Last Sunday, I was asked by the teacher in the women’s organization at my church if I would take a few minutes during her lesson and share about a goal I had achieved, how I did it, what obstacles I faced along the way, how overcame, and felt, etc. Her lesson was on bettering ourselves in the new year and setting goals.
Goal setting is something I am very passionate about. I’ve set goals since I was a child, and have always set my sights high. I have always had this natural faith that I could do whatever I set my mind to.
Mind you, I don’t always accomplish every single goal that I set, but I try very hard and my ambition is great. And when I set out to do something, I am one the most determined persons you will ever meet.
I thought I would share some of my thoughts that I shared in church, in hopes that it might help any of you.
Goals are NOT crap.
I recently read a blog post where the author talked about resolutions and “how they are crap”. She believed that instead of setting goals, failing, and then feeling discouraged – that you should just leave your life up to God and allow him to decide what comes for you. As I read the comments on the blog post, it seemed like everyone was praising the author and saying how much better this made them feel instead of setting goals. And then there was one commenter who had the guts to say what I felt inside – that life was about bettering oneself, reaching for something higher and not allowing oneself to be complacent. Of course, the other people attacked him a bit for having a difference of opinion and having the audacity to say so.
Some people will argue that resolutions and different than goals, but to me they are the same. It’s saying that you want to accomplish something and are willing to work towards it.
Maybe resolutions/goals are overwhelming to some people because they really do feel like they fail, and fail often. I personally don’t think it’s because their goal was unattainable, but it was probably because a) they weren’t ready to commit, and b) they didn’t set themselves up for success.
As I think back over my life and the various goals I’ve set/accomplished, there are a few that really stand out to me.
Goal #1 – Finishing ‘Illumination’
It took me 4 long years to complete my 3rd album “Illumination”.
I started writing the songs in between other projects until I had enough songs and the kind of songs I wanted for this album. Some of the songs took me over a year to finish composing. My skills as a composer developed immensely during the process, and the diversity of the music on the album reflects that as well.
During those 4 years, I had a child, finished a film score, started and completed a 2nd album, got pregnant again, and gave birth to our 2nd child, worked and completed the 3rd album. So not only was I busy working on music, but I was busy growing our family and both took a lot of time and effort and energy.
Many people asked me “How do you do it??”.
It did take a lot of time management and goal-setting to complete, and even got to a point where I made myself write out goals and deadlines, otherwise I feared I would never finish the album.
(Here is a blog post I wrote as a guest columnist for author Alex Bledsoe, on the act of balancing parenting and career).
Monthly Goals and Deadlines
One thing I did was I set monthly goals with specific dates of when I wanted to accomplish certain things by.
This is a screenshot from the ACTUAL goal sheet that I made and had pinned to the wall in my music studio. As I was still trying to lose all my pregnancy weight, you will also see that I had some weightloss goals defined on there as well – as I was preparing for photo shoots and videos and wanted to look my best. I was working hard on all levels, I tell ya!
You can click to enlarge if needed.
Another thing that I did was create a spreadsheet for each process of the album creation so that I always knew where I was at with each song and what I had left to do.
On the left you will the name of each song (some names changed later on, btw). And then a space to check off everything from recording, editing, orchestration, mixing, mastering, naming the song, and more. (To clarify Glen co-orchestrated some of the music, and Rob was my sound engineer).
Click to enlarge
That spreadsheet was so crucial to me. And I was VERY adamant about not checking anything off until it was absolutely 100% completed. So it always felt great when I could put a check mark in any of the boxes.
Setting Myself Up for Success
One thing you need to keep in mind is in order to accomplish a goal, you need to arrange your everyday life so that you make it possible to attain. You need to set yourself up for success.
My husband works a busy day job for Microsoft, and since we have two kids (now as of Jan 2014, one more on the way – due in March), we had to figure out a system in our home where we could juggle parenting responsibilities, work, and more.
