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!


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.


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! 

Build Your Dreams One Bite At a Time

A few weeks ago (Aug. 19th, 2019), my brother asked me to help him with an English assignment. I explained this more in my first article, “A Word For the Young and Young of Heart,” and in the second, “Identifying Your Brightest Talents,” so if you missed out, it can’t hurt to go back. His teacher gave him four questions that he had to pose to two people and then write a response to each of their answers. I was thrilled to help him out because, well, writing about how great people are is kinda my thing. What he didn’t tell me was that the paper was supposed to be 2,000 words long- total… I sent him 4,000. Whoops… 

Week one, 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. I then shared a bit of encouragement that I wish someone had told me when I was a teenager. Week two’s question was, “how do you think I can use my talents in a meaningful way?” For this one, we looked more at you, the reader, and walked through an exercise that I hope helped a few of you to become a little better intuned with your deepest passions and got you thinking about how to do something exciting with them. This week, we’re going to recall those passions and break them up into digestible pieces. Week four is when we’ll get into a more goal-oriented mindset, so make sure to check back next Monday (Sept. 16th, 2019). 

3. How do you see me contributing to the world in the future?
Whether you decide to pursue a path in video games or change course and go develop the next hot app, or completely shock me and get into plumbing, I know that you’ll be amazing. I bet, by the time you hit your career’s peak, tens of thousands of people will know your name, if not hundreds of thousands. Heck, maybe one day I’ll be the one writing the scripts for the games that you develop, and between the two of us, we’ll become more famous than J.K.Rowling. A girl can dream. 

When answering this question for my brother, I took a very straightforward approach. Now, several weeks later and after beating my head against this prompt trying to understand how to make it appeal to a broader audience than just my family, I decided to shift my perspective on this question. Let’s look closely at the “How” at the beginning of the sentence. I’m going to use my own goals as an example because they are the ones I’ve put the most research into and can, therefore, write about with more ease (given as I’m writing this the day before my deadline). 

I want to be a published writer, and I see myself contributing my works to the world and, hopefully, making a positive impact on how people view themselves and others, but how am I going to go about doing that? I’m going to take some advice from my girl, Rachel Hollis and her newest book, Girl, Stop Apologizing. In one of these many influential and inspiring chapters, Rachel talks about starting with the dream and taking one step at a time backward from there. 

This means if I want to be a successful and published author, my first step is, obviously, to get published. What do I need to do to get published? Well, this is a question that can be dumped into the search engine of your choosing, and the answers will be endless. For the sake of ease, let’s say I can either self-publish, which has a lower impact and lower chance of reaching the level of audience that I want, or I can find a publisher willing to pick up my as-of-yet unwritten novel. Choosing a publisher is the best bet for the goals I have in mind. So, on to the next question for the search engine – how do I get a publisher? First, I need to write a query letter. A query letter is basically a written, and formal sales pitch from you to the publisher that you have to make sure stands out above all the thousands of other pitches they receive every day of the week. Basically, it needs to be a diamond in the rough, so no pressure or anything. 

Another action one can take to help be noticed in the query letter is to be already published. I know, I know, it seems counter-intuitive, but there are ways of meeting this prerequisite. One could submit short stories or poems to literary magazines and cross their fingers and say a silent prayer until someone finally bites. Once that story is published, rinse and repeat until you have a decent portfolio. One could also amass an internet following through a successful blog (*hint, hint*). Anything you can do to earn a little fame going into the pitch. Oh yeah, and having a degree in some sort of English field helps too.

Circle this all back around, and you have where I am currently standing in my life: an aspiring writer, trying to hold herself to blog goals and deadlines. Adjusting to deadlines after never having placed any on yourself is way harder than all the self-help guru’s make it sound. On top of this, I’m also having to keep up with college life after eight years of being away from the school scene in the hopes of at least getting an AA degree so that I can say, “I gave it the old college try.” Yeah, I hated me for that joke too. 

So where is the relevance to you in all this jabbering? My point with this example is that it can help if you unpack your dreams the way I did and reverse engineer them. If you take this vast, explosively overwhelming dream that you have for your life and break it down into bite-sized pieces, it suddenly doesn’t seem so hard. I have also heard it phrased as, “The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” If we learn to look at our goals as bites instead of the unreachable impossible, they suddenly start to seem less daunting. It’s not like anyone told you that you had to eat the whole elephant in one day! There is a reason they are called “life goals,” because it’s supposed to take you a lifetime to perfect and achieve them! You have more time to make these dreams a reality than you think you do. Breath, slow it down, and for the love of all that is good and beautiful in this world, enjoy the journey!

