Opportunities to Act on Goals

or How I Tamed my Morning Glories and Made my Garden Flourish

More musings on Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Heidi Grant Halvorson

I have often felt that I just didn’t have time to achieve my goals.  Partly because I have lofty and numerous dreams, and also because of what I have believed in the past was a fatal flaw.  My flaw – one of my most difficult and most related to not achieving my dreams – is that I’m very challenged when it comes to maximizing my time.

I now believe I was right and wrong.  And I’m learning how to handle both.

I was right about having too many goals – and Heidi’s book deals with how to recognize when to give up on or postpone a goal; I’ll leave that for another time.

I was wrong that I don’t have time to meet my goals.  I now have the confidence that I absolutely can meet them, and that I have what it takes to do so.

Some strategies may need revising, some traits like willpower and time optimization need strengthening — but one of the things I’m so excited about is that I know I can do all of those things.  In fact, I’ve already started to and am seeing glorious results.

Some things I’m doing that I wasn’t a short time ago:


Exercising daily.

Purposefully moving my body at least every two hours.  (Research shows that’s important for optimal health.)

Getting the dishes done more frequently.

Responding to more of my email.

Taking better care of myself in areas like eating more raw vegetables and going to bed earlier, among other things.

Doing the difficult or not-as-fun stuff before I go off on curiosity expeditions.

And – for the first time in years – my garden is not co-opted by my beloved morning glories.

And the more I do them, the easier it is to do them again, and – most importantly – the more confidence I have that I can do even more: that I can ultimately do what it takes to meet my goals and even make my dreams come true!

And if I can do it, you can do it.

Some tips:

1. Make it easy

Make it as easy as possible to make progress on your goals. 

 – Have a system by the door to deal with physical mail and papers. 

 – Set out your exercise clothes and equipment, both to remind you and to make it quick to change and get going. 

– Place items for errands where you can’t miss them on your way out (I put mine on the floor right in front of the door) — so library books get taken back and I actually take my reusable bags to the grocery store!

2. Be clear

Know what you want to accomplish, and where that is in the list of other things you want to do.

When you think of something that needs doing, write it down – get it out of your head so your mind is free to be creative and do higher-level thinking.

Have a system for prioritizing your to do list.  Depending on the length of the list, your schedule, and your personality, you might want to review the list daily, weekly, or monthly — the important thing is that you do it on a regular basis.  Cross off what’s been done, move things around according to shifting priorities, list the three most important things to get done.

Ah!  Feel the peace of knowing you’re working on the most important tasks, and that nothing essential is falling between the cracks.

3. Customize your schedule

Work on difficult or challenging tasks when you have the most energy; save the fun or ‘mindless’ tasks for when you’re more fatigued.  Do small tasks during little breaks between appointments, or when you’re waiting to pick up your kids or sitting in the doctor’s office.  Which brings us to:

4. Take advantage of opportunities

We all have dead space in our days – minutes here and there that we could be doing something if only we knew what it was.  Plan for those: look at your to do list to see what you can do as moments arise — can you make a couple phone calls, answer a few emails?  Think how nice to get to the end of the day or the week with so many items checked off!

Here’s how I used these tips in my garden this summer:

My gardens and courtyard are very important to me, small as they are.  They help me connect with beauty and nature on a daily basis for much of the year.  It’s my retreat, my place to mindfully get in touch with my spirit and my thoughts, a place to disengage from hassle and connect with joy.

For years, I have had a major problem out there: I have had morning glories for so long, they have dropped their seeds into every square inch of my yard and gardens.  If I don’t tend them often, they overwhelm everything else.  As much as I love them, I want to see other plants and flowers as well, and want space to move around.

My granddaughter Nicolette walked into my courtyard last year and said, “Looks like a morning glory bomb went off in here!”  Because I hadn’t pulled up the strays when they were small, they covered everything in my yard — you couldn’t see all the beautiful flowers I’d carefully planted in the spring, and they grew out of cracks in the cobblestones, taking up precious ground.

