What We Keep Messing Up About “SMART” Goals

A blue planner notebook that says “My Secret Plan to Rule the World” with a pink background. Photo by Ann H from Pexels.

Goals should be SMART, right? Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

But a lot of us fail to pay attention to the achievable and relevant parts of the planning process. We stick to specific and time bound, and if life goes sideways or we get smacked with a global pandemic or an illness or family issues or a job loss, we think we failed at our goal just because we didn’t finish it in the time allotted.

Goals need room to breathe and adjust.

When a goal is no longer relevant or achievable in the way you first planned, going back to that goal and changing your method or timeline is not only “not failing,” but it’s actually setting you up for success.

Goals change to honor you where you are

When I turned 25, I made a five year plan. I wanted to be debt free, married, and a parent by 30.

I am 32, twice divorced, child free by choice (plot twist!), and still looking at about $30,000 of debt between my student loan and car.

And I am cool with this.

Chasing marriage-and-baby as the measurement of my success would still have me in an abusive marriage instead of nearly three years out and in the healthiest relationship of my life.

Chasing debt-free would have me still in a toxic workplace just because it paid well, rather than seeking work that fuels my passion AND talents, with time to recover from burnout and start my own business.

Last year, I started off 2020 with a pile of goals. Get two more book deals, run my online course four times, and launch a coaching practice. As I realized these goals weren’t achievable in one year while balancing my own mental and physical health needs, I revised the goals.

And then I quit my job in the middle of the year and took several months off to recover from burnout.

At that point, my goal was survival and recovery.

Now that I’ve gotten through a period of rest, I’m job seeking, I’m launching a new brand, and I have two coaching clients. It’s a humble beginning, but it’s a beginning that honors my boundaries and needs.

It is okay if you have to press pause. It is okay if you hit a life milestone and haven’t achieved what you thought you would when you looked at this time and place from the past. And it’s also okay for you to have some feelings about it and grieve the life you thought you’d have right now.

But put yourself in your five-years-ago shoes. Are you better off now? Don’t think about your goals or where you could be now if you had done something different. Just — are you better off today than five years ago, with regard to your own happiness and life satisfaction?

Are your relationships better? Are you a better communicator? Do you love yourself more? Are you happier with your mental and emotional health? Do you have hobbies you enjoy? Are you in love? Did you read a really great book or find a new musical artist that brings you joy?

Yes to any of these? Rock on. That’s awesome and I love that for you.

No to any of these? Okay, let’s make a goal to work on that for this year.

The new SMART goals

Next time you set goals, don’t just go down the acronym and make a quick 5-point goal. Think it through. Try these prompts.

S – Specific

What is your goal, specifically? Don’t put a timeframe here, that comes later. An example of a specific goal is “run my online course four times this year” and an even more specific goal would be “sell out my online course four times this year with 10 people per run.”

How confident are you that you can achieve this goal? What if you only get eight people but still run your course each time? Will you still feel successful? What if 12 people want to take it? Will you change the number of seats you offer?

Be specific but be open to a bit of flexibility.

M – Measurable

What is the measure of your success for your goal? Continuing the above example, success would be measured by running the course four times with ten people per run. If your goal is to get a job, your measurement could be a job offer with your desired salary and benefits, or it could be as simple as accepting a job offer. It’s up to you how specific your goal is and how you measure it.

In my last job, I was making $71,000 per year but I was miserable. Recently in an interview for a nonprofit, I said I would need to make at least $55,000 per year in order to take a full time role that met my financial needs. I did the math, and that’s how much I would need to pay my bills and save up for a house or other long-term financial goal.

If your goal is to graduate college, the measure of your success could be hitting all your graduation requirements for a degree. Or you could shoot for a specific GPA to help you get into a graduate program. Your goals can have layers (getting into grad school being a separate goal).

When setting the measures for success, I like to take a stretch goal approach. For instance, I want to grow my social media presence to 500 followers, but it would be really cool if I hit 1000. This way, 500 is my measurable goal, and 1000 is the next measure I would want to hit but it’s going to be fine (and still successful) if I don’t get all the way there.

(By the way, follow me on Instagram at @CaitlinFisherAuthor and @CriticalHitRecovery.)

A – Achievable

Take into account your abilities and means to achieve your goal the way you want to. If you want to go to college full-time but you also need a full-time job to keep a roof over your head, maybe part-time is the way to go because full-time isn’t achievable while also maintaining your mental health.

For me, running my course four times in a year wasn’t possible in 2020 because I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to develop, market, and run the course four times while also managing my stress. It wasn’t the right time for that goal. It didn’t mean the goal was bad, it just needed adjustment.

If your goal is to start a brand new business off the ground and make $100,000 in your first year, is that achievable? Maybe. Is it likely? Not really.