Again, good luck with those dreams. I hope this helped you start thinking about the stages of goal setting because next week we’re going to revisit the sage advice of my girl Rachel and set step-by-step goals for getting through each of those tiny bites in next week’s fourth and final question. Hope to see you there!

Next Week’s Question:  What advice would you give to help me achieve these goals?

Weight Loss

I have a confession to make. I started a trendy diet. I know, I know, your first thoughts are probably, “She conformed to societal pressures through body shaming! Tragedy is thy name!” I assume this is your first thought because this is exactly what my first thought used to be whenever someone started a new food fad. However, after a few recent events, some serious soul searching, and a substantial amount of self-help books, my entire view of weight loss has completely changed. Allow me to give a little background information on my life.

My mother was adopted. This means that she and I have no medical history to share between the two of us- nothing, nada, zip. “But, Ashley,” you might say, as my doctors before you have, “Surely you have half your medical history. What about your father’s side?” To you, I will say what I’ve reiterated to my doctors time and again, “Yes, you’re probably right. When I hear from him next, I’ll be sure to ask about that, right after I find out what was so much better than watching his daughter grow up into a semi-functioning adult.” I know, “ouch.” You can say it again if it makes you feel better, but hey, at least I can have a sense of humor about it. In his defense, he does come out of the woodwork to text, call, or facebook message once or twice a year. In these calls, he will usually spend a good two to five hours lamenting me with his present woes. Funny how, in these annual conversations, I never seem to remember to add, “Oh yeah, by the way, all your dead and dying relatives, what ailments did and do they have? Is there anything that I should be concerned about, genetically speaking?” Somehow I think the answer would end up being a bewildered, “I don’t know!”

Failed genetic record-keeping aside, one of these significant life events was a $200 genetic test kit that also assessed our health. Myself, my mother, brother, and yes, even the estranged father (after I gifted him the kit for father’s day) took this test. There was nothing too surprising, and I was told a lot of things I already knew, such as the fact that I’m 100% pure white person (which my sugar-free almond milk latte could have told you already), with the most substantial majority of that being British and Irish (redhead, duh). There is, contrary to my father’s insistence, no percentage of Native American anywhere in me (which I already knew thanks to my ivory complexion). I also had little to no genetic tendencies towards any unsavory degenerative diseases or recessive this-and-that’s which could be passed to all the offspring I’ll never have, which was a bit of a relief (though, since I’ve already decided I will be living forever, I was unsurprised by this as well).

It was my mom who got the breakthrough in the form of a second cousin on her mother’s side of the family. I think I was the one to start up a dialogue with this cousin, and using the information my mother and I provided her, she clicked us into her family tree. This girl, I kid you not – her family tree went all the way back to the 1400’s! The mother stinking 1400’s people! Do you know how excited we were to have this information! Granted, we didn’t know what to do with it, and technically we still don’t know what to do with it, since it was just a bunch of names, birth dates, and death date- a lot of death dates. That was when I figured it out – everyone on my mother’s side of the family, including the only sibling of her’s we could find a record of, all died in their 50’s and their 60’s, with one grandmother who had married into the line dying in her 70’s. Guys, my mother is in her 50’s!

This information was upsetting, but not particularly core-shaking nor life-altering. The real heavy blow came some few days later when my mother went to her general practitioner for some antibiotics when her bronchitis had started back up again. They were getting through the initial check-in and taking her vitals when the nurse frowned. They’d been taking my mom’s blood pressure and the nurse, sounding a little hesitant, declared they were going to try that again. She tried it a third time and then excused herself from the room. She came back in with a second nurse, and they brought between them a large machine and declared they were going to try again. They took my mom’s blood pressure five total times before announcing that they were admitting her to the ER. My mother’s blood pressure was 221 / 122. If you Google a chart of blood pressure ranges they all end at 190 / 120. My mother was in the stroke zone with no knowledge of her situation nor any perceived symptoms. My entire reality had been shaken to its very core. In that one day, I went from seeing my mother as an indestructible female version of He-Man, to someone mortal who won’t be around to scold me one day, and whom I won’t be able to torment endlessly with my superior wit. I realized that one day, and one day soon if she didn’t tear down and restructure her entire way of living, my mother would be gone, and with her, my sense of security, my place of fall-back if adulting becomes too much for me to bear. This was quite a shift in perception for me.

