When my cousin and I were teenagers, we were hanging out at my grandparents farm in Minnesota, dreaming about how great our future lives were going to be.
My big plan involved living in California with an ocean view, driving a convertible and working in Hollywood.
I’d never even been on an airplane in my life, much less visited California…
He was going to start a business, be his own boss, and design and build his dream house with his own two hands.
Our uncle overheard us from the other room and came in with a suggestion. Why didn’t we write our dream predictions down so we could see later if they turned out? He then taped our predictions to the back of the picture hanging above the kitchen table where we were sitting.
Fast forward several years. I’m in my early 20’s and I’ve just arrived home from work. Sorting through a pile of mail, I find a letter from my grandmother in Minnesota.
She writes to tell me that while the farmhouse kitchen was being repainted, they discovered the notes my cousin and I had written.
I looked up from her letter and gazed out my living room window. An enormous orange sunset was dipping into the Pacific Ocean.
I’d just driven home from work in my Volkswagen Golf convertible. My job? Working as Johnny Depp’s press assistant in Hollywood.
Meanwhile, my cousin had started his own successful heating and refrigeration business and had just designed and built his dream house.
This woke me up to the amazing power of having a dream and writing it down like it’s really gonna happen!
The second pivotal moment in my goal setting journey came along soon after that.
Johnny Depp decided to leave the TV show that had turned him into a teen heartthrob sensation. I thought he was nuts to leave 21 Jump Street at its prime peak and pursue a career in movies. Still stinging from the realisation I was about to lose my job, I muttered behind his back, ‘He’ll never make it.’
Yes, I’ve eaten those words for breakfast, lunch and dinner ever since.
However, my next dream job was just around the corner. A creative, fun position in music video production for Capitol Records – overlooking the Hollywood sign, just like in the postcard I’d had hanging in my bedroom for years!
It was here that my new boss gave me several cassette tapes to copy (we are talking 1990…) The tapes were an audio series by a motivational speaker named Brian Tracy and were called ‘The Psychology of Achievement’.
He encouraged me to make a second set of tapes for myself.
I listened to those tapes so many times in my car that they became ingrained in my brain! Never before had I heard anyone speak about self-limiting beliefs and how we’re only limited by our own thinking.
I hung on his every word and began writing down my goals and creating action plans to make them happen.
Those cassette tapes moved with me to London, another one of my goals, where I ended up living for 18 years, swearing allegiance to Her Majesty The Queen and getting my British citizenship.
I became a record cover designer, working with big names like Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Jamiroquai and Destiny’s Child. Beyonce squeezed me and squealed with delight when she saw the design for their first British single on my computer screen.
I thought she and the rest of the girls were lovely, but I told my colleagues, they’d never make it.
Are you seeing a pattern emerge here? I could never be a talent scout!
Once cassette players disappeared from cars and I’d burned-out on Brian Tracy, I moved on to Tony Robbins motivational cd’s.
Tony expanded on my Dream Big mentality and helped me to keep believing that I am limitless and worthy of whatever it is I want in life.
At age 28, I met the man of my dreams. We got married on a cliff-top overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Laguna Beach, California, just as I’d always envisioned.
We bought a nice house and used the fringe benefits of my job in the music industry to go to free concerts and cool parties several nights a week. Life was fun! Life was amazing! It was all going fairytale dreamy until…
cue screeching sound of needle dragging across record
We decided to have a baby.
Well, the decision part was easy. I just wrote down my dream vision of when I ideally wanted to have it, and hubby agreed. I did have a bit of a Should I Stay or Should I Go deliberation over whether to take the generous maternity package Sony Music was offering. But in the end, I mapped out a goal to set up as a freelance graphic designer.
It would be easy. Babies sleep a lot, right? I’d work during nap times and get a part-time nanny three days a week. I interviewed a lovely New Zealand girl and hired her to start as soon as I got home from the hospital.
But after my smooth-sailing pregnancy, the birth was a nightmare. I hadn’t properly addressed my deep fear of childbirth and how that fear would affect the delivery.
Things didn’t get much easier back at home. Breastfeeding was an agony I endured with gritted teeth, bleeding nipples and double mastitis, all while sitting on a donut to stop my stitches from opening.
Sleep deprivation is an evil thing. I’d always been an Eight Hours a Night kinda gal. Even my late nights at concerts were offset by late starting hours at work the next day. I was used to operating close to 100% at all times.
Now my mind and body felt like they were turning against me.