Adjust your goal to make sure it’s something you can feel good about working toward and you won’t be burning yourself out to achieve it at any cost. If you find yourself burning out, go back to your goal and rework it so that it is achievable.

R – Relevant

Does your goal make sense? Is it relevant to your long-term plans? I briefly considered buying a house this year but quickly realized that I’m open to relocating to another state in the next few years, so buying didn’t really make sense for me right now.

I also want a dog. Is that relevant to my long-term goals and my life right now? Finally, yes, I think it is. I am committed to remote work, so my “I’m not home enough for a dog” reason is no longer applicable, and I’ve wanted a dog for years now. (Is owning a dog a goal? It is now).

What could change the relevance of your goal? Would a change in your employment, relationship, or other aspect of your life change this goal? Make a list of what might impact it.

T – Time Bound

The trickiest aspect of goal setting is the timeline. Obviously a goal needs a target date for completion, or you won’t have any idea how to pace yourself and work toward it.

But this is where we get so hung up on our goals. We put all our eggs into the time-bound basket without checking back in on the rest, and then if something happens that derails a goal, we internalize it as a failure.

But the failure isn’t in you, it’s in approaching goals as a rigid and immovable force that can’t be shifted and adapted.

How to avoid the time-bound trap

I want you to look back on your life and think about all the amazing things you did, not get hung up on when you did them. Your life is full of achievements, strength, courage, and joy. These things don’t need to be timed or measured in order for them to have their full weight as positive experiences.

So here’s what I want you to do when you’re setting your goals:

  • Make a giant list of all the things you need to do to achieve your goal in your allotted time
  • Schedule regular check-ins to make sure your goals are still achievable and relevant for the time allotted
  • If not, adjust your measurement, your goal, or your timeline
  • Don’t beat yourself up about having to change your goal — your diligence and consistency will pay off, and your success is still a success even if it comes later than you planned

Work with me one on one

Setting goals is easy. Staying on top of them, and working through your brain’s bullshit, is not. I help my clients work toward their goals with accountability and mindset work (and some tough love if they’re lying to themselves about how achievable their big pile of goals is). Schedule a free 30-minute consult to see if we’d be a good fit for coaching!

“I Quit My Job Over #BLM” — How Millennials Are Killing Businesses from the Inside Out

Image Desc: A photo from a Black Lives Matter protest with signs unfocused in the foreground and background. A sign in the center, held up by a white-appearing person's arm, says "To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards - Ella Wheeler Cox"
Image Desc: A photo from a Black Lives Matter protest with signs unfocused in the foreground and background. A sign in the center, held up by a white-appearing person’s arm, says “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards – Ella Wheeler Cox”
Photo by Zoe VandeWater on Unsplash

I have a background in marketing, branding, and social media. I’ve developed consumer personas of millennial and gen Z buyers, led rebranding meetings to capture a younger audience, and I’m a millennial consumer myself.

This summer, I quit a marketing job in order to recover from burnout, begin a coaching practice, and pursue a career in nonprofit communications. And one of the things that is front and center in my job search is making sure that any organization I work for aligns with my personal values. 

Turns out, that’s a pretty typical millennial thing to do. 

Millennials and Gen Z Respond to Brands’ Ethics

One of the most frustrating* things about Millennials is the way we keep senselessly destroying industries, products, and norms. We killed Applebee’s, we killed canned tuna, we killed styrofoam cups, we killed gym memberships. (*sarcasm)

I wrote the following excerpt two years ago but it still stands — and has evolved to include an even bigger focus on social justice and ethical integrity of brands.

This blatant and ubiquitous finger pointing is one more attempt to accuse us of ruining the fun for everyone else, despite the fact that industries change over time and maybe your product has simply reached the end of its time to shine. Do you see Apple out there whining that nobody buys an iPod Shuffle anymore? Hell no! Apple gets with the times and offers new, better, on-trend offerings. And when we’ve all got our cell phones directly embedded into our brains or our forearms or whatever the future holds, they’ll come up with something else. 

Did millennials destroy huge tube television sets, or did technology improve to the point where flat screens are accessible and affordable? Did millennials destroy desktop computers, or have developments in laptops and tablets offered a more realistic solution for people to take their work on the go? Did we destroy USB drives, or did Google and Apple perfect cloud technology? 

Why is it so much easier to point at a whole generation of young adults and say “Oh my God, they killed JCPenney” than it is to realistically grasp the concept that technology and societal needs change over time? For each thing “destroyed” by millennials, take a look around and see if something else has developed in its place. 

We’re killing restaurants but giving rise to meal subscription services. 

We’re killing grocery store chains while promoting low-overhead online alternatives like Thrive Market and Brandless. 

We’re killing diamonds and jewelers, instead supporting a robust network of Etsy sellers who offer their handmade wares from across the globe. 

