handy Google Calendar tab running in the background of every browser window I ever have open. It's also going on my phone. And I've got my lists and charts and my whole system of paper to-dos. I'm happiest when there's a plan, when I know I only have to think five minutes into the future, because the calendar (or list) will remember for me. My accountability is my stability: that record.

3. What are some of your learning goals for this year?

This question makes me sad. No MFA program to give me automatic learning and a safe nest, anymore. My learning goal for the year is to seek out new opportunities for myself to learn. I'm not 100% sure what those are, yet. I think they might be some kind of writers' program or workshop, or maybe even just a focused time of writing and workshopping with my friends. I don't yet know. But finding out is a good goal. I do know enough to know that I need to continue to grow as a writer, and that the idea of doing so is exciting.

4. What books would you like to read this year?


I kid.

Well, almost. I want to read 52. Last year I read 50, so I don't think another 2 will kill me. A book a week seems like a decent thing to accomplish in one's life.

As for a few titles:

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson
The Last Animal, Abby Geni
Percival Everett, Virgil Russell
A Guide to Being Born, Ramona Ausbel
Whitey Bulger, Kevin Cullen
Night Film, Marisha Pessl
More Than Conquerors, Megan Hustad
City of God, Sara Miles

And my big fat classic (goal) for 2014, probably summer: Middlemarch.

5. Do you enjoy your job or jobs (include being a stay-at-home mother, if this pertains to you)? If so, what are your favorite things about your work? If not, what are some ways you can change this?

Yes. I enjoy teaching. I love being a teacher. Many things about teaching are fabulous. Many things about teaching in California in 2014 are difficult to deal with on a personal level after only 12 years in the profession. I am not going to go into those here because I like having a job, but I will say that I love the kids. Love. And I love teaching writing and I love when a kid really gets it about a book or how to write an essay and to me that is magic. I will also say that I am happy that my new degree affords me some additional options (not instead of, in addition to teaching high school) and that I can start to look for other things to do that will feel (perhaps) a little more nourishing for my soul so that I can continue to be good to the kids in the classroom.

My favorite things about my work are the independence to teach the literature I want the way that I think is best as long as I'm teaching to the standards, and, obviously, the human interaction of my job. I also love the daily challenge of trying to meet the needs of all the souls that walk through my door with very little except my brain and some books. I like feeling like I can do some good with these kids before I send them out into the world, that I can teach them a little about kindness and that it's okay to grow up and be kind of awkward. As far as what I'd want to change--I'm at a point where I realize that the things that make me unhappy at work are about me, not work. It isn't fair to ask the institution to change or expect it to be something that it is not. That only results in me feeling hopeless. But what I can do is look for ways to nourish my soul outside of my work environment. I'm doing that, I think. And I will continue to do it.

II. Physical Health

1. What is one area of progress you’d like to see this year for maintaining or improving your physical health?

I'm less concerned with setting a physical goal, actually. I feel like I've been on-again, off-again with running and health. I hate having to start back to it all the time and feel guilty when I can't keep it up. I hope to have a lot of years left, and I don't want to be doing that until I die. And I say this even though I have it in my head that I'm going to start back at running next week. I'd like to do that because I feel good when I run. But I'm not setting a specific "I am going to do X" goal because I don't want to be in that cycle. I just want to eat things that are healthy that I like to eat and do things like walk and run and swim and bike and stretch that make me move around so I feel better. No specific goal, just spending time being a person in the world who feels good.

2. What are some tangible, daily choices you can add to your life that will improve your health?

Go to bed at a decent hour. Wake up early enough that I'm not rushed in the morning. Eat breakfast. Take a lunch to work. Be active and/or get outside. Cook dinner and eat at home.

These are not mysteries. I love my life when I do these things, too. If I can remember the pleasure I take in those simple routines and in things like sleeping and eating (probably two of my top five activities), I feel like I'd be feeling pretty great.

3. In what way would you like to be physically healthier by December of this year?

I'd like to be getting more sleep. That would be awesome. If people could look at me and go damn, she looks like she gets plenty of sleep, that one, 2014 would be the best year ever.

4. What is your plan this month for starting this progress towards a healthier you?

Early bedtimes!

Well, also I think I'm going to start walking on my breaks at school next week again. When I was doing that (pre-thesis, pre-2013 school year) it made me happy.

III. Marriage & Family Life

1. What are some goals you have as a couple to strengthen your marriage?

Hmm. Maybe a few I won't post here, but the one I will say here is to try to resolve some of the petty bickering that happens over who takes responsibility for what around the house. We seem to get stuck on small things like that, but small things can still make big problems. Hopefully we can get past some of that this year and just do things for each other to be nice, instead of trying to be so fixated on who does what. I'm hoping it will help that I'm out of school, too.

2. In what ways can you grow in intimacy with your spouse this year?

Geesh, I hate that word, intimacy. This question is awko taco. Passing on this one, as usual.

3. What are your plans for having regular date nights? How will you handle childcare?

Getting a sitter isn't really ever a problem. We have generous people in our lives who are more than willing. But with my thesis and finishing school we kind of let this go. I didn't really want to go out, either. I was too tired. I'm hopeful we can resume some time for just the two of us. It helps to get out of the house.

4. What plans will you make to have “family meetings” together? What books would you like to read together this year?

I'd like to be better at checking in with both kids daily. We talk to our kids a ton, but it's always on the fly. I used to have more of a routine of checking to see how they were doing on the way home from school. Since our routine has changed, there's less of a "trigger" to ask how they're doing. I'd like to build in time with each of them to connect after school. They are great at coming to us about anything--happy or sad--but I want to make sure we keep that connection strong as they get older.

5. What will deliberate, regular family time look like this year?

Eating healthy, homemade dinners together, watching movies together, traveling together, and reading together.

6. Do you have specific planned vacation time in mind for this year? What needs to happen to make this vacation a reality?

I do, but at this moment: only for me, not for the family. Yet. I'm hoping to finally get to do some travel in Europe this summer. I'm so excited, and I need to keep saving.

7. How is your current physical living space working for your family? Do you need to make changes to this? If so, what are they?

This is the third year in a row I'm going to complain about this: I don't have anywhere to write without distraction. All of the other things I didn't like about our house: the neighborhood--the unshaded western-facing back bedrooms--those have gotten resolved. The neighborhood has improved markedly in the past few years, and we have great neighbors with great kids. E built me a wonderful shade cover on the back patio, and we have a bunch more usable space than we did, in addition to a much cooler bedroom in the summer because of the shade. But I still don't have anywhere to write in my own house. We have three bedrooms, all full of people. When I want to write, like, really write and not be distracted or interrupted, I have to leave. I've done a few weekends away at the cabin and written for long stretches, but that's not a model I can maintain. I want to be able to write daily. My goal this year is to try harder to think of a solution. And by "solution," I don't mean earbuds and a card table in the bedroom.


These questions are long. I split this post into two, as usual. I'll be back tomorrow with the rest.

(And tomorrow makes five years of writing, here. What?)


  1. Hi Heather! I found your blog through another blog that I read and I... can't stop reading :) You are an incredible writer -- it's going to take me weeks to get through all of your posts. I look forward to following along!