Mapping Out Your Goals

So here we are, the final installment of my inspirational musings. A few weeks ago (Aug. 19th, 2019), my brother asked me to help him with an English assignment. His teacher gave him four questions that he had to pose to two people and then write a response to each of their answers. What he didn’t tell me was that the paper was supposed to be 2,000 words total… I sent him 4,000. Whoops… 

In week one’s article, “ A Word For the Young and Young of Heart,” we explored the first question he sent me, “What do you think my strengths and weaknesses are?” I shared the answer I gave to him with all of you and then a bit of encouragement I wished someone had told me when I was a teenager. In week two’s article, “ Identifying Your Brightest Talents,” we looked at the question, “How do you think I can use my talents in a meaningful way?” I talked about my answer for my brother. I then took my readers for a walk through an exercise that I hope helped a few of you to become a little better in-tuned with your deepest passions and had you thinking about how to do something exciting with them. Last week, in “Build Your Dreams One Bite At A Time,” we recalled those passions and broke them up into digestible pieces. This week we’re getting into a more goal-oriented mindset and looking at steps you can take to achieve everything you’ve ever wanted to.

Below is the answer I gave to my brother. All these very specific tips and tricks I’ve gathered from my girl, Rachel Hollis over the years. I’ve read both of her books, Girl, Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing. I also listen to her multiple podcasts and I religiously follow her on social media. She’s not the only inspirational person I follow, but she’s by far the one that resonates with me the most. Her goal-oriented plans work best for me. If you have something that works better for you, I’d love to hear it! Drop me a comment and we’ll have a conversation about your personal strategies!

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4. What advice would you give to help me achieve these goals?

Define them. Define them now, and define them in as much detail as you can. Then, as you age, mature, and find yourself, keep defining them until you no longer recognize them.

First, I suggest you establish your “Five to Thrive.” These are the five core values that most define you. I don’t expect you to know them all right now at this stage in your life, but you should be aware of them as you move out of high school, and, hopefully, into college. These are my five:

  1. Make my health my top priority.
  2. Make time for the people (and animals) I care about most.
  3. Live life with the goal to have fun.
  4. Exude love and understanding (the world has enough close-minded hate).
  5. Keep my hobbies a hobby – and designate at least an hour to them each week.

Once you know these, you can reference them quickly and efficiently before making any decisions in your life. Let’s say that someone was to ask me to join their band, and I know they are really into this thing and are already planning gigs. Pretend, for a moment that I know anything about playing guitar (I don’t), but I only strum casually every once in a while as a hobby with no real dreams of it being a career. This person is someone I really like and I don’t want to disappoint them, so I feel conflicted and want to say yes. In that split second while they are waiting for my answer, I can bounce the proposal off my value list and see that it conflicts with value # 5. For me, that’s exactly the kind of reassurance I need to do the right thing by letting my friend down easy upfront instead of making a commitment I would later resent and drop out of anyway. See how handy this tip is to keep your life and commitments on track? 

You will also use these five when making your next list: Your 10/10. Get a notebook, write down the 10 goals you want to achieve in the next 10 years in AS MUCH detail as possible. Reference these goals against your Five to make sure they don’t conflict. Here’s an example from my list: 

  1. “I want to run a successful blog/podcast. I will start by posting 1,500 words or more on my blog every two weeks until it’s a ritual. Then, I will rally my two voice-actors plus myself to record and act out the content in my fictional stories. We will publish these recordings twice a month.”

These two lists are something I wish with all my heart I’d had at your age. If I had, perhaps I wouldn’t have spent my high school days (and most of my twenties) feeling completely lost and directionless. I also might have graduated from college already instead of, yet again, giving community college a try. Or perhaps I would have realized sooner that I didn’t have a real goal. I was still finding out who I am. Maybe if I’d worked out my five values, and watched them as they kept changing, I would have gone out and found myself instead of wasting two and a half years of my life (and my limited financial aid allowance) on meaningless classes that now don’t even count towards my major. I could have then spent my time more wisely by working in a job and building a savings or investing in a good car or property. Instead, I’m swimming in credit debt and can’t imagine ever seeing an end to it.

