My Life, Supported: On Setting Goals, Asking For Help + Breaking New Ground

Good morning!

First, a reminder that, if you’re thinking about signing on for Your Life, Supported!, now is the time to send me an email (caroline AT awishcomeclear.com). Rates go up for sessions booked after July 1…

…which is next Friday. (Unbelievable, isn’t it?)

Now’s your chance.

In honor of the aforementioned changeover, I rewrote my support plan + tracking tool this week. In doing so, I made a fascinating discovery:  I’m in a different place now than I was just 2 months ago.

2 months ago, my support plan included goals for every area of my life. At the time, I was pleased with the result. However, in just 2 months, I wanted to do a complete rewrite.

As I rewrote my goals, I realized that:

  • The scope of the goals was limited, because there were too many of them. Home goals, work goals, writing goals, self-care goals, exercise goals…it was overwhelming. I was trying to be a Renaissance Woman, excelling in multiple areas.
  • There was no visible area of focus. The goals reflected the important, but not the essential.
  • After a month, I’d stopped using my tracking tool because it didn’t highlight my actual priorities.

Nowadays, my goals for A Wish Come Clear are more important to me. These goals are specific, ambitious and just scary enough to keep me on my toes.

I won’t ignore the other important areas of my life. But I will distill my determination into a smaller set of goals, for a bigger impact.

We don’t have infinite energy to be diligent. Our inner child rebels against the thought of too much structure and too many rules. When you try to weigh yourself down with too many goals, that inner child says, “You want me to do what?! And how often? And you want to track all of that? Forget it! This is why I’ll never be an adult!“) As such, it’s important to give yourself some leeway.

In the Support Planning process, we list the major areas of your life, and ask questions to help you reflect on what’s going well and what could change for the better. Then, as we build your Tracking Tool, we consider the 3 goals that you want to zoom in on. I ask you, “What’s so important to you that you’re willing to track your progress daily?”

This process has helped me with racking focus — shifting from the foreground to the background. In my previous plan, I’d listed my writing goals along with everything else, as though my writing was as important to me as, say, running three times per week.

It was a form of protection, of pretending. But I’m not pretending anymore.

This website is foreground for me.

As such, my 3 main goals and sub-goals are all about supporting the work I do here. We’re gaining momentum as we approach the 6-month mark, and my goals reflect that.

Here’s a summary of what I’m focusing on this quarter:

1. Establishing regular sleep + wake times. I’m shooting for 7am and 10:30pm, respectively, 6 days/week. Why? Because lack of sleep is like kryptonite for me. When I get my sleep, everyone’s happier. When I get up early, I have more time to be creative. I have more energy (which leads to more exercise, and other healthy choices.) This single commitment to sleep will probably do more for my health and happiness this quarter than anything else I could choose.

2. Reaching a wider audience. (Since this is a major goal, I have 2 sub-goals in my Support Plan.)

3. Building my business (Since this is also a big goal, I have 4 sub-goals.)

What’s changed since I made the shift to fewer goals?

1. I’ve started asking for what I want. This is revolutionary for me. Before, my default thought-setting was, “I probably won’t get [X], so I won’t bother to ask.” Now, I’m changing that to, “I may or may not get [X], but if it matters to me, I’m going to ask for it!” How did I get to this point? Partly out of necessity, and partly because I was beyond inspired by Ash Ambirge’s story. If you’ve not read it:  she risked asking her readers to buy her (as-yet-unwritten) first book on pre-sale…because she had no place to live, no money and no one on her side. And her readers came through.

When I read something like that, it dares me to be brave. As such, I’ve begun making a practice of asking. For example, I’ve been wanting to pursue copywriting, but I didn’t know where to begin. So, I reached out to friend and mentor Dusti Arab for advice. Next thing I knew, I had my first real copywriting gig.

2. Without meaning to, I’ve begun taking calculated risks. This includes asking for what I want, but it also includes things like trying new poses in yoga or taking on my first support planning client. It seems as though the more risks I take, the more rewarding they become.