I was frantic, texting my mom every fifteen minutes for updates, calling my grandmother who had been calling the doctor’s directly, and getting whatever updates they’d been willing to give her after my mom had permitted them to speak to her. My mom called me about five hours later from the BlueTooth in her car to say they’d discharged her and she was heading home. We talked a bit about what the doctor had said and what they had done before my mom announced that she was next up in line. “In line where?” I had asked. She was at Starbucks! I shrieked at her to get out of the line! She was genuinely confused as to what she had done wrong. “What in the seven hells do you think caffeine is going to do to your blood pressure, Mom?” I demanded of the receiver (Side Note: I am so glad that my mother hates reading and will therefore never read this post).

Needless to say, nothing has changed. My mom takes her blood pressure pills, but most of her life has stayed the same. She skips a few extra mochas here and there and pretends she’s doing something beneficial for herself. She goes to the gym three days a week (though with the number of times she and her personal trainer cancel on each other, it balances out to once a week) and my mom is considering signing up for an individual meal service, but I know that she’ll finish those meals and then go see what other junk food is lurking around the house. These events, these facts, these hard checks on reality have done nothing to instill a sense of seriousness in her. Life is a never-ending joke and has never been anything for my mother to take seriously.

I have spent my life coming to terms with the fact that my relationship with my mother, though playful and sisterly, has been extremely codependent. It’s been a 12-year road to realizing that I can never hope to convince her to change any of her self-destructive behaviors. However, this acceptance doesn’t have to mean I can’t do anything to regain some sense of control over life’s events. Between the family tree and my mother’s medical situation, I realized that there was something to be gained, and there were actions that could be taken to save a life, to save my life. See, if I am going to achieve my life-long goal of immortality (not amortal, immortal, mind you), then I had better start by getting my own eating habits and weight under control. I am 5’ 4” barely, and at my last heaviest weight I had been 223 pounds. I didn’t actually weigh myself before I started the diet, and therefore, I could have been worse than I realized. I was a size XXL with a 48 DDD bra, and I hated shopping for clothing items of any kind. Today, I still hate shopping for clothes, because I’m broke and clothes are expensive, and shopping is stupid. That said, a mere four months after my mother’s health crisis, I’m 181.4 pounds, a size medium and a 43 D bra (which is actually too big for me now that I think about it, but I do not want to buy another one yet).

What was my secret to losing all that weight? Well, I just gave it to you. The diet that I’m on isn’t the point. The food that I choose or the supplements that I take also don’t matter. What mattered was my “Why.” What mattered was the motivation behind finding a diet that worked for me and then making that choice day, after day, after day, to stick with it. What mattered were the days when I would wake up, consider eating something that I knew would set me back, and then reach for that feeling of determination and chose to start all over again from a stance of resolution. People always say that we can do anything that we put our minds to, but that saying is meaningless if we don’t have a strong enough, “why.” If you want to make a change in your life, whether it’s your diet, your weight, or a goal for your career, then you need to know exactly what it is that you’re working towards and you need to make sure you genuinely want it. Find a way to let go of the excuses that are holding you back, and make your “why” as specific as you possibly can and as achievable as you possibly can so that you don’t sabotage yourself before you even get started.

I know a lot of this is “easier said than done,” but believe it or not, there is a lot of outstanding help out there. For those of us unable to afford a counselor or a personal trainer or a dietitian, there are self-help books, podcasts, motivational YouTuber’s, audiobooks, bloggers, and so much more! There are whole communities of men and women out there ready to support you and become your cheer squad. You need to understand that you are worth more than the life you were given at birth, whether it was a good one or a bad one, and that there are people out there who are excited to help you grow into the dreams you were born to make happen.

I won’t list the things that have helped me here, today, in this post, for fear that it will be perceived as an advertisement and therefore diminish the impact of my words. If you want some suggestions on where to start your personal growth journey, or where to turn to get over life’s next hurdle, feel free to leave me a comment below with a description of the personal goal that you’ve been struggling to overcome. I’m not going to pretend to have any level of expertise, but I do generally have a book, podcast, or another auditory medium I can recommend for just about any topic. I hope we can grow together as a community, and maybe, just maybe, we can build up our own little cheer squad here on this site to boost each other up on those rough days when we just want that dang frosted cookie. If anyone has a success story they’d like to share, I would also like to invite you to share with us in the comments.

I look forward to hearing from you all, and I hope that your comments will inspire my next personal insight. Until then, take care of yourself, and make sure to drink your water today!