This year there are gorgeous, lush morning glories climbing the fences and trellises, but there are also zinnias and coreopsis and impatiens and begonias and marigolds and coleus and more: all beautifully blooming in the open.  My cobblestones are free of intrusive vines and I can use all the courtyard.

A huge difference, but what I did to make that change didn’t seem huge at the time.  I simply went around with my bucket and pulled up the stray morning glory plants [the ubiquitous volunteers], or trained them up the fence instead of over my flowers at least several times a week. 

How did I make that happen, when it seemed like such an unmanageable task in the past?

1. Made it easy

I have a pretty bucket with garden scissors sitting near the faucet in my courtyard; the bucket has a big crack in the bottom so I can leave it out and water drains away, I keep the scissors in it.  It’s easy to grab and deadhead a bit whenever I have a few minutes.  This seemingly small thing has made a HUGE difference in the appearance of my garden this summer.

2. Stayed clear

I had “water and tend gardens” on my to do list every day.  It was a priority for me, yet often not the most important one.  It got done regularly but not every day, which was ideal for this task.

3. Customized my schedule

I started my day in the courtyard with a cup of coffee or two and would pull up unwanted plants while my coffee cooled, or after.  I also took activity breaks every couple hours: a good way to get something done while moving around. 

4. Took advantage of opportunities

I saw the morning glory starters when I’d sit outside with my coffee, so it was easy to remember to grab the bucket and do some tending.  This was something I could easily pick up and put down as time allowed, and it was surprising how much got done during those little pockets of time. 

I got so much more done than in past years when I’d schedule bigger segments of time, that may have not worked because of energy or time issues, or weather.  Wonderful lesson for me.

I have many other things where I’m increasingly using these strategies, and I’m looking around my home and my work for more ways to ‘keep my bucket ready.’

What else could flourish in my life if I give it regular care?

How can you use these tips to – progressively, mindfully, and more easily than you may think possible – create what you want in your life?

I would love to hear from you – what did you try and how did it work for you?  What ideas did you come up with to make it fit for you?  What questions do you have?

Go, create, customize, and flourish!!

Goals – what it takes to JUST DO IT!

In my last post I talked about the thrill of finally doing something I’d wanted to do for years, and introduced Heidi Halvorson’s book Succeed as part of why I was able to do this.  Today I’m sharing some of the concepts, hoping that you can use some of these treasures to get yourself where you want to be.

So what have I used to get going on this goal I’ve been putting off for so long?

I used two main bodies of knowledge that I’ve learned about over the years: positive psychology, especially strengths principles, and goals research, from Heidi’s course and book.

1. I used my top strengths of Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence, Creativity, Curiosity, and Bravery.  I also used determination, will power, attention to detail, optimism, and persistence. 

In addition, I took the following steps from my learning on goal attainment:

2. I was SPECIFIC in what I wanted to do: create and post a blog.  This goal was CHALLENGING but not unrealistic.

3. I envisioned the final goal – a blog post, the first of many – but even more importantly, I ENVISIONED DOING WHAT IT TAKES TO CREATE IT.

4. I thought about WHY I wanted to blog, which I listed above.

5. I thought about WHAT it took to get there: brainstorming ideas, free writing, creating a draft, revising it, and posting it to my blogsite.

6. One of the most important things I did was to PLAN WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, AND HOW I was going to accomplish this.

7. I used triggers to tap my unconscious, both an item on my to do list and a task (in Microsoft Outlook) that popped up at intervals to remind me.

8. I focused on GETTING BETTER rather than BEING GOOD: I furloughed my perfectionism, and concentrated on starting where and as I am and learning as I go.

9. I thought about PROMOTION – how great I would feel to achieve this goal (it doesn’t matter how small the goal, or how easy for others: we deserve to celebrate our success).  I also thought about PREVENTION – how lousy I would feel if I failed to do this yet again, how embarrassed to report to my accountability buddy and my mentor and my coach and my colleagues that I had not been able to do even one blog post.  Both these techniques are very powerful.

There are more techniques, but that’s enough for now.  I will be explaining and expanding on these in the future.

1. Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals, Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., Hudson Street Press, January 2011

Goals – the journey to finally JUST DOING IT!!

“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~ William James

I have this quote on my To Do List every day.  Sometimes I pay attention, sometimes not so much.

Today I’m paying attention.  Today I’m celebrating because I’m working on a task uncompleted for two years: I AM FINALLY BLOGGING AGAIN!!!!!!

As I’m typing, I can feel myself relax, in a deep chest-lightening, soul-satisfying way.

I have been wanting to blog for so long – I have things come up all the time that I want to share, to help people as the learning and insights have helped me.  I want to get to know more people who are interested in the things I’m interested in, and to have them get to know me.  I want to have the experience of a regular writing habit – to grow as a writer, a blogger, a coach.  And most of all, I want to express my authentic self, to put some of my best into writing, to do what I was meant to do.  To recapture the joy I’ve had in writing for so much of my life.

A long list of compelling reasons.  So why haven’t I been doing it?

Good question.  Why don’t we do the things we really want to do?  An essential issue for all of us, especially coaches: it’s our job to help people do what they really want to do.

Look at all those reasons why I really, really have wanted to blog yet continued not to.  Do you have something in your life like this?  You so want it, yet you don’t do it.

Goals are my latest passion.  I’m excited right now about the latest research on goal attainment, and this is one of the reasons I’M FINALLY BLOGGING.  There are so many things that go into why we do what we do, and why we don’t do what we don’t do.  Learning what researchers have discovered is transformational for me, and I’m guessing it could be for you as well.

Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals (1), the new book by Heidi Grant Halvorson, is a treasure trove of insights and research findings, an easy read with profound wisdom.  I’m reading this as well as taking a class from Heidi through MentorCoach.

In future posts I will be sharing what I’m learning along with simple, practical ways you can use it yourself.  Some techniques you might already use in some form, and I’ll explain why they’re effective.  Others will probably be new to you and can make the difference between success and failure.

I’m adding this to my knowledge of strengths and other positive psychology strategies, and my coaching training, to help my clients get where they want to go.  It’s helping to transform them as well, and I’ll be sharing some of their stories.

Love it when they get the deep chest-lightening, soul-satisfying feeling that comes from completing a task they’ve been wanting to do!

Next, I’ll share specifics about what has finally worked for me.  My hope is that you can use them to do what you’ve been wanting to do — organize your computer, declutter your spare room, implement wellness habits, get going on your blog!  Or start toward a long-held dream.

We all deserve to make our dreams come true.  This is one step for me – what could your first step be?

(1) Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals, Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., Hudson Street Press, January 2011

What I love about organizing

I’m busy lately preparing for a community presentation at the Sanctuary at St. Paul’s in South Bend, Indiana; as well as scheduling new workshops and  “work (play)” groups for the fall — and it’s reminding me what I love so much about organizing, particularly using people’s natural, most powerful strengths to get and stay organized.

What I do in my work is to help people see:

We all have strengths we can use to tackle any decluttering or organizational challenge, that most people probably have never thought of using for this.

They probably have more organizational skills than they realize.

Decluttering doesn’t have to be as hard as we often make it out to be.

Disorganization and clutter cost us dearly in many ways, some of which we’re not even aware of. 

In short, people can have more success, peace of mind, clarity, and focus with less hassle and difficulty — and I can help!  That is truly my  passion about what I do.

More soon!

Optimism & Organizing: A Vibrant Vision

Hope arouses, as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible.

~ William Sloane Coffin, Jr.

Your Best Possible Space

What does your Best Possible Space look like?  You know you want to be more organized, yet have you taken the time to really imagine what that would be like?

Why should that be important – after all, you “know” you want to be more organized, or maybe you just think you “should” be more organized.  Not much juice around those thoughts.

You can “juice it up” by creating a powerful vision for yourself of how life would be like if you decluttered and cleared, found your treasures, and could find what you wanted instantly.  And there’s a good reason why this added passion could make the difference between achieving your goals and disappointing yourself yet again.