So what does this mean, for consumerism, for capitalism, and for the economy at large? Are millennials wielding their mighty collective Twitter presence to destroy the way we buy things and exchange money for goods and services? You betcha. 

Excerpt from The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation by Caitlin Fisher, May 2019

Over half of young consumers (55%) have participated in Black Lives Matter protests, activism, and awareness, as reported by Y Pulse. And these consumers want their purchases to reflect their values. Sixty-nine percent of millennial and gen Z consumers surveyed think that brands should be involved in the Black Lives Matter movement.

It’s incredibly clear that youth brands need to be participating in supporting this cause right now. In fact, as Business Insider reports, many are telling influencers and celebrities that if they aren’t posting to show support of Black Lives Matter, they should cease posting completely. Brands are likely to be viewed in the same light, and those who sat on the sidelines or ignored this historic moment will not be remembered kindly by young consumers.

Y Pulse: Most Young Consumers Want Brands to Support #BlackLivesMatter – Here’s How

And simply trotting out an empty line about support isn’t enough. We want to see action, money, and resources supporting the cause. We want transparency about how many people of color, women, queer folx, and other marginalized people are in executive leadership. We want to know where people of color are working — salary positions in the office, or hourly labor positions? And when you tell us, we want to know what you’re doing about the discrepancies now that you see them more clearly.

Consumers, many of whom have donated hundreds of dollars to these causes, are asking for more, and they’ve made it clear that corporate praise will be harder to come by — especially if organizations are not transparent in their commitments and hesitant to open their purses.

Vox: Consumers don’t care about corporate solidarity. They want donations.

Forbes is tracking corporate contributions to the BLM movement, with many well-known brands making the list with financial contributions to organizations and grassroots campaigns. But money isn’t enough if it isn’t accompanied by action — for example, Facebook made a financial contribution and a statement about Black Lives Matter, but regularly censors and removes posts from Black writers and activists that speak out against white supremacy or police brutality, while posts from white supremacists and far-right extremists are left alone and reports dismissed, while algorithms steer people to their harmful content.* (*Content note: This New York Times article makes a fatphobic reference to fast food companies and obesity.)

With millennials wielding an estimated $2.5 trillion in annual spending power, brands need to follow that money to stay relevant. More and more, we’re seeing brands that used to choose neutrality quickly switching gears to course correct when confronted with discriminatory company history.

It’s refreshing, as a millennial who has witnessed years of eyeroll-worthy headlines about the crumbling diamond industry, to see the collective realization of large companies that the future is millennial and gen Z. 

The tide of consumerism and brand loyalty is changing. While brand loyalty used to mean only ever buying one brand of toothpaste, the concept has evolved and shifted.

Now, a brand needs to be loyal to its values — and the values of its consumers — if it wants to succeed in an era of conscious consumerism.

From Buying Habits to Hiring Practices

Just as brands are shifting to follow consumer habits, companies will also have to shift to attract and keep the best talent employed. The older, corporate types are retiring and leaving the workforce, and millennials are stepping in as companies refresh and rebrand.

How will a company attract millennial and gen Z dollars if they can’t reflect millennial and gen Z values?

This is forcing companies to consider what younger people want when they’re hiring new employees who will shape the future of their brands. Millennials building their careers want purposeful jobs that make them feel good about the work they do. And they also want flex time so they can go to a doctor’s appointment and remote work options — which are now especially relevant in the COVID pandemic, as we discovered almost immediately that most office work can be done from home without losing any productivity. 

We also want better paid parental leave when we have kids, better vacation time, wages that are more in line with the cost of living, and even union protections. And we will give up money to take a job that provides better culture or balance. 

A 2014 study from Bentley University reported that millennials would take a pay cut of $7600 a year to take a job with a better work-life balance, better company culture, or that they felt was more purposeful. 

If you can’t lure in the talent with money when you have a bad company culture, you’re going to have to adapt your company culture.

And I, for one, welcome our new millennial and gen Z overlords. 

I Quit My Job Over #BLM — And I’m Not the Only One 

The timing of my career shift was prompted by my company’s disappointing response to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

As the content manager for a major greenhouse operation, Green Circle Growers, with multiple national houseplant brands including Just Add Ice orchids and Wild Interiors, I oversaw our social media and blog content, as well as all marketing materials for the company. So when I saw that our main competitors and the retailers that sold our products were making statements and monetary contributions to the Black Lives Matter movement, I expected that we would act alongside them. 

I sent my manager some screenshots of posts along with a recommendation that we make a post the following day in support, with a contribution to the NAACP. I thought nothing of it and expected a thumbs up to move forward. 

Instead, my recommendation that we post across all our brands was shut down by company leadership. 

