Your Questions Answered: Accomplishing Goals on Your Own

Q: If you need to accomplish something and you have no help to push you through, how do you it?

A: It can be difficult to stay on track toward our goals when we don’t have someone actively supporting our work. I’ve been in this situation, too. Here are some suggestions to accomplish your goals, regardless of the support you have from other people.

  1. Identify your internal resistance. Is there a reason why you feel hesitant to move forward without external validation and support? Identifying the sources of resistance that you may be feeling will help you move past them.
  2. Connect with your motivation. You have identified a goal. Why is this important to you? Connecting with the reason why you are pursing something as you are doing it will keep you focused and moving forward.
  3. Realize that ‘you’re it!’ Ultimately, you are responsible for your actions. While it’s nice to have a cheerleader, coach, and mentor, that just isn’t always the reality. And when we do have someone like that on our side, they may not always be available to us because they are working on their own projects.
  4. Establish an accountability system. Tell someone what you are doing to do. Post it on social media so the whole world will (potentially) know. By stating your intentions to another person or people, you may feel a stronger sense of obligation because you know that others are watching and waiting.
  5. Enjoy a reward. Celebrate your progress, however small. Do something that you enjoy doing — something just for you – when you achieve milestones on your journey.
  6. Build a support network. If you don’t have a mentor or sponsor, it may be beneficial to connect with a peer who shares or complements your experiences. The Women’s Creative Leadership Network is one way for you to connect with others and ask for advice or support.
  7. Identify other resources that you need – and go after them! You may feel stuck because there are resources – like relationships, facilities, or materials – that you need to make progress. Make a list of everything that you need and then develop a plan to get (or borrow) those items.
  8. Share your vision. Tell other people about what you are trying to accomplish, why this is important to you, and how this will benefit them. Get people excited and involved in your work – even if they are not directly with you every step of the way. Find your “first follower” to motivate you and start creating your vision.

Your Questions Answered: Trust, Patience, Emotions, the Comfort Zone

Q: How can I trust others to help me?

I sometimes have trouble trusting others. I know that they are (generally) good people and mean well, but sometimes it just seems easier to do everything myself. But I know that part of my responsibility as a leader is to support, guide, and uplift others around me. To fulfill this responsibility, we need to give other people space to be involved, try, and make mistakes. Yes, we need to let them fail a little, but support and catch them before they cause real harm. If you can’t trust the people around you, then you might not have the right people on your team.

Q: How can I help other people understand my goals?

With so many competing interests and compelling things drawing our attention, it can be difficult to get other people to pay attention to, let alone understand, our goals. The first step is to make sure your goals are crystal clear. That means succinct, quantifiable, and easily digestible. Once your goals are clear, make sure you are able to articulate why this goal is important to you, your organization, your community, and various constituent groups. You can tell a great story by sharing why this goal is important to you, but don’t forget to put yourself in others’ shoes to try and see things from their perspective. You can also share your goals in an open way to provoke discussion. Perhaps other people can help you refine or expand your goals so that they are even better!

Q: How can I challenge myself to step outside of my comfort zone?

As leaders, it is important for us to push ourselves and redefine our limits. We can do this in ways that are directly related to our work, like making a presentation to 100 people, or in ways that expand us as a human being. Both are valuable and make use more adaptable and resilient leaders. To take on this challenge, make a list of things that you would like to do, but they feel quite scary. Think exhilaration. For me, that would be making a sales call (something I really don’t like to do, but I would like to do it because it is valuable) or, for a personal example, joining a roller derby team (which I might just do). After you make your list, including both personal and professional things to do – and you can take a few days to make your list – pick one and commit to doing it within one month. Over time, you can expand your list, pick more activities, and set more ambitious goals. Have fun!

Q: How can reign in my passion to focus on my goals?

You may be asking the wrong person. I am pretty much all over the place, and it is because I am a passionate person with multiple interests. I find it hard to focus and just do one thing. That being said, having this disposition has forced me to develop some discipline over the years to keep me on track toward my goals. First of all, you may need to prioritize your goals because, if you’re anything like me, you probably have more that you want to do than you could ever realistically accomplish. So write down those goals and prioritize them. Determine what is most important to you. Now, get out your calendar and write down specific things, even little things, that you can do to progress toward your most important goals each week. Even just one thing. So, you have prioritized your goals and scheduled time to work on them every week. Now, how do you reign in your passion? I’m not sure that you need to. Your multiple passions are what make you an interesting person, and they probably contribute to your sense of pleasure and fulfillment. And don’t forget that you have an entire lifetime to explore your passions. You don’t need to do everything right now. Keep prioritizing and adjust to keep yourself focused on your current goals.

Q: How can I use technology for my presentation without distracting my audience?

Yes, you are right – technology can definitely be distracting. But it can also be really helpful to communicate our messages. Think of technology not as a must have, but as something that enhances your delivery. In other words, don’t rely on technology, use it to add value to what you are saying. I find it is helpful to keep text to a minimum and use pictures to keep people engaged. But then, sometimes people start to write down every word because they are afraid they will miss something important! If this is the case, you can prepare notes and let the group know that you will make them available after the presentation. That way, they can just sit back and relax. Don’t forget to test out all of your technology well in advance of your meeting. There is nothing worse than having to postpone a meeting because the projector won’t connect to the computer (learned that the hard way!).