High school should be spent getting to know who you are, not who you have been told to be. Use these guides to help you realize that, and when you’re ready to work through those ten goals, then you know that I will always be right there, ready with a self-help plan or book. I know you got this, “life thing,” without my help, but rest assured you will always get it anyway.

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So this was easily my longest response to him because achieving goals is what I’m all about. My life has changed so radically over the last five years and I couldn’t have done it without shifting my focus. I used to feel aimless and spent life hoping for good things to simply happen or to figure themselves out on their own. Everyone around me held a firm mantra of, “It’ll happen, give it time,” and “You’ll figure it out, be patient.” Well, patience and time don’t make your life happen for you. Only you can take control of your course and get your life to its desired destination. A ship left to bob along in the ocean will not magically get you to land before your resources run out. You have to turn on its engines, chart a course, and then use your accumulated tools to steer you there. Hopefully, these two lists will add some powerful new tools to your arsenal, and if you want to know more about goal setting, make sure you check out my girl, Rach. 

I hope you enjoyed this little bout of inspiration and I would truly love everyone to share what plans work for them! What goals are you working on? What plans, if any, have you made to achieve them? Is there any part of these musings that you may add to your existing plans, or have you been inspired to make a plan when you never have before? Let me know all this and more in the comments below! 

A Word For the Young and Young of Heart

Last Monday, my little brother asked me to help him with an assignment in his English class. I was so excited by his project and impressed with the finished work that I had to share it. Whether or not the final product was worth the level of self-importance I felt after completing my responses is neither here nor there. This feeling is what makes writing worth embracing, and it’s so exhilarating that it seemed selfish not to attempt to share it with all of you, so here it goes.

Before we continue, there are two things you need to know about my brother and I. The first being that he and I are twelve years apart in age. This means I spent the larger part of his life hating and resenting his very existence due to zero fault of his own. The second is that I have spent the last four years of my life absolutely adoring everything about that kid. You guys remember that little dog from the cartoons that always bounced around that bulldog who barely seemed to notice his existence? Yeah, that’s me around my brother, and it will continue to be me until the day he finally breaks down and agrees to be my best friend. The most significant event that brought about this change for me was getting away from my childhood home. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom to pieces, but that lady craves destructive energies the way a zombie craves brains. Pinning my brother and me against each other was just one of the many ways she satisfied her drama quota.

I don’t have a lot of details surrounding the assignment my brother sent me, because it was all through a text, but it involved four “simple” questions. In fact, my brother’s exact words were:

“Hey Ashley i have some questions to ask you it’s just 4 questions and you don’t have to spend hours on it it’s for my english class.”

Oh, my dear, sweet, naive baby brother. You absolutely know that I don’t need hours to make this into a full-length novel. I am presently grinning a devious little smile as I imagine how priceless his teenaged reaction must have been to the two-page self-help novel I sent him via email. *Note: I have since been informed by my mother that the total word count, including his response, was to be 2,000 words. I sent him 4,000.

So, since my answers were long, and because I had so much more to say, I have decided to break the questions up over four weeks for a little #MondayMotivation. I also feel that these questions are a valuable exercise to perform with any minors in your life. It also seems beneficial for anyone you know who is struggling to find purpose or meaning in this hectic world, or even as a couple’s exercise. It’s always a shocking and refreshing thing to realize that other people see us. That they acknowledge and value our strengths, and recognize, as well as accept our weaknesses. Many times, the people around us see our potential a lot more clearly than we see it ourselves, and it can be really beneficial to have it pointed out. I highly encourage you to use these questions with the ones you love and see how it might impact them positively and encouragingly.

Question 1: What do you think my strengths and weaknesses are?

