Goal setting

  1. By the end of March I will finish my second draft of my novel.

Flipping through my notebooks I find goals like these plastered everywhere.  Goals are not dreams or wishes, they are targets for action plans. If you’ve read any literature at all on the subject, you know that writing down goals makes it more likely you will succeed, and that goals should follow the “S.M.A.R.T.” strategy- Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and on a Timeline.  The other commonly described goal is the stretch goal, which is described as a goal that seems out of reach but isn’t completely impossible.

“Yeah, yeah yeah, Jane,” you say.  “Goals.  I had goals, but I didn’t achieve them, life got in the way.”

Ok, go look at those goals now.  Evaluate them.

Ask yourself a few questions.
  • Did you make any progress toward your goal?
  • Did you encourage or reward yourself for taking action on this goal?
  • Was this goal given to you from the outside world?
  • Are you still the same person who wanted these goals?
  • What will happen if you let go of this goal?  Any negative consequences?
  • Do you want to make a whole-hearted commitment to trying again?
  • Do you want to make a different goal instead?
  • What tripped you up the most in trying to achieve the goal- scheduling, motivation, fear, other people, unfortunate events?
  • Is there anything you can change to make this goal easier?
  • Did you break it down into smaller chunks?

Ok, now make some new goals.  Here are the rules- the goals must be something you are willing to commit to, that you have reasonable amount of time to complete, that don’t involve other people giving you approval or permission, and that will give you satisfaction and enjoyment in working towards them (not just achieving them).

Now, think about how to achieve those goals.  What are the obstacles- do you have solutions to overcome them, a “plan b” when things go wrong?  What are you going to do to encourage yourself?  How can you get support from loved ones?  Do you have the tools and space you need to start?

Share your goals with people you trust to encourage you.  Get to it!

Gather Your Party

voyager crew

If you’ve ever thought that achieving a creative goal was a solitary endeavor, you should look at the acknowledgement pages of a book or listen to the acceptance speeches for a prestigious award.  They didn’t achieve their goal alone.

acknowledgements 1  acknowledgements 2

Gamers, especially table-top roleplaying gamers, know it’s a good idea to gather their party, to have a diverse group with many skills before setting out on an adventure.  If you’ve ever tried a campaign with just one type of character, you might have noticed how messy that can get.  You need a wizard, a fighter, a thief and a archer.  Or a hacker, a con-man, a martial arts dude and a language specialist.  Or a Jedi, a rogue, a rebel leader and two droids.  Or a captain, an engineer, a science officer and a doctor.  You get the idea. Even “chosen ones” gather a team.  Think of a heist movie.

Get support from your friends, and reach out to make new connections.  Maybe you need a wise advisor, or a fighter.  The cool thing about teams is not only are you getting help, you are giving help.  Sometimes when you give help, you solve your own problem by seeing something from a different perspective.

Imagine if you could make a dream team of anyone, imaginary, historical or real.  Imagining that team rooting for you can be helpful.

My dream team:
  • my friends
  • the Doctor- a zany, creative, nonviolent problem solver with a time machine
  • Captain Janeway- never gives up, never takes crap
  • The Librarian- ook
  • Lois McMaster Bujold- multiple award winning author
  • Dragon- wise, able to eat people, fly and breathe fire
  • Jarvis (the A.I.) because helpful self-aware computers are hard to come by
  • The Tick- he’s nigh invulnerable and makes rousing speeches
  • My future agent- someone who will land me a deal and work with me to improve
  • Merlin- we need a wizard.  (I’m thinking T.H. White Sword in the Stone, not that weird kid)
  • Minions- to do the boring stuff

What about you?  Put together your team.


December 27, 2015

My husband and I have a tradition.  Just before New Year’s eve we decide what we want the next year’s theme to be.  There’s been the year of adventure, the year of love, and the year of challenge.  This year?  The year of Improvements.  I just started playing Superbetter, which is a game system for healing and improving your real life.  This is similar to what I’m trying to put together with my roleplaying game style book, Weight Loss for Dragons.  I hope the other Jane doesn’t mind me calling 2016 the Superbetter year.

