NYC – visual goal sheet

I decided that this year I would set up some visual reminders of my major goals.  Something portable that I could take with me so that I can pull it out if I want a moment to focus or to remind myself of what’s important.  The trip to New York is coming up really fast so I figured I’d better get cracking. 

NYC goal sheet

Each one is pretty small.  It folds up into a small(ish) square that I should be able to put in my wallet.  (That way, when I open it to grab my visa for something, I might think twice and realize what’s REALLY important to me this year.)  Once I’m done, the visual goal sheets will also be a nice reminder of what I’ve accomplished in 2009. 

I’m always at a bit of a loss when it comes to collage images since we aren’t in the habit of buying magazines at all.  The above images were from two magazines that were purchased a year apart.  Aside from work magazines we don’t get much else.  I’m wondering how I might find some more images for free (or very cheap).  Any ideas are welcome in the comments!

How do you keep focused on your goals?  Do you use visual inspiration/motivation for achieving the things you want?

New Affirmation – Live Like a Rock Star!

Ever found one of those catch phrases or common sayings that really just resonate with you?  I like to keep a little list posted up of some of the meaningful ones for me (actually, the list is embedded in my desktop on my home computer).  Some of my favourites include “Be the change,” “Go Big or Go Home,” and “They’re gonna say what they’re gonna say!” 

I’ve recently discovered a new favourite to add to the list that I discovered via The Cherie Cast.  An awesome podcast put together by a truly awesome and inspiring family!  The particular episode that it originated from is Episode #34, which you can listen to here.  In the podcast they discuss work ethic and how in many industries it is sorely lacking.  But if you look at rock stars, they clearly put all their heart and passion into their job and people love them for it.  Imagine if we all put that much passion and hard work into doing our own jobs?  Wouldn’t the world be a much cooler place?

So, my newest affirmation is “Live Like a Rock Star!”  (It’s worth noting that while many famous musicians right now might be pop singers, but I don’t think they embody the spirit of a Rock Star).  Here is what it means to me . . .

  • Putting in my best effort regardless of what or who I am dealing with.
  • Incorporating fun and positive energy wherever I can
  • Sticking to my ideals, even if they go against popular opinion
  • Putting myself out there and taking risks when necessary
  • Taking responsibility for the consequences of my actions
  • Putting in all the time and effort necessary to be an ambassador of excellence in my chosen job and career

Just one day after listening to the podcast and deciding that I love the idea of “Living Like a Rock Star” I am already getting a chance to make the choice of working like a rock star instead of shrugging my shoulders.  Since I generally do make work ethic a high priority, I’m not really doing anything different than I otherwise would.  But, now I think of myself as “Living Like a Rock Star” which is a lot more fun and appealing that simply working hard.

New Page – My Life List

So, I finally decided to move my life list to a page on my blog.  I took out the medium rocks page, since I wasn’t really updating it regularly, and copied my life list over.  As I was scanning through it making sure the code was all ok I realized how it is definitely time for an update.  Specifically in these areas:

Travel

Some of the sites on there are personal and meaningful.  Others are just the big name tourist sites.  The older I get, the more I hear about other places that sound very interesting to me, so I think I might do some revisions in this area.

Learning

There are a lot of things I’d like to learn.  When I was young and idealistic, I thought that mastering all of these things would be possible.  I’m older now and I realize that they aren’t.  I’d still like to try a lot of them, but I’ll probably revise a few to be “take classes in . . . ” or “learn this well enough to . . . ”

Additions and Deletions

There are a few things that I’d like to add to the list.  There are also a few things I’d like to just delete from the list.  And there are a few others that are a bit more complex issues.  I think I’ll probably be discussing some of these on the blog as the changes get made.

What I Learned from WordCamp Fraser Valley

Last night I attended my first ‘Camp’ event.  I was so glad that there was actually an event happening on the side of the river where I live!  It worked out perfectly for me to go right after work, as the location was just 10 minutes away from where I live.  The event has sparked a variety of thoughts bouncing through my head last night and this morning and I’d like to organize them a bit for myself, and to give others an idea of what a WordCamp is all about.

Switching to WordPress.com

The first speaker was Raul Pacheco (aka Hummingbird604) speaking on switching to WordPress.com.  Since I already blog on WordPress.com, I didn’t find the content particularly relevant to my situation.  Many of the people there were already blogging, so he was kind of preaching to the choir.  As Raul has spent a lot of time in the academic world (recently defended his Phd thesis) I found his talk very reminiscent of other academic talks that I’ve attended.  It had quite a bit of information but was still very clear to me (though, again, I’m not exactly a newb to blogging).  I’ve followed Raul on twitter for a while and been to his site before too, and he really is like a Hummingbird!  His talk had good energy and was a good talk to begin with.