Q: How can I control my emotions so that I do not come across like a “boss?”

This is a delicate balance. Women are (too often) expected to be demure and nurturing; we are judged harshly when we exert our authority. Yet, for me, I resist authoritarianism and actively choose to engage with others in an open, responsive way whenever possible (I actually tend to be more rigid naturally, so this take some effort). I do this not to meet society’s expectations, but to align with my values. I suspect that you are similar to me in this way. You might want to read up Daniel Goleman’s concept of “emotional intelligence.” He has written a lot about the benefits of controlling emotions at work. It may benefit you to close your eyes for a few moments and take some deep breaths before you engage with others at work – especially those that might bring out the boss in you. You can also keep a journal to help you explore your feelings – their source, what provokes them, how you express them, etc. This may help you to identify ways to adjust to present yourself as the leader you want to be.

Q: How can I be a more patient leader?

Leaders are often involved in provoking change, whether it is change in organizations or change in communities. And change takes time. People don’t like change; they resist it and resent it. But, for change to be sustainable – to really get people on board with our vision — we need to work through all of its messiness. As leaders, we also try to provoke change in other people, like the people we supervise. It can be frustrating when we share our years of experience and wisdom with other people over and over again only to be ignored. Remember that you are the teacher, the guide, the source of support for others. People are looking to you for answers and watching how you respond (or react) as things unfold. Appreciating our position as a role model can help us put things in perspective and transform our feeling and how we interact with others. Our patience can also develop over time through persistence. We need to integrate both our immediate needs and our long term vision into our perspective.

Creative Happiness

creativityI seem to only be truly happy when I am actively engaged in the process of creating something. Creativity gives my life focus and clarity, a goal around which I can organize my otherwise chaotic and sometimes self-destructive thoughts. In addition, creating something — whether it is tangible or intangible, permanent or temporary— brings with it a great deal of self-satisfaction, boosting both my self-efficacy and my sense of self-worth.

Creativity represents a healthy balance in-between two other extremes: restlessness and stagnation. Both restlessness and stagnation are linked to insecurity and detachment. I know when I am getting restless because I feel impatient, ungrateful, and agitated. Restlessness can lead to brooding, unthoughtful behavior, and sometimes devastating life consequences. When I start to stagnate, I feel bored, lazy, and hopeless; stagnation inevitably leads to psychic death. This is perhaps similar to the theory of bipolar disorder in which there are two extremes of mood: mania (restlessness) and depression (stagnation).

Creativity, then, is an outlet that brings together complex emotions in a positive, goal-oriented way. It bridges the novel brilliance of restlessness with the structure and stability of stagnation. When I feel restless, it is often because I want something new in my life; when I create, I make something new in my life. When I feel stagnant, I feel empty and as though my life is on hold; when I create, I initiate and sustain movement through which meaning and fulfillment emerge. Through the creative process, I am able to use and reconcile conflicting emotions in a complementary way that hopefully adds more beauty and peace to the world.

Forager, Farmer, Fool

A straw bale

About 13 years ago, a good friend told me that I should just do one thing if I wanted to be successful. As I approach my 40th birthday, what he said to me all of those years ago is finally starting to make sense.

I have approached much of my life as a hunter-gatherer. With insatiable curiosity and a strong desire to learn and do as much as possible, I exposed myself to many different kinds of ideas and experiences. I dabbled in a multitude of areas, leaving many projects incomplete. For example, I have always been a writer and have long wanted to seek a publisher for one of my books. As I sort through old computer files, I find half written book proposals, lists of agents who have never been approached, and the remnants of a clever and ambitious girl who just couldn’t focus on one thing at a time.

While being a hunter-gatherer may not have resulted in me fully articulating and achieving all of my goals, it certainly has made me a wiser and more interesting person. I have foraged my way through the bounty of life, feeding my soul with a rich feast of ideas. Within me is the depth and breadth of one hundred ordinary people. Ordinary people who are, admittedly, enjoying the fragrant blossoms of the single seed they have planted and lovingly tended for so many years. So while I feel a certain level of smug self-satisfaction and gratitude for the life I have lived, I also feel a bit of regret and remorse for everything that has been left behind in my feeding frenzy. I feel it is time to transition from surviving to thriving, from languishing to flourishing.

I, too, have planted many seeds in my life. Thousands of them. A brilliant idea here, a dream for tomorrow there. But I abandoned those seeds for sparkling meadows and alluring forests. The seeds were left behind in the wrong places, not planted deep enough into the earth, untended and unloved. Quantity over quality, exposure but never intimacy.

As I enter the fifth decade of my life, I am drifting back through fond foraging memories to glean those that most deeply resonate with the person I am today, the person I always was but hadn’t quite discovered yet, the person I will always be. Those memories will shape the farm of my future, the place that will be my home, my salvation, a reflection of my most significant commitments to myself and to this planet. I will continue to plant seeds, but will do so selectively and with the intention of offering my love and attention through the last blossom, from season to season.