Personal Notes on Goal-Setting (& other everyday magic)

Personal Notes on Goal-Setting (& other everyday magic)

Photo by West Cliff Creative

What’s your goal-setting process?

Does the new year mean a new you? Possibly. But I think we’ve been thinking about the business of goal-setting (aka New Year’s Resolutions) all wrong.

Somewhere along the way between my first bike and my first car, I decided I was going to write a book. I had fallen in love with the feel of paper turning under my finger tips, the neat line-up of bindings with their myriad of titles on the library shelf, and the possibility for discovery between the lines. The thought of creating a book of my own was thrilling because it meant I would then be an indelible part of this world that I loved so much and, more importantly, I’d be an active contributor with something to give back in return for all that I’d been given through the works of others.

At the time, I had no idea how to make this book-making wish a reality, but still I couldn’t shake it loose. The thought had nestled into my heart, calling it home, waiting for its chance to grow.

Later, somewhere along the way between college and becoming a parent for the second time, the pieces to my book writing puzzle began to come together. As I say in Grow What You Love, it was after studying botany and environmental science, becoming a teacher, practicing garden design, and actively teaching organic gardening that the book was born. The part I left out for the sake of brevity is the writing of Pass The Pistil along with a few other key, life-changing events.

I decided that if I wanted to be a writer, I had to write — and not just about anything. I had to write about the things I loved or what was the point? Thus Pass The Pistil came into being. I gave myself the challenge of writing a finished piece about plants, growing, and nature once a week. I knew that if I asked myself to write anything more, it wouldn’t happen. I would quit. Once a week sounded doable and anything less didn’t sound like progress, so once a week it was.

Around the same time, I began losing a friend a year and sometimes multiple friends each year. It started with a dear friend to cancer and then others to tragic accidents. It was terrible and it became nearly unbearable when finally I lost a friend and her two children, both of which were classmates of my youngest daughter, in a plane crash. My world turned upside down and grief and confusion overtook my consciousness, and when I finally felt strong enough to come up for air I was forced to ask myself, “what am I doing? How can I live my own life with greater intention? And what am I really trying to say?”

Two factors were at work:

  • I had started a practice, using writing as a tool for self-transformation as well as a method for achieving a greater goal. Call it a tiny habit, baby steps, or starting small.
  • And direct confrontation was at work, also known as a life-changing event or epiphany that shook up existing paradigms, forcing me to see the world with fresh eyes.

**For change to happen and goals to be achieved, one or both of these factors are essential but only the first of the two is something you can directly control. (Ah ‘em, the tiny habits one.)

Reaching back into my childhood and the teachings of others, such as my grandmother and other treasured mentors, the answer to my questions (above) was immediately clear. Love.

I decided to approach life as a love story.

Which is why Grow What You Love “is a love story disguised as a book about growing and food making.” And is really a book about growing your life as much as it is about growing a garden.

I’ve learned that when we approach ourselves, the choices we make, our work, the food we eat (grow and make), and the people we choose to surround ourselves with from a place of love, as if all are characters of a greater love story, it causes a shift in perspective. (You can find more on this in Grow What You Love.)

So this year, when you’re facing your list of new year’s resolutions, you’re looking for a fresh start, or simply looking for ways to bring more meaning into everyday living I suggest asking yourself:

What are the things you love?

This is what I do. It may not be the answer to all of life’s problems, but it’s a wonderful place to begin and goes hand-in-hand with gratitude (another practice and tiny habit I do my best to incorporate into daily living).

More Thoughts on Goal-Setting

In writing the book, I also realized time and again that the basic principles for starting and growing a successful garden are many of the same principles needed to reach nearly any goal (including, for me, writing Grow What You Love itself!).

Here are a few of the principles I’ve found to be instrumental to successful goal-setting:

Start small. No matter where you choose to put your focus or the goals you set for yourself — whether it’s learning to knit, finding the right diet for you, or taking time to laugh more, choose bite-sized portions to add to your day or week. Just as with a garden it’s wise to start planting in containers or a tiny plot, and learn to grow just a few plants in the beginning starting with the ones you love most. 

What is it you care about? Focus on the things you love and grow them! The process is the same no matter if it’s plants, friends, family, food, or healthy living.

Before you begin, design a plan of action that leads to success. Growing a garden in a sunny spot but with no source of water just won’t work, just as deciding to add trail running into your weekly exercise routine difficult if you live in a city.

Lists are your friend. I have lists of long-term to-do’s and lists for each day, and I find it’s most effective to create a list the night before the coming day. Consider putting things on your list that provide a feeling. First ask yourself how you’d like to feel and then add the things that support this feeling. Maybe it’s planting succulents, making dinner with your children, or harvesting homegrown herbs from the garden. Also, be sure to put easy things on your list, like folding the laundry or backing up your computer, along with the more daunting tasks, like the dream you’ve had forever but aren’t yet sure how to go about accomplishing it (because don’t worry, the answers will come). Crossing off the easy things immediately provides a sense of success and, therefore, motivation.

Perfect, smer-fect. Embrace the idea that there’s no such thing as perfect. Forgive yourself for the things that don’t get done and love yourself for your mistakes (or the plants you might kill in the process of gardening) because these are opportunities to take pause, gain perspective, or try something new.

So where does your love story begin?

**I found myself a student of many wonderful teachers in my college days, one of which was an archetypal psychologist who taught within the Religious Studies department. We spent a considerable amount of time sifting through the concepts of individuation, self-discovery, and consciousness. Ideas around direct confrontation and a daily practice were among these discussions. A daily practice such as meditation, yoga, and gratitude can be life-changing. Much to my professors dismay, I did my best to convince her that trail running and growing things (tending a garden) were equally as significant. I wonder if she’d agree with my thoughts of writing as a practice? ;)

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About the Author: Emily Murphy

I’ve learned there’s something wonderfully powerful in the simple act of growing. Here, in our gardens, we can repair ourselves and our plots of earth with our own two hands. GROW WHAT YOU LOVE and GROW NOW!