And, somewhat out of character for my conflict-avoidant self, I pushed back and asked them to reconsider. 

I pointed out that millennial and gen Z consumers would expect an act of support for this critical moment in social justice and would reward it with future purchases and word of mouth. I tried to convey that not only was this the right thing to do just by virtue of being the right thing to do, but that it also made business sense as more and more consumers shopped with their conscience.

The response I received was shocking and nonsensical. “It would jeopardize our business. If we support Black Lives Matter now, we’ll be on the hook to support Hispanic Lives Matter or whatever else comes next.” (This from a company with a majority Hispanic labor force is concerning on multiple levels). 

It was also steeped in white saviorism. “The owners support an orphanage in Africa. It doesn’t get more Black than that.” 

I was told that my judgment would be questioned by leadership if I kept pushing the issue. The message was clear: Drop it. 

I liked my job. I was good at my job. I was a leader and mentor to my team. But I knew after this series of events that I would be leaving. There was no way that I could continue being the voice of a company that wouldn’t use its platform to stand up for what was right. 

It turns out that I’m not the only one who has had similar experiences since the swell of support for the Black Lives Matter movement over the summer of 2020 and beyond. 

In an article from Vice, three people tell their stories of conflicts between their conscience and their jobs. 

Alex, 27, worked in digital marketing for a UK university and asked several times for the university to release a statement of solidarity. He was also reprimanded for posting on Instagram in support of BLM, an echo of my own experience. When the university finally did post, they were as vague as possible and didn’t back up their words with any meaningful action. Alex decided to resign after this experience. Alex is white and used his privilege to advocate for the Black students who expected more support from their university. 

Tia (name changed), 19, also shared a story about a lack of response to the Black Lives Matter movement by her large, national employer. At the time of the Vice article, she was still working there, but noted that she was the only Black employee in her workplace, and the silence of her company — and her coworkers — was causing her to question how long she could stay there.

Kayla (name changed), 26, brought yet another story of an employer not doing anything at all to acknowledge the movement or its employees of color. Kayla is from a multi-racial family and left her job because of the silence and lack of support. 

Mother Jones also featured a collection of stories about people who quit their jobs during the COVID pandemic, some of them in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Priya Krishna quit Bon Appétit Test Kitchen after the George Floyd protests and calls for transparency led to the Test Kitchen’s video contractors to start sharing their payment rates with each other for transparency’s sake. They found that the content creators of color were grossly underpaid while the white creators had much more lucrative contracts. After attempting to negotiate, several creators chose to quit rather than be treated as less than.

One of the most surprising stories was that of an Atlanta police officer, Tom Gissler, who was witnessing profiling and gentrification, describing it as like being in a mafia. 

If you tried to do a good job and say, “I’m going to be a good cop, and I’m going to obey commands,” they would abandon you, charge you, leave you behind, and not even think twice. If you didn’t obey the rules, then they were gonna charge you for that. And if you tried to remain quiet and do your job, you are going to be a piece of modern-day redlining that way, too. There was no way that I could exist and feel good about it. And because I didn’t have to—and that’s the privilege part—I just decided not to.

There are countless other stories just like these, untold. We are experiencing a radical shift in the way people engage with brands and companies, both in purchasing and employment.

The Privilege of Living Your Values

I had the privilege to walk away from a job due to my conscience. Not many people can do that. 

Our society is built to keep people about one paycheck away from poverty, so they must choose between keeping a steady income, access to healthcare, and feeding their family — or standing up for their beliefs and having the privilege to enforce a boundary like I was able to do, or like the other people like Alex and Tom, who used their privilege to take a stand.

If you have the means to do so, consider using a position of privilege (whiteness, in my case), to stand up for those who don’t have the ability. Point out inequality at work. Ask about the lowest paid workers. Speak up when your female coworker’s idea is ignored and then repeated by a man and accepted. Put your pronouns in your email signature.

If you’re job searching, you can check potential employers’ websites and social media to see what they were talking about in June 2020, and ask them about diversity and inclusion during the interview process. 

And if you can’t do these things, it’s not a failing on your part. It is more than okay if your focus is to survive and take care of yourself and those who depend on you. Those of us with privilege should be using it to protect and uplift you.

Buy The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation

If you enjoyed this article, you’d probably enjoy my book. It unpacks claims that millennials are destroying all sorts of things, from the workplace to education to the American Dream. Thanks for supporting!

How to Make Any Criticism Constructive

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Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Criticism is hard to hear, because no one wants to hear that they’re doing something wrong. But criticism can be a gift, if you know what to look for. 

We often hear about “constructive criticism,” which is meant to help us improve (that’s why it’s constructive). But even well-meaning criticism can feel bad, because it makes us believe negative things about ourselves.

