Most of my adulthood, I did not know what I wanted out of life.
I spent my 20s wading through what friends and I called the Sea of Ambiguity. I tried public relations, international aid, and educational nonprofits. I took the foreign service exam, graduate courses in cultural anthropology, and an apprenticeship as an art director for indie films.
And I spent way too many years as a temp secretary while I took night classes, wrote poetry, and did a little too much partying. (Deep down, I think I was lonely, and confused about my purpose in life.) When I finally met the man of my life at age 30, I was about to go to social work school.
Instead of getting a master’s, I moved to Italy with my new husband and began teaching English to medical students and future teachers. I organized a writing circle for English-speaking expats, translated books and travel brochures, and discovered the joy of having children.
Even though getting married and raising children satisfied me in such a deep way that I didn’t much feel the career angst, I continued to search for more happiness.
I made elaborate recipes until I was all cooked-out, took poetry classes online while my daughters napped until I felt brooding and self-absorbed, volunteered to direct a co-operative preschool (and seriously doubted my management abilities), and inadvertently got involved in activism when I started a group to revitalize our neighborhood school.
On the cusp of turning 40, when I was living among ambitious women in New York and my third child was turning one, I felt again the sting of that question, “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?”
All my searching and dabbling and various projects had not amounted to much of anything.
But I think I was finally mature enough to recognize a few big things had stayed at the top of the sifter: writing and teaching. Combined with my experience with living on a tight budget (silver lining), the idea for Frugal Mama was born.
Statistics show that people who write down their goals are 80% more successful in achieving them.
Writing had always been of a hobby, but I decided I wanted to become a published writer. Being thin-skinned, I had only shown poems to friends, and I’d slunk away after editors rejected my article ideas. I decided that blogging was a safe place to start.
Here is what I wrote in my family blog in October 2009:
I have been working hard on trying to get my new blog together. I want Frugal Mama to be really professional and successful, so I’m trying to do my best in every aspect.
I’d like to use the site to make myself known as a writer. Ideally, the blog would lead to assignments to write for print media or online magazines.
But still no money.
Here is what I wrote in October 2010, after having Luke and feeling ready to get back to work:
I’m proud of how far I’ve come, and now I’d like to see the site move from a losing enterprise (financially) to one that at least covers its costs. So my mission is to find the time — and the courage — to work toward making my writing profitable.
Are you ready for the crazy stuff that happened after telling the world what I wanted?
- After pitching some story ideas to Babble, my all-time-favorite parenting magazine, I get an assignment to write I Told My Kindergartner How Babies Are Made.
- I meet with the editor of Family Times, a parenting publication in Central New York, and get two paid assignments: a piece on how to find a babysitter and a personal essay on natural childbirth in a hospital.
- I am asked to speak to the Syracuse chapter of Holistic Moms about 5 Keys to Saving Money and Living Well. After publishing the ideas, traffic to my site soars, doubling in just six months.
- TLC asks me to write for a new mom blog they are launched this spring — and they’ll actually pay me. Amazing!
- The anchorwoman of the NBC station in central New York asks if I’d like to do a money-saving segment for their morning news show. I interview, get the job, and four days later, a cameraman is at my house to film me at home with my family and at the grocery store.
- The founder of Buttoned Up, where I’ve been guest posting as their savings expert for almost a year, wants to speak with me. I think she’s going to fire me, but instead she asks me if I’d like to get paid for writing a new series on their site.
- TLC flies me and my family to New York City for a photo and video shoot for their new parenting site, Parentables.
As you can imagine, at this point, I’m thinking, what is going on? It was like an avalanche of good things piling on.
Let me be clear here: we are not talking about an avalanche of money. But when I think about it: that’s not what I asked for. I wanted to get writing assignments, become known as a writer, and break even. But it makes me wonder, what if I had asked for more?
The reason I’m writing all this is to say that is that whatever has gone on in your life up to now, it’s not too late to bloom. You too can achieve your goals.
Three Steps to Realizing Your Goals
For me, these things were crucial.
1. Figure out what you want.
This may seem basic, but figuring out big career goals took me 40 years. It might mean finding your element: that delicious crossroads between something you love to do and something in which you have a natural affinity.
Simple Mom recently talked about how her hobby turned into a career in Want to work from home? Find your element.
2. Write it down and tell it to people.
I think the reason writing down goals is effective is because it signifies focus and commitment.
Why tell people? I can think of four reasons:
- Friends can encourage you if you lose confidence,
- It’s harder to back out or quit after you have told people what you are planning to do,
- People might be able to help you out if they know what you want, and finally
- Telling people means you are excited enough to announce your dreams to the world.
Getting excited is important because happy energy starts a chain reaction. Its kind of like, you get what you give. Or as Rhonda Byrne, author of the The Power, puts it: “When you’re feeling joyful, you are giving joy, and you’ll receive back joyful experiences, joyful situations, and joyful people, wherever you go.”
3. Don’t give up!
A few months after I had stated my money-making goal, I was talking to my friend BJ and wondering where my blog was going and if I’d ever get a break. I kind-of shrugged and decided I’d just keep plugging away.
A week later I got the call from TLC.
Give your goal some time to take form. Every new endeavor, like a seed in the earth, requires time and energy to make it come to life.
It Works with Small Goals Too
Your desires don’t have to be earth-shaking. For example, during the winter I had gotten out of the habit of walking my kids to school, but I wanted to get back on track. I jotted this down on a piece of my agenda, ripped it out, and stuck it to the fridge:
1) Get up at 6:30 a.m. and walk my kids to school every day
2) Go to bed at 10 p.m.
Seeing those words every time I opened the fridge was powerful.
I love walking my kids to school — and so do they — but getting there requires clearing some hurdles: I have to get up earlier, get myself and four children ready, and get out the door by 8:15. Plus, to be ready to jump out of bed, no matter the weather, I’d have to be well-rested. Hence the 10 p.m. curfew.
Getting excited about your goal — or feeling joy about what you love — helps you get the courage to clear the obstacles you need to get there.
What do you want to get done in your life?
If there’s something big you want to accomplish and asking the universe for it is too daunting, break it down in bite-sized parts.
Meagan Francis has a perfectly timed post up right now called 6 ways busy moms can make (some of) their dreams come true. One of my favorite tips is to make a 10-30-60 list of goal-oriented tasks that only take an hour, a half hour, or even 10 minutes.
What do you love, what do you need, what do you want? Right now — write it down. Then place it in a prominent place: your door, your computer, or inform the world by telling your friends, sending it out by email, Twitter, or Facebook.
But watch out: you might just get what you ask for.
Have you discovered how announcing goals has made a difference in your life? Please let me know in the comments!