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