How to Break the Criticism Cycle

Criticism makes us feel bad because we believe that if we were doing things right, there wouldn’t be anything to criticize. Therefore, criticism means we did poorly, and we believe it’s a sign of our failure.

Criticism does not mean failure.

Every final version of something you see has gone through the process of critique and editing. Sometimes we self-edit and critique, and sometimes we ask others to do it for us, like a proofreader, a workshop group, or sending it to a friend and asking for their thoughts. Sometimes we receive criticism we didn’t ask for, and when criticism comes as a surprise we often feel defensive and hurt.

Each time we receive criticism, whether it’s asked for or not, we have an opportunity to learn from it and turn it into something constructive and helpful.

Taking Constructive Criticism

When faced with a criticism, get curious instead of defensive. Ask yourself some questions about it, like: 

  1. Is this criticism true?
  2. Is this criticism something I need to change to improve myself or my work?
  3. Can I use this experience to learn something?

Is it true?

Sometimes people will criticize you and it’s something you should change to be a better version of yourself. But other times, criticism may not actually be relevant. 

When criticism hits us hardest, it’s usually because we already believe a negative thought about ourselves about a similar thing. If I feel like someone is criticizing my writing, it hurts more if I already believe I’m not a good enough writer and they’re echoing that negative belief.

But ask yourself, really deeply ask, if the criticism is true.

And also ask if your interpretation of the criticism is true.

They said I’m a bad parent. Did they say that? Or did they point out to you that your car seat wasn’t installed properly? Is your car seat installed properly?

They said I’m not qualified as an expert on the subject I talk about. Did they say that? Or did they make a broad statement about your field that you took personally? Are you qualified?

They said I’m not good at my job. Did they say that? Or did you get feedback in a review on areas that need improvement? Do you need to improve those areas of your performance?

But if it’s criticism that can help you improve, here’s how to sift out the constructive bits.

Is this something I need to change?

Once you determine if something is true or not, the next step is deciding if it’s something you need to change.

They said my carseat wasn’t installed properly. If this is true, do you need to change it? Absolutely, yes. It’s a safety concern. Go fix your carseat.

They said I’m not qualified. Is this true? Make a list of the reasons you’re qualified to do your work and if you actually are qualified, move along and get back to work. If you determine that you really aren’t qualified for something, then make a plan to get what you need in order to feel confident in your qualifications.

I got a negative review at work. Is the criticism of your work performance true? If so, make a plan with your supervisor to check in on your improvements over the next several months so your next review is outstanding.

Can I learn something?

Whether or not a criticism is true, can you learn from the experience?

They said my carseat wasn’t installed properly. In this example, you learned about proper carseat installation. This is great information to have for the safety of your kids.

They said I’m not qualified. In this situation, you learned about all the things that do qualify you and add evidence to your list of reasons to feel confident when you’re facing imposter syndrome. In your research of additional qualifications, you might have also learned some easy ways to up your credentials to feel even more confident.

I got a negative review at work. In this example, it’s a great time to commit to learning new things at work to take your performance to the next level in your career. The things you improve and learn will be great for your resume too.

Being Vulnerable to Criticism

Criticism feels so uncomfortable because it makes us feel vulnerable. Putting yourself out there into the world as a writer or artist can feel extra vulnerable and intimidating simply because it means people will critique our work.

Someone left a comment on a review of my book that I’m capitalizing on millennials’ insecurities. 

This commenter is criticizing me – but is a book that targets millennials’ insecurities something I need to change? Actually, no. Because my book helps people overcome those insecurities. 

This criticism gave me some clarity. I do hope to attract millennials with insecurities to my book. Because my book is here to help them. 

However, I also received criticism that I didn’t push far enough on certain topics in my book, and this is relevant criticism that I would change next time. I was too timid and didn’t want to make waves with divisive opinions. I value this criticism and will address it in my next book, or a later version of Gaslighting. 

Is There Non-Constructive Criticism?

Absolutely. Sometimes, people’s criticism truly is just bullshit that’s about them.

People who criticize you for not being part of their religion, not living up to their standards or expectations, or not trusting you to make your own choices are people who are criticizing you to control you.

This is not constructive criticism, this is a boundary violation and manipulation tactic. You’re free to simply ignore them and take distance from people who criticize to hurt you.

PS. You can buy my book here!

 

How to Work From Home for the First Time

A lot of us are working from home for the foreseeable future, some for the first time. It’s a big change to routine and it makes everything feel a little bit off. 

I’m used to working from home a couple days a week, but this feels different for me too.

Because it’s not really “working from home.” It’s being at home while big global events are happening and it’s not safe to do things you normally do…and trying to do your normal work.

