Sunday, 29 January 2012

Twenty goals for 2012

Goal 71: To finish reading Goals! and apply it

Over Christmas and the New Year I dusted off my partially read copy of Goals! and sped read through the last chapters. Like 7 Habits it is filled with searching questions and an expectation the reader will treat it like a workbook.

I included reading and applying it in my 100 goals because it first inspired me to write them but also because I had already seen examples where much of the down-to-earth practical advice was relevant. I am convinced that following some of Tracy's advice and giving real thought to some of his questions will benefit many people.

I say some because the latter chapters also contain some ideas that I can't recommend.

One idea resonated with me however - that of daily writing down twenty goals.

In January I only managed to do this once but it did kick off something exciting.

I'm always a bit nervous about telling my family about my goals.

"Dad's obsessed!"
"Not your goals again..."

and other similar sentiments. But this time when I suggested we each write down a few goals we wanted to achieve in 2012, everyone took part. Even our six year old. This weekend she achieved one of her goals - to go to the cinema!

While I'm fairly sure we would have gone as a family at some point this year, it is not a regular event for us. Going to the cinema is a luxury. An expensive treat.

I don't know how our six year old views this but I feel this is a double win for her. She set a goal. She told us about it. We helped her achieve it. She has set a couple of other goals that she'll have to work at to achieve but she has now had the experience of the power of writing down goals; telling others about them; and those goals being achieved.

Do you write goals as a family or with friends? What is your experience of doing so?

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Command & Conquer

Since I first saw a Space Invaders arcade console I've been an addict of computer games. Entire lifetimes have been wasted as I've blasted pixelated creatures into flashing lights.

I still consume an inordinate amount of time on games like Bejeweled Blitz. The game only lasts a minute so it never feels like I'm going to waste time playing it. It only takes one game and then the rot sets in: I can beat my high score; it's so shiny... Ten, twenty minutes later and I wonder where the time went.

If Bejeweled is an epic timewaster in miniature, the Command & Conquer series has eaten countless evenings as I've devised strategy, practiced tactics and honed my reflexes.

EA excelled themselves with the original Command & Conquer. Red Alert went one better. I've never quite warmed to the subsequent releases but did pick up a copy of Red Alert 2 which claimed to work on XP and Vista. While it does work on both, Vista does not natively come with support for the IPX network protocol which allows you to set up a local network game. Playing a computer opponent is never as good once you've played against a person! Having downgraded to Windows XP late last year, I finally got round this weekend to reinstalling Red Alert and seeing if I could set it up for family Head-to-Head battle. My son and I managed to fight it out for the first time yesterday.

The Command & Conquer series reminds me of the first real computer strategy game I became hooked on: Elite. Both games are introduced with a story which sets the scene for the game. My copy of Elite came with the novella - The Dark Wheel - which introduced much of the gameplay including trading and combat; and characters such as the Thargoids.

While Command & Conquer and the sequels use mini movies, the effect on me was the same, creating a sufficiently believeable new universe that I was able to care about how I performed in the game.

Both games had clear goals: achieve greater rank and ultimate victory by fighting; build up your resources - Elite used a simulated trading environment while Command & Conquer has it's commanders playing farmer by harvesting Tiberian ore.

I'm now trying to see if I can install the game on a third computer and instigate a three way battle... It might not be everyones way of bringing the family together but I grew up with family battles over board games like Risk. It might not be productive but it's a whole lot of fun!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Blue Monday

"It's the most wonderful time of the year..." apparently briskly followed by the most depressing...

The following was posted on the Intranet site at work last week:

"Taking into account weather (W), debt (d), time since Christmas (T), time since failing our new year’s resolutions (Q), low motivational levels (M) and the feeling of a need to take action (Na), a former Cardiff University academic used the above formula to calculate that Monday 16th January is the most depressing day of the year. The day has been commonly called Blue Monday, and it's approaching fast. Perhaps you're already feeling its effects. Are you grumpy, tired and lacking in motivation as the new year yawns out before you?"

Uh, that would be a yes...

I quite enjoy the idea of January but the reality is I'm often far lower than I would like to admit. I don't like winter. November is often a difficult month for me. December I'm far to busy getting stressed in the lead up to Christmas to have time to feel low. Then in January I suspect I hit rock bottom.

I wrote down some goals for 2012 at the beginning of January but haven't even felt like blogging about them. Looking at the formula above, I'm hitting high on all those negatives... :(

I find it ironic that the song line I started this post with sums up my expectation and hope for this time of year and yet for myself and others I know, it often is one of the worst times.

Still, it ain't all that bad. Ditching New Year's Resolutions in favour of making goals has been far more rewarding over the last couple of years. I find it easier to return to working on a goal after a period of demotivation than I ever did with a resolution. I always used to feel Resolutions were somewhat forced upon us. An external expectation we would try harder, be better. A stubborn rebellious streak inside always used to refuse to co-operate with that making the chance of achieving those Resolutions slim.

But I feel that my goals are my friends. I chose them, at a time I wanted to. They are things that I want to achieve, the pressure is all internal. I might externalise that pressure by telling people and blogging about the goals but they are still mine. If I fail to work on them for a time, I don't feel bad about trying again later in the year.

Have you any goals for 2012? How are you coping with the winter blues?

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

2011 Goals Review

I'm sitting in my kitchen glancing outside every few minutes as another gust of wind batters our house. 2011 was a good year for my 100 goals: two life goals achieved along with several more and a fair amount of progress made towards others.

