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Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Checklist of Questions For When You Want To Give Up

In my first three years of college I failed accounting three times. My big "when-I-grow-up" dream at the time was to become the owner of a Food Network-worthy restaurant someday. This dream had lasted from my childhood when I was pretending to cook mixtures of grass and sticks in my backyard. Everything my Kindergarten heart had ever hoped for rested on my ability to get a Hospitality and Tourism Management degree. Yet there I was, barely making it out of basic accounting after a third attempt and for sure not being able to make it through the next level class. (I had a 13% at midterm!) Embarrassed, I began to consider other options.

At the time I thought the choice to change majors was smart. I was switching to History Education. All the political science and history classes I had been taking for fun were suddenly useful. At least there wasn't going to be anymore wasted time on classes that I couldn't pass. I also justified my "new dream" with Disney's The Princess & The Frog because Tiana changed her dreams of owning a restaurant too, right? Well, sort of. 

Actually, an honest explanation was that I was giving up. Becoming a teacher was easy and therefore more worthwhile. Rather than stay on a path that required me to get myself together, I chose to dodge to another more reachable goal assuming that, by holding on tight enough, the original failure would be overshadowed by the shining results of an easier plan. This was to hide the fact that I had failed. Not because of my grade in accounting, but because of my lack of will. I was looking at all the things that were done wrong instead of maybe things that were done right. My other related classes for business were interesting and enjoyable. My ideas were valued. Still I let that one stumbling block of calculations take me down.

The Checklist of Questions For When You Want To Give Up - before giving up on your goals, take a minute to see how far you've comeSo I let the hard stuff win. I let the assumption of bad things to come win. For those of us in the world who are worst-case scenario visionaries, thinking positively can be difficult. We are already our worse enemy because no one else is. We'd rather accept the Best as the way life should always be instead of allow ourselves to be unprepared when things go awry.

Our only saving grace are the people we know who are more optimistic or often just realistic. They look at worse-case scenarios as an opportunity for self-evaluation and planning ahead. They are the people that snap their fingers to bring us back to reality. My husband is a fantastic example of this. He's the one holding my string when I've got my head floating high above the clouds, always reminding me that the world is not going to end. At least not today anyway...

The Questions
Positive influences can also be fleeting or unexpected. Our responsibility is to recognize the good energy and use it. For example, fellow blogger Daniela Uslan sent out an encouraging email to her followers a few weeks ago that provided some questions for reflecting on the progress of our goals. She understands how being a creative person is sometimes a burden when results aren't immediate. To counter this Danelia reminded us not to focus on details that haven't been dealt with. Instead take stock of tasks or milestones that have been completed, then look ahead to doing better on the next one.

I've paraphrased the questions she offered below, and added a final one of my own for the sake of continuity. The first three questions alone are a good start to planning for tomorrow. That last question gives us a chance to take the first step in that plan. When it's all over maybe we'll be more willing to move forward versus allowing ourselves to be weighed down by the unsure feeling of doing worse.
  1. What am I proud of accomplishing since I started working towards my goal?
  2. What have I learned since I started pursuing my goal?
  3. If I could fast forward to 3 months from now, what would I love to have created/accomplished in regards to my goal?
  4. What resources or relationships do I need in order to keep moving forward?
Remember that 'positive' doesn't just mean 'good', it also could mean 'helpful' or 'motivating'.  Asking ourselves honestly about our effort is an important part of meeting goals. We are shielded from that whole "definition of insanity" stuff that keeps us from progressing. We also learn to be more supportive of our own talents and skills because we can come to more truthful conclusions about our ideas and how we pursue them. 

The Answers
It's a short list, but the answers can be very introspective. Choosing a specific goal then considering how you would answer these questions can be a singular experience - if the experience itself is respected. And finally writing it all down is exciting! Each of these questions requires some rules which I have included. Also, for the sake of being a real person, I've given my answers to these questions. Welcome to my exercise in positive thinking. Let's see how it all comes together, shall we?

First off you need to define the goal or experience you are evaluating. Be as specific as possible. Use descriptive words, measurements, and give yourself a deadline. WRITE IT DOWN. And for the reflection part establish a time period in which your goal will be considered. Don't think ahead or look back from the time period you set. That will keep your answers more focused and realistic.