It’s hard to focus, because you just want to go check the news all the time. But when it’s time for the show to go on, here are some tips for making work from home during this time feel a little more normal: 

  1. Shower and get dressed. It’s tempting to work all day in your PJs, but freshening up in the morning and getting some clean undies on will help you start the day in a good mood. This does not mean uncomfortable work clothes, just something clean and fresh. Stay comfy!
  2. Make a ritual. Normally we have a commute to mark the transition into and out of “work mode.” Create a morning and evening ritual to mark the start and end to your work day. This could mean making a cup of coffee and listening to your usual morning podcast or audiobook on the couch, taking an evening walk, or anything that helps you separate your day for work life balance when you work from home.
  3. Turn off your email. Just because you work from home and you’re home 24/7 doesn’t mean work is now 24/7. Separate work time and personal time by turning off your work computer or email program when it’s quitting time.
  4. Take breaks. Take your full lunch break and go outside if the weather is nice. Walk around the block for some fresh air. Take regular water and bathroom breaks, and give your eyes a break from screens at least once an hour for a few minutes.
  5. Make a shiny object list. When you’re working from home, you might be tempted to put in a load of laundry, quickly do the dishes, or take out the trash. These are fine to work into your breaks, but if you try to keep them in your brain you’ll get distracted. Keep a notepad nearby so you can write down the things you want to handle during break times. It’s also perfectly fine to save the household stuff for after the workday is complete; you don’t have to be the world’s most efficient person.
  6. Downtime is sacred. When you work from home, all the days can run together and Saturday might not feel any different. Make sure to plan relaxing, restorative, and creative time for your downtime so that you aren’t stressing over being productive all the time.

Any other advice for our work from home friends? Drop it in the comments. 

PS. I’m teaching folks how to improve their boundaries after trauma in a six week class. We start April 13, so there’s still time to reserve your spot. Shoot me an email and we’ll get you on the list.

How to Be the Best at What You Do

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Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

What if you could wake up and live life as if you’re one of the best at what you do?

One of the best teachers, writers, parents? One of the best vet techs? One of the best coaches? One of the best gardeners?

It’s hard at first, because it’s so common to downplay our accomplishments and dreams. We want to be humble. 

Stop being humble. Be one of the best.

The Top Ten Percent

If you were in the top 10% of what you do, whether it’s your day job, your life’s work, a hobby, or just showing up in your life, what would you do differently?

How would you show up? How would you manage your time? What would you let go of and what would you focus on? 

If I was in the top 10% of content marketers, I’d be regularly learning new things about marketing – because that field is always changing. So I’ve started taking online courses to support the work I do in my day job, and it’s paying off. I’ve been able to hire someone new for my content team because I’m driving a great strategy.

If I was in the top 10% of authors, I’d never stop talking about my book. I’d be talking to local bookstores about putting on events (when we can gather again) and I’d be on podcasts and doing interviews for other blogs and magazines. I started putting myself out there even though it’s scary, but I’ve sold my book at a convention, been featured as a source in a magazine, been booked to speak at my local library, and I’ve started booking podcast interviews.

But I still hesitate sometimes. 

What’s holding me back?

Fighting Imposter Syndrome

I’m scared people will think badly of me for speaking highly of myself and my work. Imposter syndrome is so noisy sometimes. I see other writers and think they’re the real deal and I must just be pretending. 

But if I want to be a top 10% author, I need to act like one. 

To beat imposter syndrome, try these tips:

  • Find the evidence that you’re already the best
    • What are the super cool “unbelievable” successes you dance about in the moment and then conveniently forget when you’re trying to think about them? Make a real list on real paper.
  • Keep a record of positive feedback
    • Copy and paste your positive reviews, client testimonials, and anything else that makes you feel amazing about the work you do
  • Use negative feedback to find constructive criticism
    • If someone’s just being a jerk, ignore/block them, but if a negative opinion of your work has the potential to improve your work, use it as an opportunity to become better, closer to that top 10%

I’m the real deal, even when I don’t feel like it. And so are you!

PS. If you’re tired of the ways society tells you you’re part of the problem, please buy my book (it’s less than the cost of a pizza) and leave a five star review so others can find it. It’s definitely one of my top ten accomplishments and I’d love for you to read it. 

Fear of Criticism Was Keeping Me from Working on My Goals

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Photo by Skyla Design on Unsplash

The phrase, “What people think of you is none of your business” was confusing when I first heard it as a kid. But I’ve since realized it means that people are going to have whatever opinions of you that they have, and you can’t stop them.

No matter what I do, I cannot control how people perceive me.

I spend a lot of energy making sure I don’t step on toes, upset people, or hurt people’s feelings. I want people to feel welcome and loved around me. In the past, this has been to my own detriment. I’d light myself on fire to keep someone else warm.

I make compassion a regular habit but I am also getting comfortable taking up some more space. My level of compassion has not changed, except that it now includes myself.