Every year, of course, we  come in determined to start fresh.  This is the year we’ll become perfect, enlightened beings.  We’ll lose weight, declutter our house, get paid doing what we love, kick bad habits, have brilliant, well-behaved children, become famous, travel, connect with our loved ones, and learn new skills.  All of it.  I’ve had many a year where I started with my head down, running at ramming speed, and get surprised when I hit a wall.


“I have a big head, and little arms.  I’m just not sure  how well this plan was thought through.” -T-Rex,  Meet the Robinsons

So this year, I will make my first goal to keep up a slow and steady momentum of improvements throughout the year.  It’s no good making goals that depend on other people to achieve, like getting a book deal.  I should focus on my side of it, which would be creating and submitting my writing.  I will gather support instead of slogging along alone.  I will take the time to make a map of where I’d like to be, and question if what I’m doing is the way to get there.  I will see who I am now, not who I used to be, or what society thinks I should be.

Just updated the website, tell me if you see any glitches.  Let me know if you are interested in being my ally on Superbetter (no, autocorrect, that’s not super heater).


Character Classes for Weight Loss for Dragons

A class isn’t the same thing as a profession, it’s more like a… vocation.  It encompasses not only your specialized skills, but also your outlook on life and your goals for the future.  What if you want to do everything, or at least a combination of things?   There’s a class for that.


Adventurers are doers, people who go out in search of new experiences, new ideas and interesting things to do.  They push past the fear of the unknown to live life fully.

Sub-classes of Adventurer: Traveler, Naturalist, Explorer and Socialite.

artist class


An artist lives to create.  They want to share their view of the world, in one medium or in many.  They find creativity in their daily lives, not just in their creations.

Sub-classes of Artist: Painter, Sculptor, Musician, Chef, Crafter, or Textile Artist.


Athletes work hard to hone their bodies to achieve great things.  They train daily, through discomfort and setbacks, to constantly improve their performance.

Sub-classes of Athlete: Runner, Swimmer, Dancer,  Cyclist, Martial Art student, Lifter, Team-mate or Crosstrainer.


A champion is driven by a need to right wrongs.  They see injustice in the world and they campaign to make positive change.

Sub-classes of Champion: Altruist, Protestor, Volunteer or Politician.

mystic class


A mystic finds true purpose in the spiritual realm, either in a chosen religion or a self-directed inner search for truth.  They use their faith and balance to help others with counsel or support.

Sub-classes of Mystic: Devoted, Soul-Searcher, Listener or Caretaker.


Scholars have a thirst for knowledge, to learn and grow every day of their lives.  They search for answers to how, what, where, and especially why, and they don’t take things as given.

Sub-classes of Scholar: Scientist, Linguist, Student, Writer, Researcher, or Inventor.

If you read over the descriptions and want to do more than one, you can.  It’s called a multi-class.  So you could be a Scholar-Artist or a Athlete-Champion.  Don’t want to be pinned down?  You are a Polymath or a Renaissance Soul.  This is your life.  You can make up your own class as long as you can define it for yourself.

Some ideas for specialized classes:

  • Social Justice Warrior
  • Food Explorer
  • Diplomat
  • Documenter
  • Happiness Expert

What do you think?  Any classes or hybrids you want to suggest?  What would you assign to yourself?

May 4, 2014

Getting organized is both a mental and a physical task

Here it is, the first weekend of May already.  Spring is finally here up in the north, with tulips starting to bloom, leaves peeping on trees.  Yesterday was free comic book day, today is Star Wars day (May the 4th be with you).  I need to do spring cleaning.  In my head.  The  physical mess is obvious in our house, with hoard-like piles of clutter in corners and disastrous storage areas, but the clutter in my head needs to be dealt with as well.

Work: Summer reading is rushing towards me, and I need to finalize plans and put together a great kick-off.  I need to pare down some of my grandiose schemes and make lists of supplies.  This year I am going to have the most help that I’ve ever had, and some of the stress I am feeling is because I forget that fact.

Writing: My deadline for self-publishing my book was originally the beginning of April, then reset to the beginning of May.  I am reworking the ending and then I need to take a deep breath and do the launch.  This time around I’m going to try more venues, follow advice I’ve been given, and do some promotion.