Business Blogging

The second scheduled speaker actually cancelled and so Gary Jones of BlueFur threw together an impromptu presentation (literally 3 slides) on blogging in business.  As one of my purposes for attending was to see if a business blog would be an appropriate tool for the company that I work at, this talk was very relevant.  For how much prep time he had, I think he did very well and was very comfortable speaking to a large audience.  He put a few new ideas in my head that I’ll be working on implementing in my day job.  He also handled a lot of questions about his specific setup and general WordPress/blogging issues as well.

Then we had a chance for break and networking.  I talked to people, but reflecting on it, wish I would have circulated more and even introduced myself to some of the speakers.  But, it was a step in the right direction.  At the next event I attend, I think I’ll make a ‘social’ goal for myself, to meet a certain number of new people.

WordPress.org Security

After the break, Kulpreet Singh presented on Security with WordPress.org.  His presentation had a lot of useful content and I took a lot of notes.  The information was clearly presented and he also listed several security references.  This was particularly useful because I just know when I do my presentation to my boss one of his questions is going to be “but how secure is it?”  My boss is a very smart guy about computer matters (though he’s still very web 1.0) so I wanted to be able to actually explain security measures we could put in place rather than just leaving him with empty reassurances.  Kulpreet’s presentation was great for being able to do that.

Custom Themes and Sidebars with WordPress.org

Following up security issues, the next talk was given by Rebecca Bollwitt, more commonly known as Miss604.  Her topic was on custom themes and sidebars and it was a little lighter on content and it had a more conversational feel to it.  I think she was expecting more questions from the audience, though it is very difficult to know who is going to ask what.  After having mulled over the things she demonstrated, I did think up a few questions that I’d like to have asked.  But, I never seem to think of questions at the time when they are appropriate to be asked (ie. the questions started popping into my head at about 7:30 this morning).  I think the lack of questions was also possibly due to the intermediate nature of her topic.  For the real beginners it was so beyond where they were at, that they couldn’t think of questions to ask.  For the more experienced bloggers, custom themes wasn’t something that needed clarification.  The information that she gave was very clear and easy to understand.  I think diving in and learning the .php necessary to change around the theme and sidebar is going to be a lot easier than my current ‘side project’ of learning vba.

Evil Ways to Increase Traffic to Your Blog

The last speaker for the evening was John Chow giving his talk on ‘Evil Ways to Increase Traffic to your Blog.’  He talking about how to get new visitors, get return visitors, and getting visitors to click on more than just one of your pages.  (Which are basic goals of any business – new customers, return customers, customers who buy more of your stuff.)  His information was very well presented and he was clearly at ease talking in front of the audience.  Some of his methods are a little evil (but smart evil!) and he asked that we not spread around some of his ideas so I won’t say too much about the content.  I will say that he seems like a nice guy who with a lot of business savvy.

Applying it to my projects

So, at the end of it, I did get the little push that I needed to start jumping in and playing around.  It’s downloaded, but I didn’t get a chance to install or play more than that.  There’s a possibility of a Sunday morning project, but it’ll more likely be Monday before I get around to it.  Then it’ll take me some time to play around with it and formulate a proposal for applying it where I work.  Something really clicked with the idea of a business blog and I’ve been coming up with ideas for topics for an internal and an external blog.  Hopefully at least one of them manages to fly!

My First ‘Camp’ing Experience

While on the outside I look calm and serene, on the inside I’m a bundle of nervous energy flopping all over the place.  Why the nerves?  I’m going to my very first ‘camp’ today – WordCamp Fraser Valley.  I’m not entirely sure what to expect but I am looking forward to the different speakers.  Hopefully I will also be brave and not just sit by myself the whole time.  I’m hoping that I’ll have a chance to chat with people a bit, because that’s good practice for me.  I’m also hoping to get a bit of blogging inspiration and some ideas.  Not only for this blog, but there’s also a website project at my work that’s been going on forever without much progress.  Never know where your new ideas might come from!

Projects Inspire More Projects

We’re back from Japan.  We loved it so much it’s hard to describe.  Going there we didn’t experience culture shock.  In fact, it was almost the reverse – it was like coming home.  Most of it we loved and I can definitely see us returning there in the future.  I’m so glad that we went for three weeks instead of two.  Two weeks would not have been long enough.

Getting back to reality has been bumpier than the mid-flight turbulence though.  My husband has had dreams where he thought we were still back there.  I’ve had  a few moments between sleep and waking where I didn’t know if I was in a ryokan in Kyoto or our townhouse in Surrey.

