Let’s Try a Different Approach to “Goals”

Kids back in school. Check.

Routine back to “normal”. Check?

Maybe, like me, you had big plans for this week that didn’t. quite. materialize.

Maybe we’re going about this “goals” thing all wrong.

Here are my thoughts on a new year, goals, resolutions, and all those things that may be stressing you out right now.


Prefer to read?

Here’s the complete transcript.

“Hello and Happy New Year!

I'm so glad to be back with you that I thought I'd rather talk to you instead of write to you today.

I know it’s a little strange at the end of the second week of January to be wishing you Happy New Year, but if you're like me and your kids just went back to school on Monday, this kinda feels like the first week of the year.

As excited as I was for them to get back to school, and get back into our routine, and I had all these grand intentions for Monday morning, it just didn't happen! I don't know about you, but I saw a lot of this on social media – the plans we thought we were going to make and goals we were going to set over Christmas, well lots of us were feeling a little overwhelmed. You might be the type of woman who’s already nailed all that. You’ve got your 90-day plan or 120-day plan for your business or your family. If that’s you – FANTASTIC! But if you're like me a little bit (or a lot bit!) that might not be where you find yourself. So I wanted to make this message for you.

I did not do the planning and goal-setting over the month of December like I had intended. What I did do, however, is I went back to the previous year and I looked over what had happened. You may have heard me mention before that I’ve used Lara Casey’s PowerSheets, and this is the first year that I've used them consistently all year long. It's a great tool for staying on-track month to month. But it actually became a great tool at the end of the year to look back and see everything that had happened over the previous year because if you’re like me, you have no idea what happened last February anyway, right?! So as I was looking through things, I realized that there are 3 things that have now become a part of my regular week that I had no plans for last January, and I find great consolation in that because they’re things that have become important to me.

Also in December I discovered an author named Emily P. Freeman. She writes about faith and family and has lots of deep insights, and she also has a podcast called The Next Right Thing. Her goal is to help women overcome decision fatigue and make a decision for the next right thing, whatever that is, however big or small. So I started binge listening to her podcast and came across this great quote and it goes like this:

Try a different approach to “goals” and pick something you like by Michelle Clayton of Let Her Fly

“Pick something you like, then see how it grows.”

And as I thought of that (she wasn’t talking about January or New Year's or goals or plans), as I compared that to the things that I had discovered from last year, I realized how true that was. So these 3 things are things that – unknowingly at the time – are something that I picked and liked and I just decided to see how they grew. So I want to share those with you today. Maybe they'll give you some encouragement or some insight and help you pick some of your own things that you’d like for 2019.

The 3 things in a nutshell are:

#1 I started meditating and practicing mindfulness on an almost daily basis because we’re not about doing things perfectly here, okay?

#2 I started getting up about an hour earlier on weekdays. Weekends don't count but on regular weekdays – an hour earlier.

#3 I started running about 5 kilometers, 2 to 3 times a week.

Please know I'm not saying this as any kind of bragging that I'm so great at this stuff because behind those 3 things, there's a whole lot of other things that need a lot of work. But these are the 3 that worked for me this year.

So the catch with the quote “Pick something you like, then see how grows” is you pick someTHING, not some THINGS – not your list of your top 2 or 5 or 10 goals that you have. Pick something. I would say it's something that you like but it may not be something that you know you like YET. You might be curious about liking it, or you might be interested in seeing how that fits into your life.

For me at the beginning of last year, this was the only thing that kind of started in January for me – this first idea of practicing mindfulness or meditation. I’m fortunate to have lots of friends in my life who are also coaches – life coaches, health coaches, personal coaches. So I had heard of this and I knew a little about it, but really I was pretty clueless. I didn’t know exactly what it was; I certainly had a lot of misconceptions and misinformation. At the beginning of the year, I was super stressed and under a lot of anxiety with stuff that was going on in our family and with our kids, and I felt really overwhelmed by that. From what little I knew, I thought maybe this is something worth exploring; maybe this is something that would be helpful.  So in typical Michelle-fashion, I started doing a lot of research. I read some things; I read books and info online; I talked to some friends and thought, “Okay, maybe I should give this a try.” 