Recreation: I need to sit down with my calendar and make sure that fun is not pushed away to “some day” or “next year’s vacation.”  Fun should be weekly.  Ideally, it should be daily!  Fun does not have to mean expensive or all-day, even small, simple things can mean a lot.  I want to plan gaming, parties, expeditions, movies, books, crafting and play.  I need to set aside time with my husband and kids to do things other than chores.

Projects and chores: My to-do list needs a spring cleaning too.  There are things on the list that are not necessary or could be done less frequently.  There are things missing from the list that need to go on there.  That takes some big-picture thinking, instead of plodding along with my head down, doing whatever presents itself.

So just like de-cluttering of a bedroom, I have three boxes.  Keep, discard and put somewhere else.  In this case, “put somewhere else” means either delegating, delaying or doing in a different way.

Does anyone else do mental spring cleaning?




February 1, 2014

Goals that conflict with each other

For most of my adult life I have had two major goals: 1, get down to and maintain a healthy weight and 2, become a print-published novelist.

You wouldn’t think that these two goals clashed with each other.  One requires a healthy diet and exercise, the other, writing and submitting manuscripts.  How on earth do they conflict?

They do.

It took me a long time to discover this, and a little longer to decide if it was just a silly excuse for my lack of progress on either front.  It seemed like I would make headway on one goal and completely stop at the other.  Working towards both these goals simultaneously is a challenge.

chart of goalsWhen you add in the rest of my life, which is happily crowded full of two kids, a husband, a dog, a house to run,  friends, interests, a full-time job, a love of tv and a tendency to waste time on the internet writing self-reflection blogs, you can see how I’ve set myself up for problems.

I can’t plan for one goal in isolation, and I can’t just expect time, motivation and energy to just come out of nowhere.  I have to make a life plan that incorporates both aspirations in a realistic way, anticipating many obstacles, both expected and unexpected.  I have to use all the tools and techniques I have learned together in concert, not one at a time.

It would be so much easier to throw my hands up in the air and say it’s too hard, to give up on both and just continue along, obese and unaccomplished, but I can’t, not for more than a few weeks.  Then I see myself standing sideways in a mirror or skim a horribly written book that somehow got published, and I need to try again.

Am I the only one who struggles with this kind of stuff?


December 29, 2012

Making Resolutions That Stick

Set yourself up for success by fueling your goals.  You’ve set down clear, measurable, realistic goals with a clear date for completion.  The next step is to gather up tools, support and information to keep them from flaring briefly and fizzling out.  Before you throw yourself into a sprinting frenzy, prepare yourself for a marathon instead.

  1. Go to your library catalog and request a pile of books on your goal’s topic.  If you have a writing goal, for example, check out books on writing, books by award winning authors in your chosen genre, and writing magazines.
  2. Go shopping for things that feed your goals.  Get stickers to mark exercise on your calendar, get a new pen or notebook, get art and craft supplies.  Buy little rewards to give yourself for doing the work of your action plan, and tuck them away for later.
  3. Find a supportive friend and ask them to email you about a month from now, when the novelty of working toward the goal has worn off.
  4. Use the enthusiasm you have now and write yourself an encouraging letter.  Write out why you want to achieve the goal and why it’s worth all the work you are doing.  Describe what it would be like to have accomplished your goal.
  5. Get out your calendar (don’t have one? see #2) and write in your deadline for your goal. Then go back and mark the halfway point and then the quarterly points.
  6. Have a computer file or paper notebook for tracking your progress, research, action plans and more.

Taking these steps (and any others you can think of specific to your needs) will help you stay motivated for the long haul.  Lastly, ask yourself the question-“How can I make going for this goal easier and more enjoyable?”

Tell me what you do to set yourself up for success and feed your goals.