I felt weepy, ugly, uncool and I completely lost my sex drive for a long time after the birth. Some essential part of my being felt lost and I was in such a sorry state that it never occurred to me to write down my goals and dream visions for the months to come. I was just trying to get through one day at a time.
The thought of being responsible for this child for the next 18 years threw me into complete overwhelm.
I loved my son deeply and his smile brought me great joy. I loved being his mother, even if I didn’t like many of the side-effects that came with it.
I cried when I told my husband we could never give our son a brother or sister because I simply could not go through it all again. He told me to give it some time and we dropped the subject.
For one whole year, I lived without goals of my own. I guess I had goals for Max; getting him to sleep through the night, weaning him, taking his first steps, but none of those things were for me.
Thankfully something happened just after his first birthday which got me back into my goal setting frame of mind again.
It was December of the ‘year 2000’, as we all called it. The Sunday Times Style section ran an article called All Change which caught my attention. It featured a photo of a woman writing in a journal which made me suddenly realise that in the blur of my first year of motherhood, my beloved journal writing had fallen by the wayside.
The article was about setting goals and it referred to a book by Jinny Ditzer called Your Best Year Yet. It listed 10 questions to ask yourself, including, What did I accomplish in the past year?, What were my biggest disappointments?, What did I learn?, What is my most important focus for the next year?, What are my top 10 goals?
I grabbed a notebook and began to answer those 10 questions. It sparked something in me that I liked. I was thinking about myself again!
I’m sitting here now reading those answers I’d written 16 years ago and it takes me straight back to that time when I was so discouraged about my life.
Maybe you can relate to some of the biggest disappointments I listed:
Lack of energy. Lack of organisation. Lack of creativity and motivation. Feeling overwhelmed with constant lists of things to do that never get done. Bored and frustrated on days I have Max to myself. Feel like I’m just passing the time until naps or bedtime. Painful sex leading to disappointments in the bedroom which have not yet been recovered. Feel like I spread myself too thin and don’t do anything well enough. Watching too much TV instead of reading, journal writing, baths, lovemaking, calling friends and family.
Then I wrote: How do I limit myself and how can I stop?
Not being better organised. Need to develop a consistent and effective way to manage my time. How?? Ideas… Devote a notebook to daily lists. Force myself to refer to this notebook every day, revising and prioritising. I must do this no matter what! Discipline! Stop procrastinating on items I feel lazy about. It takes far less time and energy to just do it, rather than feel incredibly guilty about not doing it.
Not creating enough ‘me time’ in the sense of goal setting, journal writing, inspirational reading, yoga, meditative baths, clearing my mind, being reflective. These elements are all a part of what makes me tick. When I allow time for these activities I always feel less stressed, more at peace with myself and the world around me. I don’t like feeling overwhelmed, out of control, bombarded with things to do. Ideas – Start a journal again. Read some chapters in The Artist Way to revive my creativity.
I went on to write: I waste too much time watching telly. Unless something really watchable is on, do something else. Create time for lovemaking, don’t just expect time will appear. It probably won’t. Pamper myself. Burn candles. Create a calm environment. Play chilled music when cooking. Make our home a sanctuary.
My biggest focus for 2001 was: To create a healthy balance in my life; giving more energy to the most important things and people in my life.
And so, my friends, the seed of Project Me was planted. And it’s been growing steadily for 15 years ever since!
If you read my blog and you think I’ve always had my shit together and am some kind of super mama, I hope you’ll now see that this has been a process. (And I still don’t always have my shit together!)
My goal setting rituals have morphed into something very powerful and I now teach on-line goal setting courses and workshops specifically for mothers who want to find a better balance, like I have.
I can speed you to a happier place much quicker than you’d ever do alone.
My next on-line course, New Year – New You! begins on Monday January 18th and is the foundation for making those positive changes you know you want to make, but are never sure how to begin or how to keep it up long term. We’ll take a hard look at your time-sucks and how to create more time for what’s important to you. You’ll get crystal clear about your Dream Vision for any areas of your life that you’d like to improve. You’ll create a step-by-step action plan, including some good habits that will support your new goals.
Why wait another year to get started?
Click here to read the full New Year – New You! course details.
In the comments below, I’d love to hear at least one of your goals for the year ahead. I’ll be here cheering for you every step of the way!
Mixing practicality with self-awareness, Kelly helps mothers get on top of their endless to-do’s, set goals and improve their lives one small step at a time.
Grab her free Life Wheel Tool for discovering what needs your focus first.