3. I’ve become less critical of myself and others, because I’m focused the only work I can do.

What can you look forward to from A Wish Come Clear in the next few months?

1. Additional guest posts and copywriting projects that align with A Wish Come Clear’s mission and vision.

2. A new book launching here by the end of the year.

3. I’ve considered my posting schedule, and decided that I’m going to aim for one fantastic post per week, on Mondays. This will allow me to write well for you and be faithful to my writing goals (and my full-time job!)

And so I want to say thank you.

You’re the reason that I can dream big and work hard. You are what keeps this site going.

And this site is, in Ash’s words, “the vehicle that made all the difference in the world for me, the moment I finally started letting it.”

***

What’s your area of focus at present? What are your goals? Tell me in the comments!

10 Life Lessons From 1 Wonderful Mom

Welcome to the Special Sunday Edition of A Wish Come Clear!

In honor of Mother’s Day (and in lieu of my usual Monday post), I’d like to share with you 10 things my Mom taught me, through her words and her actions. Each line includes a link to a post that’s moved me this week.

10 Life Lessons From 1 Wonderful Mom:

1. Wherever you’re going, take snacks. (In other words, feed yourself.)

2. Give freely, and go beyond what’s expected.

3. Always bring a gift if you’ll be staying at someone else’s house. Corollary:  Don’t arrive empty-handed to a party. It can be flowers, wine, chocolate, a card. Whatever you choose, give to those who invite you to their homes. And thank-you notes matter.

4. If you have a headache, you’re probably dehydrated. If you’re cranky, you’re probably hungry or tired. Instead of popping a pill and forging on with your day when you feel a physical symptom, stop for a moment. Ask yourself what needs aren’t getting met. You might just need to press pause on your life, relax and have a good laugh.

5. Don’t settle. My mom has an amazing fitness level, and it’s because she’s made a commitment to activities she loves. She does yoga, teaches strength and fitness classes, plays tennis and goes for long walks. Through her example, she taught me to see exercise as an energy-builder, rather than an onerous chore. Likewise, my mom taught me that making healthy choices (in regards to food, exercise and life choices) allows you to give yourself the gift of good health.

6. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, make a list. Even if it’s a not-to-do list.

7. The way to grow something good is to give it time every day. My mom taught this by example; she grew her strong faith little by little, day by day. Every morning as I trudged down the stairs to get ready for school, I’d see her sitting at her desk. She’d be wrapped in an afghan, journaling, meditating and spending time with God. These times prepared her to cope with the very difficult years of my brother’s behavioral issues. She set aside time for herself each morning, and because of that sacred space, she was able to face a good deal during her days.

Corollary:  don’t give up on people you love. My parents did not give up on my brother, despite all the ways in which he did (and still does at times) wreak havoc. That doesn’t mean controlling someone else, not accepting reality, or trying to force another person to change. It simply means:  fight for your relationships, and fight for your ideals. Give them all you’ve got.

8. It will always look better in the morning. In other words:  your problems seem more terrible and insurmountable when you’re tired. Get some rest.

9. Remember the story of your birth. My mom has told me the (abridged) version of how I was born many times, and I treasure that story. It gives me a glimpse of the person I’ve always been, even as an infant, and the person I hope to be as a woman:  wide-eyed, awake, focused, present.

10. Give the gift of yourself. When I asked my mom what she wanted for Mother’s Day. After a pause, she said, “Well…write me something!” In other words, she wanted me to give her an organic gift, to celebrate her day by doing what comes naturally to me.

Mom, I hope you like your gift. Happy Mother’s Day!

Show your love by sending this along to your mom, aunt, grandmother, or another special woman in your life.

PS ~ What did your mother teach you about life? Tell me in the comments!

Trapped By A Problem? How Active Receptivity Can Set You Free

When you want to solve an intractable problem, you probably do what I do:  dwell, ruminate and obsess. Yet I’ve noticed that when I’m frantically seeking a solution to a difficulty, I rarely receive one. Yet this does not translate to:  “Since I don’t know what to do about my [job search/medical condition/insane schedule], I’m going to do nothing.” Giving up gets you nowhere.