In my research, I also found out – hey, there's an app for that! In fact, there are a lot of apps for that! So then I started weeding through what app was going to work for me and I tried a lot of them because, hey, they’re free. I looked at probably 10 or 12 to find something that I would enjoy and that would keep me motivated. Most of them I hated, but one of them I really loved and that was the one that I really stuck with and started trying.

Now the other thing with picking something you like and seeing how it grows is, when something is growing, it starts small. Right? We start with this little tiny seed or this little idea. That’s how it was with this for me. My first several weeks of meditation was 3 minutes, y'all! Seriously! I was sitting there thinking, “I don't know if this even counts? Does 3 minutes count?” I don't know, but the experts said it did so I stuck with it and found that the more I did it, the more I enjoyed it, and it brought a sense of calm and clarity to my days. I did this in the morning, first thing when the house was still quiet and just loved how that developed. 

So from 3 minutes it went to 5 minutes, and then from 5 minutes to 8 minutes, then 8 minutes to 10 minutes. Ten minutes is the most I've ever done for the entire year; 10 minutes is my cap and it works for me. The nice thing is when I started seeing a psychologist last spring for a little while to also help deal with the stress and anxiety (because 3 minutes of meditation was not gonna fix it; let's be honest), this was one of the tools she recommended. She said, “Have you ever thought about trying this?” And I could say, “Yeah, I have. I’ve actually been doing this and I found it really helpful.” She was then able to reinforce it and say, “Great, keep doing that. However long you do it is fine. There's no magic number.”

So I didn't start this with any real goal. I wasn't thinking, “Okay, I'm going to meditate by myself for an hour every morning” or anything grand like that. It was just simple. It was – let's just try it; let’s experiment and see what happens.

That continued to grow throughout the Spring. When we talk about habits there’s a technical term called “layering” where once you develop a habit that's working and you're doing it consistently, you can layer habits on to that because you're building onto something that's already gotten a little bit of strength to it and sometimes it's easier to add habits that way. For me that then became the second one which was getting up an hour earlier. Now I have to tell you – I am not a morning person – and saying that out loud is the biggest understatement of the century! I’m really not a morning person, guys, but what I found was that I liked what I was doing in the morning and I wanted to have more time to do that. 

So in addition to the meditation, along with that came a 3-minute podcast that was sort of a daily devotional that I was really enjoying. And then I was just jotting down ideas or copying down a quote that I heard that really spoke to me. Those types of small things started to take time. I needed a little more time in the morning. I couldn’t increase that practice and still get up at the same time and have a happy family and get everybody out the door without a lot of yelling. So knowing that I'm not a morning person, I thought, “Okay, what am I going to do?” You hear about people who get up at 5 a.m. Not me! Still not me even even a year later. But I thought I could get up 15 minutes earlier. Maybe. Let's try it. Let's start small because I wanted to develop this other practice and see what happens. So I started getting up 15 minutes earlier, and I found that I enjoyed it. A lot of times when I was doing this, I was still in bed. I would get up and literally sit up in bed and do this.

Then some time during Summer when the kids are off school, I realized I enjoyed reading in the morning, more reading than just something short. And again that takes a little more time. Then instead of 30 minutes, okay I've done that and I've survived that. Everybody's fine. Maybe that's 45 minutes. Of course at this point that means going to bed a little bit earlier because I couldn't survive on less sleep. Then by late fall, I finally backed that up an hour. So now most mornings – I don't say all mornings and not on the weekends – I get up an hour earlier so that I can do something I enjoy. I’m not conquering some big goal or making some big plan. It's just for my own benefit. And I like to think that because it’s benefiting me, it’s benefiting my family and the other people around me as well.

So that’s the first 2.