Perception is reality

Everything has to filter through your own issues before you can process it.

I had a boss who used to say, “Perception is reality.” I prefer to think that perception is a filter.

Everything that every person does or says is perceived uniquely by everyone around them. Because everything that every person does or says has to filter through your own issues before you can process it.

An example: Age gaps in relationships. They make me extremely uncomfortable. My abuser was 40 when he met and groomed me to be his victim at 23. Age gaps of ten or more years make me feel sick to my stomach, but it doesn’t mean I think every couple with an age gap is experiencing an abuse dynamic. That’s my experience, my discomfort, my issue. And it’s my boundary to enforce if I don’t want to be around couples with a big age gap because it’s a trauma trigger.

It doesn’t mean I hate you. It doesn’t mean I have to get over it any faster for your benefit, either.

Another example: Weight loss. I can’t deal with people’s before and after photos because they send me back to the mental place I was in when I was deep in my eating disorder. Do I think everyone who has lost weight has an eating disorder? No. Do I think they’re fatphobic? Yes, actually, but that’s a post for another time.

I have unfollowed social media accounts that focus on weight loss or diet culture. It doesn’t mean I hate you.

Fear of criticism

She draws things out of me that I’m too afraid to say without careful distillation into something palatable.

It’s been almost two years since I left an abusive marriage, and I have met myself all over again. I’m discovering things I didn’t know I liked to do, because I never tried. I have a pretty active social life. I’m investing in professional services to make myself a better writer. I’m putting myself out there and promoting my work.

And it’s terrifying.

I have a professional coach whose favorite refrain is “What else?” I tell her how I’m feeling about something, she replies, “Okay, what else? What’s behind that? What’s the thought?”

Like the scene in Dead Poets Society where Robin Williams forces Ethan Hawke into reciting a sudden poem, she draws things out of me that I’m too afraid to say without careful distillation into something palatable.

Last night I said to her, “I’m afraid if I get too big people will criticize me.”

So, it’s fear. I procrastinate, I hedge my bets, I don’t push far enough — because I am afraid to tip the scales in any one direction. I’m afraid to invite criticism.

In the same call, I laughed about a one star review someone left about my book. He hadn’t even read it and the review is nonsensical. I told her I wanted to frame it.

It’s so clear that the one star review is from someone who the book isn’t for. He’s not someone I am trying to reach.

A friend recently pointed out that there were some parts of my book where they thought I didn’t go far enough. I completely agree. I was over-concerned with being agreeable to every reader. A 2.0 version would have a lot of updates and would be bigger, longer, and a lot more divisive. It would invite criticism, but it would also invite more fervent support.

And that’s what I was missing.

I can’t stay quiet anymore

I need to be me so loudly that it turns the wrong people away and draws the right people closer.

I keep bumping into the fact that I try to smooth my edges to appeal to the masses. I censor myself because I’m too afraid of someone disagreeing with me. In conflict with a loved one, I soften my own pain so it doesn’t upset them.

I don’t have to be palatable. I don’t have to be perfectly portioned. I don’t have to be mass produceable.

I need to be me so loudly that it turns the wrong people away and draws the right people closer. And it’s going to suck, at first.

I’ve already lost friends for reasons I don’t understand. I regularly invite feedback and am willing to sit in the discomfort of talking through an issue, so the fact that people who were once close friends have simply written me off is hurtful, but it’s honestly none of my business. If they wanted me to make something right, they’d invite me to do so.

Just like I don’t hate the people I’ve had to take distance from, they probably don’t hate me either. Their perception of me is getting filtered through what they’ve been through and what they’re going through. And that’s okay, even though it stings.

Like my one-star reviewer, some people aren’t going to be the people I’m here to reach. But by turning myself up to 11 and not trying to be everyone’s cup of tea, I’ll attract the people I’m actually here to connect with.

I’m not for everyone, and not everyone is excited for me to change and grow into this new version of myself.

And it’s honestly none of my business.

Ready to make a change in your own life?

I’m taking one on one coach clients this year and I have a few spots open in February. Send in a coach inquiry and we’ll decide the best way for us to work together on a ninety day goal!

 

How I Check My Email to Be a Better Writer

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I aspire to be a person who goes to sleep with zero unread emails every day.

It doesn’t always happen that way, because I’ll end up saving something as a to-do and then before you know it, that little red bubble on my phone says I’m slowly piling up emails again.

But I need these.

These are my Medium digests, with important information I need to be a better writer.

These are emails from workshops, coaches, and courses I’m in, with important information I need to be a better writer.

These are fourteen thousand emails from Shaunta Grimes.

These are business expense receipts, submission deadlines, and form submissions from my website.

These are, okay, that one is just a reminder that I need to skip this month’s MeUndies order.