For my brother, I chose video games as his strength and his weakness. Here is what I wrote to him: 

Your strengths and your weaknesses are one and the same: video games. While some people complain and criticize the fact that you stay home all day playing video games, I see this as a lesser of potential evils. It is unfortunate that you are not getting the positive experiences that come with venturing beyond the home ( e.g., a taste for independence/ a chance to discover who you are separate from a parental figure/ the ability to make mistakes that turn into character-building lessons/ develope elevated social skills/ etc.). However, it does also mean that you are not experimenting with the life-ruining experiences that many youths your age choose to partake in. Many sixteen-year-olds in America are experimenting with hard drugs, entering into gangs, engaging in turf wars, having babies before they are old enough to understand what a mortgage is, and so much more. You have avoided this lifestyle by choosing safe, docile friends who would rather ignore the peer pressure of the world and unwind with some hard-core gaming. I’m sure, if you wanted to, you would have been more-than-capable of finding a “bad crowd” to fall in with. Instead, you chose a path that merely delays your social development until a time when you decide it’s of value to you. It will be hard, and not fun to play catch-up later, but it’s most certainly possible. I can attest to that. 

When I was his age – well, firstly, when I was his age, I was a punk-ass goth kid. Aside from that, I was a really good kid. I hung out with my friends. I wore all black. I cussed every third word. I wrote a lot of fantasy stories with vampires and werewolves that I’m ashamed to recall (because the writing was dreadful). I flirted with boys that I was too shy to do anything more than kiss, and even that I was probably too shy to pursue. 

I didn’t have my first alcoholic drink until my 21st birthday. I never in my life have dabbled in any kind of drugs, not even so much as a single puff on a joint (unbelievable, I know). I never had suicidal tendencies nor took up cutting, as a few of my friends had when the depression became too much to bear. I have never knowingly in my life committed a crime- and listen, stealing pattern blocks in Kindergarten doesn’t count. I had no idea what theft was back then, and I needed to show them to my mom so she would understand what I was so excited about every day!

All that said, I did miss out on a lot of learning opportunities. Our teenage years are a time when we are supposed to build a mental separation between our parents and us. Between who we’ve been told to be and who we actually are meant to be. It’s a time to make really stupid mistakes and to learn what doesn’t fit well with who we are becoming. It’s also a perfect time to get out all those really bad ideas so that they don’t sneak up on us later in life when they can cause more lasting hardships. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying go out there, give yourself alcohol poisoning while snorting cocaine and waking up in a jail cell, but I am saying that it’s okay to live a little and go enjoy your last hurrahs as a kid! Go loiter in front of a sign that says “no loitering” or drink a soda while driving past a sign that says “don’t drink and drive,” or zoom by on a skateboard in a shopping center that says “no skateboarding,” you know, annoying things that don’t hurt anyone.

One of the lasting hurts of my teen years, one I still find myself subconsciously seeking validation for, is that I could have been worse, and not a single adult acknowledged that. With the exception of my therapist, whom I love dearly (obvs), the only feedback I received was from everyone that was going to “pray” for me, and how “shameful” it was that I wore black clothes and dabbled in the “devil’s lore” (vampires, werewolves, Harry Potter, anything popular that came out of Japan, etc.). I also was really into video games, though, granted, not as heavily as my brother. In spite of all the criticism, harsh looks at church and strangers hands on my arm as they told me, “The devil- is bad,” (No- seriously. That actually happened) I knew that I was a good kid, and I knew how much worse off I could be. Hell, I knew how much worse all my friends were! I simply chose not to tag along to all their after-school parties nor partook in their questionable pastimes. In retrospect, they must have been good friends, because they all loved me despite that, and never pressured me. They simply respected that I didn’t care for drugs and alcohol. 

My point here is that it’s important for my brother, and anyone who feels unheard, unseen, and unappreciated, to hear the words that I craved all through my high school years. Those words, are this: You are a good kid, whether you’re 10-years-old, or 100-years-old and the choices you’re making now are not going to ruin your life unless you decide they are. They are going to give you different experiences from everyone else’s unrealistic ideas of who you should be, and that’s absolutely, and unquestionably okay. Keep up the good work, and just be as aware as you can of the experiences you’re giving up as you continue to make the choices you are. If you don’t like something, or you’re depressed that you’re missing out on something, then it’s never too late to change it, and help will always be available to you as long as you’re determined to seek it.

Good luck, kiddos.

Next Week’s Question: How do you think I can use my talents in a meaningful way?