The third practice is this “running on a weekly basis” thing. If you’ve read my other blog post, you’ve heard me talk a little bit about this before and that came in May. So again, it was one thing at a time. I didn't start in January and say I’m doing these 3 things at this level. It was just one thing, and then build on a second thing, and then around June this third idea of running. It was just an idea and I don’t know where it came from because if you'd asked me 8 months ago (and if you read my blog you know) I said, “I don't run. I'm not a runner. I tried it once before. It was awful; it hurt really badly. I guess I'm just not cut out to do this.” But at the same time something sparked my interest. Our youngest daughter goes to a school where every May they have a 5k fundraiser for their school. So every year we've done this. We mostly walk and then run a little bit just to try to get it over with little bit faster. But for some reason this year after May I thought, “Hmm. I wonder if maybe I could run this next year? What would that even look like?” 

So I started – in Michelle-fashion – researching “can adults learn to run at any age?” I'm not twenty-something anymore, so how do you even go about this? I talked to friends who are health coaches and fitness coaches and realized this is actually possible! I’ll spare you the details, but I tried it, got an injury (2 injuries, actually), had to take a break and rest and heal. Then I found this idea of “Couch to 5K”. Any of you runners know what this is. If you're not a runner, Couch to 5K is exactly what it sounds like. It takes someone who just sits on the couch and does barely any physical activity (That was me! It wasn’t a couch but it was my office chair, sitting there way too many hours in a row.), and it takes you, over the course of 9 to 10 weeks, from sitting on a couch or desk chair to being able to run 5K in about 30 minutes. So not a fast time, more to build endurance and strength. I started this program and found a free podcast that I loved (and sometimes I still use it). This is where it starts, guys. Talk about tiny steps! In Week 1 of this program you run for 60 seconds, and then you walk for 90 seconds, and you rotate these run/walk intervals. So there's a warm up, there’s a run/walk time, and then there's a cool down time. 60 seconds, guys!! In total it was 8 minutes, broken down by walking sequences. The second week was, I think, 90 seconds of running a 2 minutes of walking. Add to that the fact that it’s a 9-10 week program. I did it in about six months! I wasn't out to prove anything to anybody. I was concerned about injury; my worst fear was that I would get injured so I started off with an injury and overcame that. After the injury I thought what if I can't do this ‘cause I kinda started to enjoy it. If felt efficient. I was getting exercise. I could take the dog with me and she loved it. It was working for me and if I went slow enough and progressed in tiny enough steps it worked and it still works. The first couple weeks I’m thinking, “How in the world can you learn to run by only running 60 seconds at a time?” It’s kinda crazy but it works!

All of that to say, you take anything that you think you might like, or think you're interested in, or curious about – and try it and see how it grows. I was a little bit closed but open to the possibility that, ok, maybe running’s not for me. When I saw my doctor, she said, “Actually you might think you’re built to be a runner (because I’ve got really long legs), but a lot of times people with your build don't make good runners because they're prone to injury. This might not work for you but let’s rest, let’s heal, and let’s see what’s possible.” Now I do about 5k, on a good week, two to three times a week. Christmas was a bit sketch, guys, but we’re slowly working back up. We'll see what happens with the rest of winter. Who knows – if it’s -20°C and a half a meter of snow, this girl’s not running. But for now it works, right? So take what you can while it works.

The other thing is, none of this was particularly business-related. It certainly had nothing to do with branding or design or any of that. It was really just about me and personal things that I was interested in. They were not goals that I set at the beginning of the year. I did not have a 90-day plan for how I was going to make this work. I just showed up and picked something I liked and then waited to see how it grew.

So I hope that resonates with you. I hope that gives you HOPE that just because we're in the middle of January and we don't have things sorted out, it's okay! There's nothing magical about the first of the year. It's just another month on the calendar so there's still lots of time. Yes, I want to do some planning. Yes, I want to set some goals. Yes, I want to finish watching Tidying Up on Netflix and “KonMari” my entire house, but that hasn't happened yet, and that's okay!

I would love to hear from you if there's something that you're curious about trying or doing or experimenting with. Please send me an email at michelle@weletherfly.com or leave a comment down below. I'd love to hear and love to cheer you on. I’ll talk to you again very soon!”

goalsMichelle Clayton