Fortunately, I married a guy who has ALWAYS, always been my hugest fan and supporter. He would move mountains to help me accomplish my dreams.
We created a weekly schedule where 3 days a week he came home early from work and took over everything. I mean EVERYTHING. When he walked in the door, I was ready to hand the kids over to him and go into my music studio and shut the door. And I was typically in my studio until the wee hours of the early morning trying to get things done.
There were days when I needed more time, and so I would hire a babysitter to watch my kids all day, or take them up to my parents’ house so that I could have a few solid days of uninterrupted work-time.
I Was Kind to Myself
My original goal was to finish my album by June 0f 2012, but I know that things usually always take longer than you think. So when little hiccups came up, I wasn’t hard on myself or disappointed, I just kept moving forward.
Many people tend to give up when they fail, or say “What’s the use?”. Thing thing is, is that LIFE HAPPENS. Illnesses happen. People you depend on fail you. Money can be tight. Other responsibilities come up. The key is to not give up and keep going. I know that sounds so cliche, but it’s true! Nobody is going to do it for you. You have to believe in yourself.
I completed the album only 6 weeks behind schedule and released it in the latter half of July 2012.
So the biggest ways I was able to accomplish the goal of finishing that album was
1) Setting monthly detailed goals and deadlines
2) Setting myself up for success by arranging my life to make my goal possible
and 3) Being kind to myself in the process.
Goal #2 – Fitness and Weight loss
This isn’t a topic I usually talk about publicly because it has nothing to do with my music, but since you obviously now know it was part of my goals (from my goal sheet I attached above), I wanted to talk a little bit about this goal and how I worked EXTREMELY hard towards it and achieved it.
Having kids does some crazy things to your body. I will say that.
Both of my pregnancies were really hard on my body and I gained more weight than I would have liked. I seemed to have anything and everything go wrong with me – from several dislocated ribs, hip problems, pancreatitis, pre-eclampsia, and emergency C-sections both times. Exercising during my pregnancies was hard.
After I had our 2nd son in Aug of 2010, I will tell you that I was very self-conscious of my body and how I looked.
I actually turned down performance opportunities because I was too embarrassed to go on stage and have people judge me for how I looked. And granted, I have the best fans and supporters in the world and most of them are there for the music and not for what I look like, but still, in MY mind, I just didn’t have the self-esteem and courage to do it.
So for a good year or more, I really didn’t perform very much. I was still busy working on music in my studio, and commissioned projects, but just too self-conscious to get up on stage.
As I got closer to releasing “Illumination”, I knew I wanted to be in better shape so that I would look good in my photos and feel more confident.
At my “Illumination” Photo Shoot – Paramount Theater, Seattle, WA – May 2012
Even at my photo shoot for my album (pictured above), I wasn’t at my goal weight but was still proud of where I was at that point.
It took me close to 3 and 1/2 years to lose all the weight I had gained from both pregnancies. From 2010 (after I had our 2nd baby) to summer of 2013, I lost a total of 70 pounds – which actually put me UNDER my pre-pregnancy weight.
The following photo is a progression of me in 2010 (after the birth of Taylor), and finally on the right in 2013 when I filmed the outdoor scenes for my Illumination music video.
I will say that THIS goal was not as straight-forward as my goal for finishing my album. I am very good at disciplining myself to work on music, but not always great at disciplining myself with my body (which is why it took me over 3 years to lose the weight).
But there came a point in Feb of 2013 when I was tired of losing a little, gaining a few back, losing a little, gaining a few back.
I wanted to reach my goal and I was finally in a motivated frame of mind where I wanted to kick some butt and just get it done!
A few things I did to accomplish my goals were:
1) I hired a personal trainer
2) I set myself up for success by re-arranging my daily schedule so I could go to the gym 6 days a week
3) I got my family’s support with my food goals
Each of those things were very involved with many variables.
For example, I hired a trainer because I needed accountability and I was at a point where I felt like I had done everything I could myself and needed outside help.
