The Decrapify Your Life project is underway. (It now has a pseudo-official name!) Clearly the need is there since it’s taken me 22 days into the new year to post this! But I have been working on my goals anyway at least.
Several of us have banded together to make some changes in our lives in 2012. You’re still welcome to join us. Just let me know (tim -at- bothhandsandaflashlight.com). We’re starting to make our way together on Facebook and by e-mail. Yeah, we’re feeling our way around in the dark trying to figure it out, but that’s how a project like this has to start.
In looking at goals for the upcoming year, one principle I’ve become enamored with is having as few goals as possible. Instead of having a bunch, not doing any of them well or at all, and then just getting mad at myself and frustrated with the cosmos, I’m going to try the approach of having as few goals as possible but making sure I do all of them. If you have too many, your attention gets scattered and overwhelmed. Choose a few, then focus like crazy on them. And by ‘few’ I’ve settled on five total for the whole year, and I am wondering whether that’s too many.
Here’s what I’ve tried to do with them. I’m patterning my goals after IEP goals – specific and measurable. But just like as parents we want to set challenging goals for our kids and assume they are capable of great things, I’m also setting the bar high for my goals for the coming year. And I made them congruous with my three words for 2012, so I really have a clear sense of my mission for the year.
However, with big goals you have to be somewhat careful or you can easily get overwhelmed. When I ran a marathon this past spring, I really tried to never think about the gravity of running 26.2 miles until the actual day of the race, and even then I tried not to think about it any more than was necessary while actually running it. I divided up training into specific miles for each run and then did them on their appointed day. Within each run, I divided those miles into steps and smaller goals. (Just run to the next light pole!) And because I focused so much energy and attention on it – by committing more fully to fewer goals – it worked. I spent most of my 37 years dreaming about that finish line. This is how I finally did it.
It is pretty crazy to think about running 26.2 miles at one time, but when people ask me how I did it I seriously say, You just show up regularly to train and take the steps over a period of many months until you get there. The process isn’t magic or mystical. You can’t run anywhere until you run the next step. That’s the key. So, I know I’ll need to break my big goals down into tasks, intermediate goals, and bite-sized chunks.
So if you want to participate at home with us, that’s my first suggestion. Create specific, measurable goals for 2012, and create as few as possible. I’d say no more than five, and the fewer the better. If you complete your few goals early, awesome. You can start on another batch then! Who cares if you’re reading this in January or later in the year. Just go ahead and do it. There’s nothing special about beginning first thing when the year starts.
I’ve mentioned this before on Facebook, but I’ve become an avid reader of Zen Habits. He’s shaping the way I look at simplifying life. I’m the staggering village idiot compared to his mastery of things, but he started out not knowing how to do this either. So I’d give him a read when you have the chance.
This is going to be quite an adventure. We’ll screw up a lot of things, learn even more, and eventually find our way. I really believe that all we need to do is commit to the goal of decrapifying our lives and then taking all the steps – one at a time! – needed to reach the places we want to end up. That combined with the support of other people with similar challenges doing it with us is a recipe for finally making some real changes in our lives.
What this will ultimately look like will vary from person to person. It has to be the right outcome for you and your family. I’m still refining the specifics of mine a bit, but here are my goals.
- Eliminate our revolving debt. By Dec. 31, 2012, all credit card debt will be 0. I won’t announce our current debt amount publicly because that seems rather risky given unscrupulous people out there, but let’s just say it’s a lot.
- Get serious about my freelance business, expand my work, increase revenue two-fold over 2011 (the measurable part), and do projects I enjoy.
- Complete and self-publish an e-book about autism.
- Donate, recycle, or throw out 800 cubic feet of stuff. (Measuring that should be a hoot.)
- Run 1,000 miles in 2012 and complete at least one marathon, and if I can find one nearby an ultra-marathon (something greater than 26.2 miles).
How in the hell am I going to do this? One step at a time equals unstoppable forward progress. You can zig, zag, stumble, go backwards a while, and stagger like a drunk along the way and still make forward progress. It doesn’t have to be pretty. No one is handing out style points. This is your life. Make it happen in any and whatever way works for you.
And I’m going to blog it out. I’m going to do this publicly and be held accountable. I’m going to document it so that at the end we’ll understand what worked and what didn’t so we can all do it year after year. We’re going to learn together and make real, lasting, positive changes in our lives.
I invite you to join me in this year-long project. I’m working on setting up a separate part of our blog for this in hopes of keeping things a little better organized. This will be part me blogging out loud how I’m doing, what I’m learning, and generally being accountable to my goals. I’d like other people to join in that process of checking in, sharing insights, and mutual accountability. I was part of a private Facebook writing group in November that did wonders for everyone in staying focused, getting encouragement, and making sure we all reached our goals. So I’ve set that up on Facebook for any of you who want to join me in the Decrapify Your Life project. Just let me know.
I’m really excited about this. There will be plenty of steps forwards and backwards along the way. We’ll screw some things up and enjoy many successes. We’ll feel like we’re failing and then discover we actually do kinda know what we’re doing.
We’re heading into uncharted territory. We’re going to have to pave the road as we go along. But where we end up at is going to be awesome. I believe it.
”Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” – Dr. Emmett Brown, Back to the Future