If you’re optimistic about something, you’re more willing to expend effort to achieve it – in that way, optimistic thoughts can be self-fulfilling.  No magic: just cause and effect.

However, many people think you’re either naturally optimistic or you’re not, and that’s that.  Not true!  You can cultivate optimism and reap the benefits not only around organizing but in every area of your life.  Studies show optimistic people not only achieve more, but tend to be healthier and happier.

We love health and happiness, right?  So how do you become more hopeful?

One of the ways to train yourself to be more optimistic is called the Best Possible Self Activity, as described by Sonja Lyubomirsky in her new book, The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want.

People were told to write for a short period of time for several days in a row about what their ideal lives would look like.  The results were dramatic: those who did this, compared to those who just wrote about other topics, “were more likely to show immediate increases in positive moods, to be happier several weeks later, and even to report fewer physical ailments” months later1.

Another way to do this is visualization.  Some of the successful interventions I’ve used with my clients around decluttering and getting organized involved visualizing in as much detail as possible what the space would look like if it was ideal.  We talk about the colors and exactly what items are where, what the sounds, smells, and feel of it might be; how others would react to it; how they would feel walking into that space. 

That is a Best Possible Space activity and it has been a powerfully motivating one for my clients and myself.  It’s often so motivating, projects we’d put off for ages get done – and the results are even better than we imagined!

I tried this with one of my clients, who immediately felt more enthusiasm for decluttering her home office, a job she’d been putting off for a long time.  Afterwards, she reported that the gratification she felt when she walked into her newly-cleared space to work, as well as the reaction from her husband when he saw it, were deeper and made her happier than she’d thought they would.

 Even though I’m talking about space here, this technique can be just as effective for decluttering your computer files, your email inbox, your photos, or your schedule.

It’s of course very important to know where you’re going when you set out to accomplish something.  Yet how common it is for us to just concentrate on the mess at hand instead of the glorious goal.

No wonder we so often avoid decluttering.  How overwhelming and demoralizing it is to contemplate a big pile of I-don’t-know-what-goes-where.  If the pile is all we think about, all we see – well, it’s no wonder we’re slow to do anything about it.

Keeping the goal vibrant and visible is a proven motivational and transformational technique.  One of the reasons it works is because if you believe an outcome is possible, that you can attain it, and are reminded of it often, you will persevere when things get rough.  Any big project hits snags – you might get discouraged or impatient with your progress, or face challenges you aren’t prepared to handle.  If your vision is clear and strong, you are more likely to keep going.

The science bears this out.  Dr. Lyubomirsky states, “Researchers have shown that optimists are more likely to persevere and to engage fully even in the face of difficulty2.  Optimism motivates us and leads us to take initiative.  Optimists don’t easily give up.  This is likely one major reason that optimists are more successful across a wide variety of arenas – professional, academic, athletic, social, and even health.  And of course, persistence, social skill, vigor, health, and career success all are things that contribute to our happiness1.”

Visualize your ideal space in as much detail as possible.  Keep your ideal where it’ll get your attention by writing it down and reading it over from time to time or by posting a visual representation somewhere you’ll see it often. 

The visual could be one picture from a magazine that reminds you of how you want your space to be (or how you want to feel once you’re organized); it could be several pictures pasted on poster board; it could be a sketch you drew yourself; it could even be just a color or an object that brings to mind – and heart – the outcome and feeling you want.

To create the enthusiasm to declutter and get organized, to get past any overwhelming or discouraging feelings, tap into your natural optimism by keeping the vision vibrant and visible. 

Enthusiasm is a kind of faith that has been set on fire. ~ George Matthew Adams


1. Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2008) The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want. (pp. 106-107) New York: The Penguin Press.

2. Segerstrom, C. C. (2001).  Optimism, goal conflict, and stressor-related immune change.  Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 12:441-67.

Oprah & I: Decluttering and Using Your Strengths

Yesterday Oprah featured a powerful way to find happiness and fulfillment at work.  Marcus Buckingham demonstrated the energizing way tapping into your strengths can change not just your work life, but your whole life.