But if madly scrambling for a solution isn’t helpful….and giving up won’t do…what’s left?

There’s a middle way between striving and passivity. It’s called active receptivity. It means that you work toward a solution while opening yourself to receive the unexpected. Problem-solving is an art, and art is a receptive process. It is akin to conceiving a child…one part science and two parts mystery.

Let’s talk about how you can cultivate active receptivity in your life.

First and foremost: “Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth.”

(Because if Liz Gilbert puts it on the first page of Eat, Pray, Love…then baby, that’s the first thing I’ll say.)

The foundation of many a problem is a failure to acknowledge your truth in a given situation. Deep down, you know your truth…yet hearing it requires listening. To wit:  when I was in an annual planning meeting with Paul* (a member of L’Arche who has intellectual disabilities) I heard a whisper of truth that has stayed with me since.

A bit of background:  planning meetings are held to create an individual’s support plan (ISP). ISPs are required for people with intellectual disabilities who receive Medicaid Waiver services. The ISP helps a person sets goals important to and important for them, and ensures they’ll get support to reach those goals. Behind the bureaucracy of the format, it’s actually a very cool process.

Before the goal-setting starts, the person shares how they’re feeling about each area of their life. Paul was asked, “What do you like about living at L’Arche?”

“The freedom,” he said, very softly. “I like the freedom.”

Paul needs significant social supports, and his caregivers limited his freedom in the past. We do our best to support him at L’Arche, but there are days when Paul’s problems seem to loom larger than the love we have for him. I hoped L’Arche had been a place of freedom for him, but until that moment, I honestly wasn’t sure.

But when he spoke his truth, I had no doubt.

I challenge you to sit quietly, while holding the problem you’re struggling with lightly in your mind. Listen for whispers of truth.

Next, try a different route.

At Paul’s planning meeting, we brainstormed different possible jobs for him. It was clear that he wanted something new, but he wasn’t wedded to one type of employment. He was open to possibilities.

An attitude of experimentation empowers you to be patient, waiting for one small action.

When faced with a challenging conundrum, give yourself time to think, process and breathe. In our fast-food, fast-track world, a little patience goes a long way. Patience (with the universe and with yourself) puts you way ahead of the pack.

As Roland Merullo writes in A Little Love Story:  “…If you just let your mind scamper around the fences for awhile, you see one small action you might take– a word, a shift in tactics. You tug on the knotted-up ball of string once, here, and things begin to loosen.”

For you, this might mean making an appointment that you’ve been putting off, or taking an honest look at your schedule and saying no to some things.

Let me tell you about a “knotted-up ball of string” that loosened in my life.

I’ve been wanting to connect with you, my readers, on a more personal level. To give back. To help you take care of yourself.

But for the longest time…I. had. no. idea. how.

I wrote down ideas and rejected them. I did idea-generation exercises, and…nada. So I:

  • told the truth:  I don’t have an idea now, and that’s hard to accept
  • kept my mind open, and brainstormed with friends
  • put the lists aside for a week, and waited

It was as though this idea had its own hatching time, one that I couldn’t control. I could only hope to facilitate the process.

Then, this past Saturday, I woke up full of energy. I sat down at my computer. I wrote about self-care for caregivers, and working 1-on-1. I wrote about my experience at L’Arche. As I wrote, the outline of an idea emerged from the fog of frustration.

I wrote until I was sure. Until a new page materialized, until the excitement within me was brim-full. Then I went out and ran four miles. And went for a walk. And a bike ride. (Oh yes, I was sore the next day.)

The idea, in a nutshell:  I’m going to facilitate a support planning process for you, my readers. I’m going to utilize my experience to create unique plans for you. I’m going to foster the process that helped Paul speak his truth.

This idea-generation process has been messy, painful and a bit out-of-control…

but then, I hear, so is giving birth.

***

*Names have been changed.