Even though rumour has it that you’re supposed to come back refreshed and revived and ready to plunge back into work, I’m definitely shying away from the deep end of things in that domain!  I’m already headlong into procrastination from work tasks and more intensely interested in personal goals and tasks than ever before.  *sigh*  *big sigh*  I guess I can’t be a perpetual vacationer though.

However, my husband and I are revived with more projects to complete.  Our incredibly successful vacation has us wanting to incorporate more adventure into our day to day lives.  We’re still not exactly sure what that will entail, but a few of the things we’ve already committed to are:

  • creating a sanctuary in our own home – the areas are prioritized and we went on our first (unsuccessful) shopping trip (the ultimate completion of our home decoration may involve a very skilled carpenter or astronomical shipping costs from foreign countries).
  • gardening – some baby spider plants have been brought home and are sitting in dampened soil.  We had different opinions about which part was supposed to be in the soil so there are a few different configurations.  We also have plans to visit a garden centre or two this weekend.
  • a wine project – this I find really exciting because it’s so easy to implement.  Also, one of my favourite podcasts is Will Write for Wine.  It’s two authors who create a weekly podcast about wine and writing.  They always start each episode giving a rundown of whichever wine they are trying that week.  Our project is fairly similar.  I may begin blogging about it.  Tomorrow we will be sampling our first wine.  I think it’ll be the first Pinot Noir I’ve ever tried.  We are horribly indecisive so we arbitrarily decided to try it out in order of country, alphabetically.  So, we begin with the Argentinian wines.

Other than that, life is packed right now.  Everyone wants a get together to hear about Japan.  I got one day’s worth of pictures transferred to my PC before I had to get back to work.  When I got home I discovered that when the USB cable is plugged into my camera, it still runs off batteries, so it was dead *grrrrr*.  Plus, my co-workers have been inspired by my vacation and have all taken time off too, which means I’m working a few extra shifts as well.  And, every free day that comes up, my husband and I are planning something to fill it with.  I guess busy begets busy.  But, we’re both happy and not overwhelmed (yet) so I guess that’s ok.

Current Hobby Thoughts

I have very eclectic interests and a short attention span.  That’s how I think about it when I’m in a good mood.  When I’m in a bad mood, I think I must have some sort of hobby-attention-deficit-disorder and often bite off more than I can swallow.  I tend to vacillate between some different areas of interest resulting in a lot of half finished projects and ever-increasing project and to-do lists.  I’ve been contemplating cutting back on some things lately so that I can focus deeply on something instead of just skimming the surface before moving on to something else.  The problem is that I don’t know what I’d give up.  So, for the time being, I’ll just continue on with what I’m doing.

I’m in a bit of a reading mood lately.  A friend lent me his copy of On Writing by Stephen King, which I devoured in about two weeks.  Ever since I participated in NaNoWriMo last year, I’ve been thinking about my writing projects and trying to get more time devoted to writing and stories.  I’m also officially addicted to the Will Write For Wine podcast, which is hilarious and helpful in many ways.  I’m a bit addicted to daydreams, but I’m finding that I’ve been forcing my fantasy world into more meaty and substantial things instead of pure fantasy.  I spend time mulling over the goals and motivations of the characters running through my head, instead of just letting them go wild.  Hopefully it’ll eventually turn in to something more concrete.
I’ve always been interested in my family tree.  I think the fact that the families of both of my parents still live in Germany, and we never had much contact with them, made me a bit more curious about them.  Since my Dad passed away, I’ve been getting more and more interested in it.  I started writing down the few facts that I know on Geni.com and have been listening to all the old shows from The Genealogy Guys podcast.  I’m not ready to start interviewing family members just yet (especially since mine speak German and I speak English) but I’m thinking about ways I can add it in to my long list of hobbies and interests.

On a more crafty front, I’m madly trying to finish a pair of baby booties for friends of mine expecting this June.  I love the actual sitting down and creating aspect, but it comes in little fits and spurts that it’s hard to get a whole project done in a reasonable amount of time.  I keep thinking about some of the other small projects I’d like to do after this one and maybe this summer I’ll get a chance to try some.

Motivation from Inspiration

This week I’ve been doing an awful lot of reflection on what kind of person I want to be. It was sparked by an off-hand comment a friend made on a chat program and has kind of snowballed into a critical reflection on the kind of person that I am (I’m certain that I took the comment in a much different way than my friend intended). I’ve been concerned that my motivation for achievement has some very shallow and self-centered roots. That my thirst for achievement has more to do with comparing myself to others or impressing others than it does with personal satisfaction and growth. I don’t want to be motivated by these things, so I’m trying to find other sources of motivation to help balance myself. I don’t think I’ll ever be rid of my competitive side that drives me to compare myself to others or seek out praise, but I can certainly seek to add other kinds of motivation.