She is also running a series on decluttering with her organizing guru Peter Walsh.

The stars are aligning!  I’m so excited to be offering a way to join these two very positive, powerful, transformational approaches that I combine in my work – decluttering and organizing using your strengths.

Holiday commitments await –

Meanwhile, check out my new website at http://kathrynburnett.com ~~


Have a fabulous, meaningful, positive holiday season succulent with savoring!

Too much: over-consuming, clutter, debt, & happiness

“Real happiness is cheap enough, yet how dearly we pay for its counterfeit.”  ~ Hosea Ballou

How much are you paying for your lifestyle, for your ‘stuff’?

Does your stuff really make you happy?

How close does your lifestyle reflect your true values?

Do you sometimes feel you are on a never-ending treadmill of buying more stuff, trying to find a place to put the stuff, dealing with all the clutter of the stuff that was supposed to make you happy, trying to find the money to pay for all the stuff, dealing with feelings of overwhelm and helplessness around the sheer volume of it all, and feeling so bad you comfort yourself by buying more stuff?

We all succumb to the messages of Madison Avenue (or wherever the ad agencies hang out these days).  Think about this: companies spend billions on figuring our how to get our money.  They employ people whose sole job it is to uncover what tactics will get us to buy their products.

They do this in a number of ways: making us feel we lack something in ourselves that their product will make up for – the “right” clothes, makeup, shaving cream, etc.; that people will think better of us if we only have this thing – impressive car, home, kitchen cabinets, panty hose.  A particularly blatant ad stated outright that it wasn’t a person’s clothing or car that showed the world who they were: it was their watch!!

Seriously?  My watch proves my value?  I don’t need to be a kind, honest, responsible person?

Of course, sometimes they have a product that will actually solve a problem we have – it’s good to know there are quality replacement windows out there when ours are cracked and drafty.  But to watch the ads on TV, it would seem our chief problem is a severe lack of prescription drugs.  Which they happen to know how to fix.  With lots of our money.

By and large, advertising professionals are quite successful at what they do.  Look around your house: how much of the stuff you have do you really need?  And what amount is so much extra, sitting in accusing piles waiting to be decluttered? 

And what is that stuff telling you about yourself, really?  How much has it contributed to the financial strain you (and so many, many of us right now) may be feeling?

How much of the clutter in our country was paid for with credit?  And were the fleeting feelings of pleasure we got when we bought so much worth the pain we’re feeling now?

Maybe it’s time for all of us to get off the consumer treadmill.

Picture the simplicity of a decluttered home and decluttered finances: no debt and money in the bank, room to breathe, freedom to live in the present instead of taking care of the excesses of the past.

How much is that worth?

Welcome to Declutter Ebook with Coach Kathy Burnett & Vibrant Life Coaching!


Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.

~ Lin Yutang 

Writer and Inventor




Read my chapter in this exciting new book:

Clutter Free and Clear:
Take Charge of Your Time and Space
A how-to book to simplify your life



I invite you to connect with me to create the life you really want: full of meaning, fun, and passion: a Vibrant Life!


What’s causing you pain, unhappiness, or just a sense of “there must be more”?  What in your life isn’t as great as you once imagined it would be?  My clients usually want   




h organization:

a decluttered home, office, computer, schedule 

h better health   h more motivation   

h better relationships  h more happiness  

h a rewarding job/career  h more fun  

h meaning & fulfillment    h peace of mind    

h zest for life






Coaching with me, you can discover the

most current ways to thrive ~~


² declutter

² create new and effective habits

² identify and use your strengths (the “real best you”) in every area of your life so you can be more organized, more effective, excel more easily, and be happier doing it

² improve your communication and relationships

² raise your overall sense of well-being

² increase your resilience to life’s challenges

² work with your own natural energy and strength to change

² engage your spirit

² identify what you most deeply want to be and do

² and have fun while you create the life you really want!  



Ready for passion? 

       You can live a Vibrant Life and I can help you get there!