My Specs
Goal: Defining myself as an independent, successful, and resourceful creative freelancer. 
Time Period: January 2015-January 2016

What am I proud of accomplishing since I started working towards my goal?
You have permission to bask in your intermediate accomplishments. And not to forget them! Taking those little steps means you are moving forward. Remembering them reminds you of your importance and talent. We choose our goals because they make us feel special. If we don't acknowledge that we are actively pursuing them, we'll forget our purpose. Then what's the point?

Give yourself a chance to be happy with what you've done so far. Otherwise you risk having done it for no reason at all.

My Answer: In 2015 I started this blog, wrote and released an original song with my band, learned a new skill (Social Media Marketing), and found writing again. All of these accomplishments were things I've never done before. Now I am confident in my ability to take things to the next level: a solid creative freelancing business that incorporates all the things I love to do.

What have I learned since I started pursuing my goal?
This question is worded perfectly for positive thinking. Instead of "What am I not proud of...?" the question allows us to put our failures or setbacks in the box of things gained, not lost. Forgetfulness, negativity, dreaming too big, miscommunication, finances, scheduling - they become things to do better because the steps are more clear now. To prepare for the future learning from our mistakes is actually satisfying. If we plan on becoming more we have to start somewhere!

Use those setbacks to propel your goals forward as you go on, better equipped to deal with whatever is next.

My Answer: Though I still need practice, I've discovered balance and discernment. When life got tough there was opportunity to see what was actually worth it and what wasn't working for me. At times I listened, opening myself up for growth and learning. Other times I didn't, suffering from less pleasant results. Now I have a better understanding of what I want, which of my skills best suit my goals, how much time I have, and why I choose to do what I do. Everyday I learn more about what I have to offer.

If I could fast forward to 3 months from now, what would I love to have created/accomplished in regards to my goal?
Chances are you have already thought about the far, far future. Big house, fancy clothes, global recognition, and lots of orphan puppies that now call you Mom. (Okay maybe that's just me.) The problem is with a long term view there is little energy put into making immediate strides. By constantly thinking about where we are going to end up we don't make plans for how to get there.

Think short term for a minute and make something happen now that will give you skills and resources for what you're planning down the road.

My Answer: I'm really looking forward to building my writing improvement group on Facebook, Writers Without Limits. We are an close community right now and I would enjoy watching it blossom as we move into the Summer with at least 60 members. In the grand scheme of things I would reach more people and learn from their experiences too. *fingers crossed* Would you like to be one of them?

Also I want continue building on the freelance social media and writing work I have been doing. I'm working on a legitimate business plan to back the services I currently offer. I'm creating a whole new brand identity as a legitimately registered business. Right now I'm *very* early in the learning stage so there isn't much to say except hashtag excited!

What resources or relationships do I need in order to keep moving forward?
Humans need each other to survive. Quite honestly, we cannot accomplish everything on our own. The advantage of having connections is that we are able to reach our full potential with the guidance and offerings of those around us who are more experienced or have more access to the things we want to become. Let yourself be molded.

Examine your needs authentically. Then, identify who or what should be in your life now that you are preparing your next steps, and where you can find them.

My Answer: There is a lot of research in my immediate future as I prepare my money-making ventures. I've met with a business mentor courtesy of the Small Business Administration SCORE program. This is a huge step in creating face-to-face relationships. I have some great new friends online thanks to my research, blogging, and writing. Now what should really happen next is me getting out there to meet people in person.

The Experience
The thing I love most about this set of questions is that they aren't dripping with bias. In order to answer them properly, one must be totally honest. The definition of success is influenced by individual experience which means that sometimes we need a minute to step back. When given this opportunity to look deeply at our lives we can create room for identifying happiness and applying it to our day to day. I have so much to be proud of that I had hardly considered before forcing myself to look back without assumptions. The turning points I've met and what is left to look forward to are experiences that never crossed my mind before. Dreams literally do come true!

I encourage you to take some time to answer these questions for yourself. If you are willing, tell us your answers too. The exercise will keep you humble. Good luck and don't give up!!

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Kristyn here. I'm really good at Googling, dreaming, and thinking outside the box. Someday I'm going to save all the puppies and perform on a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float.

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