Getting started

I set myself a timer and decided I wouldn’t check my phone or Facebook until the timer went off. Until then, it was just me and my inbox.

I powered through about 80 emails in 40 minutes and that little red notification bubble has (temporarily) gone back to hell where it came from.

To get started, I opened the following tabs in my browser:

I ended up opening a budget spreadsheet and WordPress as well, which I explain below.

I just started at the top of the email list and went through one at a time. And I took an action with each email.

  • Medium Digests: I opened each article that I wanted to read later and saved it to my reading list within Medium, then deleted the digest email
  • Mailing Lists: I unsubscribed if no longer relevant or simply marked as read if I wanted to stay on the list
  • Bills: I paid them, opened my Google Sheet where I track bills, and recorded the payment
  • Submission Calls: I put a card in my Shiny Object List describing the submission along with the deadline and link to submit — if I have time for shiny objects, I’ll submit during my next Shiny Week
  • Guest Posts: I get inquiries to submit guest posts to my website, so I responded to these with a no thanks or a tell me more
  • Account Confirmations: If I needed to click a button to confirm my email or reset a password, I took care of it in a few seconds and moved onto the next email
  • Valuable Emails: Emails that I want to keep handy but don’t have the focus to deal with right now got a label applied in Gmail so I can find them easily later

I also realized that I received a guest post inquiry through my coaching client inquiry form, so I hopped over to WordPress to adjust the verbiage and hopefully make it clearer what each form is for.

Building the new email habit

My goal is to handle my unread emails in this manner once or twice a day, but I’m not hung up on the zero as a marker of my success. What I want to get from this habit, however “successful” I am at keeping my inbox at zero, is a more intentional approach to my email inboxes and professional development.

It does me no good to be on mailing lists for writers and saving articles about writing if I’m not taking the time to read them, learn, and implement what they teach me.

Handling my email inbox is the first tiny step toward building the habit of improving my writing.

PS. You can get my book in paperback, audio, or ebook so you can read it however works for you!

How to be a blogger

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Well, this is embarrassing,  you guys.

I haven’t written a post in four months.

That’s about the time I decided “I’m going to get serious about writing and really be a blogger.” I decided to live my dream. The process has been looking a little bit like this:

  • Should I make my own website or continue using WordPress as my website?
  • Can I write about non-minimalist stuff on my “Born Again Minimalist” blog?
  • Is “Born Again” too religiousy, causing me to miss out on target audience?
  • What’s my brand?
  • Do I need a logo?
  • Is the lotus thing overdone?
  • Should I offer additional services or products to people?
  • I should write a book, or a free PDF report, or something, to offer people.
  • I need a podcast or newsletter to stay in touch with people.
  • How many blogs per week should I be writing?
  • What is my MISSION for blogging?
  • How can I turn my blog into a business?
  • What’s my goal for blogging?

I was overwhelmed. That is a lot to think about.

In the process of asking all these questions, I became paralyzed with the fear of not doing things right. Of not doing things perfectly. Four months and a lot of personal development books later, I realized a couple things:

  1. Some is better than none.
  2. Done is better than perfect.

In realizing this, I have come up with the million dollar idea! A simple two-step process to being a blogger. I am going to rock your world with this, are you ready?

The two simple steps to being a blogger are just below…

  1. Write a blog post.
  2. Publish it on the internet.

I know, right? How am I not a millionaire with this kind of imaginative, creative, think-outside-the-box type advice? I’m on fire today.

That said, there really are more things to think about when it comes to being a successful blogger. First of all, what defines success for you? How will you measure it?

Success can be measured in all sorts of ways, depending on your goals for your blog or website.

  • Number of newsletter subscribers (I will be successful when I have 1,000 subscribers)
  • Number of blog subscribers (I will be successful when I have 100 blog followers)
  • Number of people who purchase a product or service (I will be successful when I help 50 people with my service)
  • Number of Facebook Likes, Shares, and Comments (I will be successful when 50% or more of my audience engages with my posts)
  • Number of posts per week (I will be successful when I consistently publish two blog posts per week)

Those are some examples. My current success metric will be consistently posting to this blog at least once per week. At the same time, I will be actively working on answering all those other questions posed above, in my overwhelm. But in the meantime, I can’t say I’m a blogger if I’m not actually blogging.

In conclusion: I apologize for my absence! I have really missed engaging with my regular readers and I feel like I have been neglecting you all.

If you’re on Facebook, you can check out my new “Like” page – Happy Fit Soul – Caitlin Reed, Coach!

My end game will be to provide services and tools for various aspects of life “fitness,” including health and nutrition, personal finance, personal relationships and communication, and careers, among other topics as I see fit.

(Ha! Get it? See fit? Because… fitness?)

I totally still got it.

See you guys again real soon!