Setting new goals: why you need to focus on the seeds you plant today
“Do not measure success by today’s harvest. Measure success by the seeds you plant today.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
After the punishing heat of summer, autumn has finally arrived here in Hoi An with perfect timing. It comes just after the mid-autumn festival, Tet Trung Thu, which is held at the time of the Harvest Full Moon and is celebrated with a lot of fanfare.
For a week the streets were abuzz with gangs of kids of all ages, performing dragon and lion dances accompanied by vigorous drumming, to drive away evil spirits and to bring good luck.
It got me thinking about how we make our own good luck and how harvest season is a great time to stop and to reflect about our goals and intentions for the rest of this year.
We’ve started the last quarter of 2018, which made me feel a moment of dread about all the things I haven’t done this year. But regret is not going to get me any closer towards achieving my goals. So instead of feeling bad, I sat down and took stock of my goals and achievements so far this year.
I also looked my evil spirits in the eye and decided that the only way to fight resistance, perfectionism and my tendency to want to do too much, is by setting clear priorities and nurturing the things I really want to do.
Whether you are sliding into autumn or spring right now, take the season change as an opportunity to clear away the cobwebs and to plant the seeds that will bring the harvest you wish for. Get clear on where you want to put your energy for the next three months.
Here are some writing prompts that have helped me to check-in with myself and to re-frame the fact that there are only 3 months left in 2018 (can you believe it!) as a positive. It’s a solid chunk of time in which to achieve realistic goals. The pressure is on to get serious and to me, that feels strangely exciting.
1. Take a look at the goals you set at the beginning of this year.
If you used the Summer Solstice Writing Prompts I sent you in June, look at those as well. Maybe your goals have changed or maybe you’ve abandoned some of your well-thought-out plans for 2018?
That’s ok. Taking a look at the goals you set earlier in the year, is also an exercise in learning to set realistic goals and to find ways to meet them.
One of my goals was to write another online course before the end of the year. But doing this exercise, I accepted that that’s incompatible with my other, long-term, goal to finish my manuscript.
I’ve got three months and I can only prioritise one project if I want to see real results. This realisation actually gives me some comfort. Maybe I can stop the multi-tasking now and get on with it.
2. Make a list of everything you have done this year to work towards your goals.
Make this a celebration of your achievements, not a list of your failures!
I still don’t manage to meditate for a full hour each morning. But I’ve sat in meditation almost every day this year, even when traveling. I’ve made it a daily non-negotiable priority (inclusive of a few days of permitted truancy) and that in itself is an achievement.
Likewise, I didn’t meet my goal of publishing a blog post every week this year. Moving continents and making a permanent home in Hoi An, made me loose sight of that goal about three months into the year. There simply wasn’t enough time to do everything. But I’ve written regularly and I’ve written a lot of other things this year which has made me a faster writer. Tick.
3. Write down any goals you have reached this year.
I didn’t fill the retreat I held in September in Hoi An. I had several cancellations at short notice and that made me a little anxious right up until the retreat started. But looking at it now, I see a huge achievement. I pulled it off!
When I sat down to take stock of my personal writing goals for this year I felt like I’d let myself down. I’ve been so busy teaching others how to do their best work, I haven’t done enough of my own. But since the end of the retreat only two weeks ago, I’ve sat down every day and I’ve done some of my best writing. Another tick!
It also showed me that only I can decide where I put my energy. And where I put my energy, things will grow. Anybody knows that, but it helps to live among farmers who remind me of it every day.
Which goals have you reached this year? Make a list, then continue reading.
4. What do you wish to harvest by the end of this year?
This one was hard for me, because I really want to produce another online course. But these things take time and with only three months to go and many other commitments, it’s a choice between getting serious about one project or dabbling in both and not achieving very much. I’ve spent too much time doing the latter. It’s time to make a decision and prioritise one goal over another.
Ideally I’d like to have both, a first draft of my memoir and another online course. But that’s just not going to happen.
So here’s the truth about what I want. I want to be able to have at least 50,000 words of my manuscript written. I’ve got three more months to do it. There you go, I’ve said it!
It’s an ambitious goal, but if I really make it my focus and priority, I know it’s achievable.
What is an ambitious but realistic goal YOU can set right now?
5. What seeds can you plant today?
Write without stopping for 10 minutes what can can be started today so that with tender care it will grow and bear fruit by the end of this year.
For me, this blog post is one of the seeds I wish to plant. To write regular blog posts, I have to let go of my perfectionism. Not every blog post has to be a polished article. So here I am planting the first seed, by writing a blog post quickly and hitting publish without giving it too much thought.
Other seeds I have started to plant is to set daily and weekly micro goals. A daily word limit of 1000 words is a powerful seed for me to plant. Two weeks on from the Harvest Moon that sparked this train of thought, I’ve managed to write 1000 words a day.
What is a seed you can plant today?
6. Take 15 minutes right now and plant your seeds
Whether that means making a dreaded phone call, writing 500 words towards your short story, cleaning out the garage or sitting down for a 15 minute meditation.
I just spent 20 minutes writing this blog post. I’ve planted my seeds today. Time for a cup of tea now!
What do you wish to harvest by the end of 2018?
What seeds you are going to plant today?