The trainer (Monica Lynne) I hired was also a life coach and nutritional coach, and so we had many hours of wonderful talks that provided insight into my soul as to the reasons behind why I did certain things. For the first time in a long time, I was overcoming issues I had and reaching goals that I really wasn’t sure I ever would.
It was the BEST feeling to know I was capable of achieving this goal and could overcome trials.
As for setting myself up for success, this involved making my gym time a priority – even over friendships sometimes and other things that were fun. I had a rule that the mornings were “my time” at the gym, and I would say no to anything else that got in the way.
It wasn’t easy, at first when I would tell people “Sorry I can’t, I have to go to the gym.”, they didn’t really see that as a valid excuse to get out of something. So I stopped saying that I was going to gym, but just instead said I had a standing appointment every morning and that I was “unavailable”.
My gym has a daycare too that my boys absolutely LOVED to go to, and so I didn’t feel guilty for having the “me time”, because they were also having a lot of fun, meeting new friends, and being social.
My husband was also very supportive by making sure I had my gym time, sometimes re-arranging his schedule in case I needed to go to the gym in the evenings, and also Saturday mornings.
My husband is an ultra-marathon runner and his big training runs are usually on Saturday mornings. As crazy as this sounds, he would usually get up around 4 a.m. and go on his 4 to 5 hour trail run, and when he got back we would switch and I would go to the gym.
I got my family’s support with food goals, and this was not easy.
With an ultra-marathoner who loves his carbs, and 2 little boys who are picky eaters (can we say chicken nuggets and mac ‘n’ cheese?), we often rarely all ate the same thing at dinner time. And everyone was okay with this. I would eat my lean protien and veggies, while they ate their carby stuff and proteins.
I also didn’t bake as much, or bring sweets into the house as often, and got very good at saying no to things.
I was very motivated by the success I was having, and how fit and wonderful I felt. Some people who say getting in shape is a vain endeavor obviously don’t know how great it feels compared to having extra pounds on you. I LOVED being able to hike up mountains and not be out of breathe, to fit into my dresses with ease, and to be on stage performing and feel confident.
Shortly after that last photo was taken in July of 2013, I found out we were pregnant with baby #3!
So I am going to be starting the process ALL OVER AGAIN come March. :) This time though, I have still been able to work out at the gym through this entire pregnancy. I am currently 30 weeks along and still doing cardio and weight training 3 to 4 days per week.
To Sum It Up…
My point to all of this is YOU CAN ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS.
It’s not always easy, it’s not always fast, but it IS POSSIBLE.
Goals are not crap!
If I can do this with 2.75 children, husband, busy music career, and everything else, YOU can definitely accomplish your dreams too.
I want to leave you with a neat story about world renowned concert violinist Isaac Stern. A real hero of mine…
(Story retold by Rex D. Pinegar)
“Isaac Stern, the world-famous musician-violinist, was asked by a television talk show host at what point in his life he determined to devote his energies toward a career as a concert violinist. Mr. Stern told of having given his first concert in San Francisco at a young age. Music critics were extremely impressed and predicted a fine future for the promising young talent. With this encouragement, Isaac Stern began preparations for another concert a year later in New York City. The critics were not so kind to him there. It would require a tremendous amount of work, they judged, if Isaac Stern were to achieve success as a soloist.
Dejected and discouraged, the young Mr. Stern boarded one of New York City’s double-decker buses and rode it up and down Manhattan a number of times. He was, in his words, “crying inside” as he tried to decide where he was going from there. Were his critics correct? Had he gone as far as he was capable of going? Should he now seek a profession as just another member of an orchestra?
After his fourth bus ride through the city, he returned to his apartment where his mother was waiting. He had made his decision. “I am going to work, mother—work at my music until it works for me.” Today Isaac Stern is acclaimed as one of the finest violinists in the world. Work is a principle with a blessing. Work builds us physically and spiritually. It increases both our strength of body and our strength of character.” (Isaac sterned passed away in 2001).