I hope everyone is having a fantastic LAST WEEK of November!!! Can you believe how fast this year has gone by? Needless to say, so much has happened in 2017. This last week, I’ve been thinking about how much has happened for me this last year and starting to think about what goals I want to set for myself this next year. Everyone knows that new year’s resolutions can be hard to plan and accomplish, most often because we don’t start out with a plan on how we want to accomplish our goals. Whether the goal is to eat healthier and work out more, manage time better, getting better grades, earning more money, reading more books, or even just making more of an effort to look put together, a lot of the times we see the difference in the pictures of where we are and where we want to be in a few months, and we completely ignore the part in the middle where we plan out how exactly we are going to get to where we want to be.
One this thing that I’ve learned this year as a blogger, as a student, and as someone who consistently reflects on her actions and choices, there is no way to get from the start to the finish line without planning the steps you will take in between.
And based on that, here is a step-by-step guide on how to set goals and achieve them without driving yourself crazy or getting discouraged, illustrated through a series of flower metaphors.
Part I. The Seed
If you want to see a flower bloom, the first thing you have to do is plant the seed. Think carefully about what you’re planting, where and when you are planting it.
Will it have access to the right nutrients and growing conditions?
Will you be able to care for it?
These are all important questions.
It is fine to have high expectations for yourself, and it’s also great to set high and hard-to-reach goals for yourself. But before you plan to do anything, think carefully about whether this is the right step for you to take at this point in your life.
When I was in the first quarter of my second year in college, I was working two jobs and taking two incredibly difficult core classes in university. I wanted to maintain my good GPA, and I also wanted to do well at my jobs. I wanted free time to hang out and catch up with friends, and start reading again, and plan to travel during the summer: everything that I saw a sophisticated, mature, grown-up doing. That was my seed. My seed never bloomed.
Who knows, maybe I am capable of working two jobs and getting great grades, having a lot of free time, reading and traveling. But when I set that goal for myself, I didn’t even consider the fact that this was my first quarter having a job, let alone two jobs. I didn’t consider the fact that regardless of how smart and capable I was, I simply wasn’t ready for the goal that I had in mind.
Plant seeds where you know they can bloom.
Part II. The Wait
Before you see a seed sprout, you have to wait for it to germinate.
This is the part of planning any goal where you have to reaffirm how much commitment you have towards that goal. Often times people lose sight of their goals because they forget what those goals mean to them. They forget how much they have to learn in the process of carrying out and achieving their goals. They forget the value that those goals have in their lives.
If you take a minute to think about all of the things that distract us from achieving our goals, you will realize that there are so many things that can hinder us. One of the biggest ones that I’ve been thinking about recently is technology and how it has influenced the relationship we have with others and ourselves. More than anything, the ability to instantly access information and people has made waiting for literally anything
We want to make connections quickly. We want answers quickly. We want to share with the world quickly. But in the process of doing everything quickly, we forget the value of learning to wait. At least, that’s what it’s been like for me. I get so anxious when I don’t get answers quickly. Because even with the ability to do everything quickly, the best parts of our lives are usually the ones we have to wait the longest time for. Take a minute to train yourself and learn to wait. In that time:
Water the seed: make sure your idea stays fresh as you plan it.
Give it some sunlight: be excited and energized about what you are doing. Be thoughtful about what you are doing.
Watch your idea grow.
Part IV. Opening Up
I think that a lot of the time, people don’t realize how important it is to talk to other people about your goals and how you will go about achieving them. It is also important to listen to the goals and ideas that other people have: there is always so much to learn.
Everyone faces different hardships, and that diversity can be both positive and negative in terms of how we relate to others. It can be negative because diversity makes it harder to empathize with others, but it is positive because the diversity of hardships means that there are so many things that we can learn from the people we talk to.
I talked in a previous blog post about how I came from a fairly privileged background: so privileged that looking back I can say that I really knew nothing about what it meant to be underprivileged. I wouldn’t have learned unless I had shared my background and experiences with other people, and let them tell me about their background and experiences in return. Learning about the hardships that other people faced impacted the way that I saw my own hardships. More importantly, it changed the way that I responded to hardship.
I became more enabled to achieve my goals, and more creative in how I did so.
Part V. Blooming
“Bloom where you are planted”
Even when you plan your life and your goals out carefully and you follow your plan to a T, you are bound to make mistakes. There are bound to be unanticipated changes to your plan. And you have to deal with it. You still have to get to where you want to go.
When that seed you planted finally blooms, it might not be exactly the way you imagined it would happen. You might be in a completely different place: location-wise or even just in life: and you might have a completely different perspective on that goal you planned so carefully. You might have learned something during your wait that you didn’t expect to learn.
Everything about the situation might be completely different from what you thought it to be, but you still accomplished something. And that’s what counts in this case.
Don’t expect your life to go according to your plans, because really, it’s not in your hands. Expect there to be places where you fall down, but also expect yourself to get back up on your feet.
Regardless of the your situation, see it through that your seed gets to bloom.
Part VI. Pollinating
Here is the last step of setting, planning and achieving goals.
Share your story. Share every mistake that you made along the way. Be open, and make yourself accessible to other people.
When I was in high school, I learned biology by memorizing my notes from my teacher’s Powerpoint presentations. I never liked learning biology because I’ve never liked memorizing information. Memorizing a plan and repeating it on exams is boring. But when I was in high school, I never really understood the value of making mistakes out loud; proudly announcing them to the world and embracing my own foolishness.
When I was in my first year of college and took my first biology class, my instructor made us get up in front of groups of classmates and teach each other biology. I had to make mistakes. I had to have people correct me. But once I made those mistakes and talked about them with other people, I actually appreciated biology. I was more comfortable being human being and making mistakes in front of other people. And because I’d already messed up in front of other people and the embarrassing part was out of the way, I could talk about my mistakes with other people so that they wouldn’t make the same ones. And because I talked about everything that I did wrong, I got to hear what other people did wrong and learn from their mistakes too.
You’ve done so much to get yourself to where you are now. You can bet that there are other people who are trying to do the same thing. I can guarantee that hearing about your experience will be useful to them.
When you disperse the fruit of your labor, you never know how many ideas you’ll be able to spark.
This was a long guide to setting goals, but I hope it was useful to everyone who read it! Feel free to leave a comment on what you thought of this piece, or if you have anything to add to it!