June 2, 2012

Setting Goals, Marking Deadlines and Re-evaluating

I set a goal for myself to finish a rewrite of my novel-in-progress by next Saturday, so that I could have it off my desk before the dreaded summer reading season hits.  I have made some great progress, but I would have to lock myself in my room for next week to get that accomplished.  I could be working on it right now, but I made a commitment to post to this blog once a week, and I have not broken that yet.  When  I have to surrender and say that I can’t make a self-imposed deadline, it is important to stop before I call it failure.  Is it really?  I have been writing consistently, daily for more than a month.  I have made breakthroughs in the plot and characters.

When you don’t meet your self-imposed goals:

  • Forgive yourself for not completing your assignment
  • acknowledge what you did get done
  • evaluate- ask, what stopped me from getting this done?
  • come up with solutions for obstacles
  • ask- do I still want to achieve this goal?
  • reset deadlines
  • reset goals
  • ask for help from family and friends


“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
Douglas Adams


May 5, 2012


Finding the Right Role Model

Role Models are people who have done what you want to do. Picking the right one can provide you with guidance and encouragement.  Picking the wrong one can be detrimental.

Many people pick someone at the pinnacle of their career, comparing that person’s master works against their own beginning work.  This is discouraging.  Pick someone who is just a little further on than you, or look at your best-selling, award winning favorite artist’s first work.  Read up about how they got there.  Writer’s Digest has a segment on break-in authors, with a quick summary of how they published their first book.

Pick a role model you can emulate.  That means, don’t pick someone who got there by some sheer fluke, some wild confluence of circumstance that would seem improbable in a movie.  If he got his success because he accidentally dropped his manuscript in the elevator that the editor got trapped in for three hours, it’s probably not something that can be recreated.  On the other hand, even the most luckiest of breaks have lessons to impart.  As the saying goes, you can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.  That guy who dropped his manuscript?  He had a finished manuscript.

I need a few role models to go from in my own life.  I need to find a published writer who is also a working mom.  What tricks can she provide for time management, working through distractions, working while half-asleep and dealing with self-doubt?

I also could use a blogging role-model.  Who has a blog that is getting traffic?  Not some well-established blog that has thousands of loyal followers, but someone just a bit further along and has commenters who are not friends or family members?

What role models could help you?  Any goal can use one. I’m thinking about role models for my friend’s goals….

  • an actor in a community play
  • someone who ran in a 5K
  • a craft-fair vendor
  • a recent graduate of the college program you want to apply for
  • a singer in a local band
  • a local playwright
  • newly published comic book artists
  • a local coffee shop owner who’s been in business for a year
  • someone who has just adopted a child
  • an artist who did a gallery show




January 7, 2012

Every January I get out my notebook and write out my goals.  I keep most of my notebooks and flipping back through them for years upon years, it was the same thing with some slight variation:

  • lose weight
  • get published
  • improve work/life balance and take care of my family
Sooooo, let’s just take that as a given, right?  Do I even need to write that down?  Yes.  yes I do.  It’s reaffirming the direction I want to go.  But it does not help me get there.  A plan is much more useful.  How do I lose weight? What do I need to do to get published?  Setting out actions to take and scheduling to do them, daily, is the best way to get those goals.
This year I want to get out of that 3 goal rut.  I’ve been charging along with my head down for a while.  I need to create, learn and grow.  I need to nurture my inner artist, taking the time to play and enjoy life.
What I want to do in 2012 (the year of the Dragon!) Brainstorm
  • develop Jane’s Folly – blog at least weekly, if not more
  • learn about Twitter
  • revise a manuscript for publication and send it out
  • read a lot of books about creativity, writing and motivation
  • take “artist dates”
  • take classes?
  • go to conferences about writing, gaming and my profession
  • make connections with friends and other creative people
  • start drawing and painting again
  • make a zine of my friend’s work?
  • make family videos
  • collaborate on a project
  • find ways to be creative at work- kids crafts, programs, displays
  • knit, sew and craft
This may seem overwhelming, or not enough.  To me, it is both!  The next step is time management.  I’m a mom of 2 with a full time job.  When will I do this stuff?  I need to schedule it.  Write in my calendar- or  something else will take its place.  I’m currently listening to the audiobook “Time Management From the Inside Out” by Julie Morgenstern, and I recommend  it.
So, go ahead, make your list.  What creative, nurturing things will you do this year that will help you grow as a person?
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