One of the ways I find to channel some of my competitive urge from negative to positive is to use inspiration to fuel my motivation. I focus on a role model and use their life, accomplishments, personality traits, and talents to inspire me to work on those same aspects of myself. I see it as an indirect form of competition since really you are competing with an ideal and not the actual person. Here are some questions that I use to help me find my motivation from inspiration.

Who do I admire and respect? I try to think of different people, past and present, who make me go ‘Wow!’ These are the people who make me stop and really pay attention to all the great things that the human species is capable of. These may be world famous individuals or they may be people who are simply within your own little community. I’m sure that we could come up with a huge list of people, but don’t succumb to the temptation to simply create a list of 100 famous people from history. Instead try to pick a few people who have some personal meaning to you. Someone who stands out from the rest. Also, for actually doing this exercise, it’s easiest to only focus on one person at a time. If you try to incorporate the skills and talents of more than one person, you’ll probably just find yourself overwhelmed.

Why do I respect this person? The next step of the process is to actually define what it is about this person that you respect. Take a look and see if you can write down a list of their qualities. What is it that made this person successful? Was it their bravery? loyalty? kindness? determination to succeed against all odds? trueness to themselves? ambition? the ideals they hold important? maintaining grace under pressure and scrutiny? I’m sure one or many of that list will end up on the list that you make for whomever you have chosen.

How can I foster those qualities in myself and express them in my life? Now we come to the fun (and hard) part. Look at the list of qualities that you have admired in that other person, and compare it to your own behaviour and actions. How do you measure up? Try to be honest with yourself and don’t simply pat yourself on the back and say “yup, that’s just like me too!” That kind of attitude won’t actually bring you any personal growth or progress. Another danger to be wary of is to see it as hopeless and just shoot yourself down by saying that you’ll never be able to do the things that person did. This attitude isn’t really helpful either and if you’ve picked a person who is meaningfully important to you, you should be able to find some aspect of your own life to develop.

What is your action plan? Finally, it’s always better to actually write down some goals. So, take a look at your list and write down the ways that you plan on fostering the qualities you are going to be working on. Keep the list somewhere you will see it every day. Even better if you can refer to a picture or other reminder of the person that you chose so you can remind yourself of your goals.

You can choose to do this kind of exercise to orient yourself in life if you are feeling lost or you can do this to help motivate yourself towards a specific goal. Here are some examples of people whom I’ve used in the past to inspire myself . . .

  • Terry Fox – when I was training for the 10 km run I did last year, it was hard to be running so frequently. When I found myself dogging it on the treadmill I tried to keep Terry Fox in mind. Did you know that on average he ran the distance of a marathon every day when he was running across Canada? His prosthetic leg chaffed and caused bleeding and he kept running. He ran through bad weather on roads of all conditions and even when he was sick. Thinking of his determination made it a lot easier to do my runs which were small in comparison.
  • Audrey Hepburn – whenever I think of grace and style my mind always travels to her. I try to embody her image whenever the situation calls for class and elegance. She always seemed to be easy and natural with herself but maintained poise and dignity as well.
  • Benjamin Sisko – yes, you can pick fictional people too! I am a huge Star Trek fan and this character captured my imagination and admiration from the get-go. His values, decisiveness, beliefs, eloquence, leadership, and dignity were evident from the very first episode of DS9 (that’s short hand referring to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for any non-trekkies out there). I suppose the credit could also go to the actor who plays him (Avery Brooks), the writers and producers who created the character, and even to Gene Rodenberry who had the original vision for the Star Trek universe (even though this series diverged from his original vision).  But, his vision of humanity fits so nicely in line with my own, that focusing on that character seems easier to me for the purposes of this exercise.  Here is a good quote from Sisko from the first episode:

That may be the most important thing to understand about humans. It is the unknown that defines our existence. We are constantly searching… not just for answers to our questions… but for new questions. We are explorers… . We explore our lives day by day… and we explore the galaxy, trying to expand the boundaries of our knowledge. And that is why I am here. Not to conquer you with weapons or ideas. But to coexist and learn.

  • My grandmother – for whom, unfortunately, no wikipedia entry exists.  I don’t know much about her but I do know that she raised a family and ran a farm after her husband died in World War II.  I’ve also heard that during that war she helped a Jewish family hide and escape the country (my family comes from Germany).  I can only imagine the difficulties she faced and had the courage to do the right thing in the face of fear and danger.
  • My mother – even though we have our differences, I’ve come to admire her for her strength and determination.  She is a force moving through the universe and if you get in her way you may just be scooped up and taken along for the ride.  But don’t worry, because if my mom involved with it, it’s safe, sturdy and efficient!