A Facebook friend posted on New Years day that he'd listed his 2012 goals, worked out how to measure his progress and made himself accountable for achieving progress. I was impressed but well behind on that curve. I'd been meaning since Christmas to spend some time reflecting on last year and putting some plans in place for 2012 but kept putting it off.

Yesterday my wife told me one of her friends had posted she had decided to have dreams for 2012 as she wasn't a goals person. We are not all the same. What works for me will not work for everyone else. Some things that work for others will not work for me.

What has worked very well for me in 2011 is plodding on. Putting one foot in front of the other; writing the next word and then the next; completing one assignment and then another. It is so obvious, so simple and yet helped me tremendously last year.

Goal 1: To write an enjoyable, bestselling novel
I'm halfway there ;) Only one person has enjoyed my novel so far and she is hopelessly biased but I will always remember 2011 as the year I finished my first novel. It only just scrapes fifty thousand words; has huge gaping holes in the plot and yet it is a complete story: beginning, middle and end.

Goal 3: To save enough to be able to retire
This has been a complete disaster in 2011. From 120 percent up to 40 percent down overall. I stopped trading at the beginning of the year and concentrated on other goals. That was a good decision.

Goal 8: To climb the (lead climbing) overhang in Glasgow Climbing Center
I discovered I am both afraid of falling and afraid of looking foolish while climbing this year. That discovery helped me to understand why I was less enthusiastic about climbing but didn't do a lot for getting me back to the climbing wall. We have a Secret Santa among my wife's family and this year I was given a finger board - basically a rack you hang on the wall and pull yourself up on. I've wanted one for a few years but hadn't expected to be given one so was delighted on Christmas day. It is now above our sitting room doorway and I've progressed from five pull ups to ten in the last week.

I went with my climbing partners to EICA in Ratho just before New Year. It has the highest indoor walls in Scotland at 25 metres high. I actually managed to complete a lead climb with an overhang while there - a significant step towards achieving this goal.

Goal 9: To get Oracle iBots/Scheduler working in live environment
Goal 10: To enable all managers to use the Act As Proxy functionality
I achieved these back in the Winter of 2009/2010. I'm not sure if I ever blogged about how it is done though. Is anyone out there interested in these esoteric aspects of Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE)?

Goal 12: To be a Systems Analyst
I've had this as a job title before but it didn't mean then what I hoped it would. I'm currently closer to this goal working as a Business Analyst.

Goal 13: To own an orchard
I have a dozen chilli, pepper and one lemon tree seedlings sprouting in my kitchen... Not quite there yet but I'm making do with what I have :)

Goal 19;22;23: To be a good father to my children
Goal 20;24;25: To be a good example for my children
Goal 21: To be a loving father
Goal 26: To be a loving and faithful husband to my wife
Talking with my wife about my goals this weekend she asked how I could measure these. I don't know. Maybe that means they are not really goals and yet I am glad I included these as they keep pulling me back from focusing too much on less important goals. I've been inconsistent this year. I've allowed stress at work and stress from completing my degree and novel to dominate my life. I don't want that to continue.

Goal 27: To learn Spanish and speak it
I actually made pretty good progress in the Autumn. I completed Paul Noble's course and still remember a lot of what he taught. But - having done no study in the last two months - it is slipping away.

Goal 31: To be and do all that God wants of me
Like my family goals, this is one that I wrote without defining. I simply wanted to include God in my goals and acknowledge that my life is not entirely my own. God has blessed me with a wife and children and providing for them is my number one priority. I started 2011 unemployed. Whenever I find myself unemployed I feel incomplete. I have not enjoyed every job I've ever had but working beats not working every time.

But being there for my family is not enough. I've started re-reading Stephen King's On Writing. (I also read 11.22.63 last week - phenomenal!) As a horror writer: King might not be recommended by many Christian's but I believe he is doing what God wants him to do - he is writing. In his autobiography and in his writing he keeps returning to themes that show a love for life, for simplicity, for living and enjoying life in ways that God intended.

In 2011 I took the NaNoWriMo challenge and I wrote a novel. For me that was a statement that I believe God made me to write - so I better get on and do it!

Goal 34: To finish and complete my degree
I still can't quite believe I've done this. I graduate in 2012. Maybe by then it will have sunk in.

Goal 36: To have written 50,000 words for my novel by 31st December 2009
That goal was a complete fail but having written my 50K in November 2011 I feel I've claimed this one back!

Goal 37: To write characters that people can identify with
Goal 38: To create emotional connections with readers
Only time will tell whether I am beginning to make progress with this on or not.

Goal 39: To finish the little DIY jobs in the kitchen
Having achieved the original goal... I now have a different list...

Goal 44: To visit Iona and Mull
Two days on Mull and Iona this summer were just awesome! Thanks to my inlaws for making this possible!

Goal 46: To take my son camping every year
I didn't manage to take my son on his own this year but we did do a family trip in the summer. This is one of those goals where the real aim is just to spend some father son time doing something adventurous. We had some other adventures this year and I feel they were a fair trade.

Goal 47: To teach my son how to defend himself
I'm not doing the teaching but my son has continued his training and won himself three silver medals this year!

Goal 49: To have earned £40,000 by the end of this year
I didn't manage this in 2011 but the financial year is not over yet!

Goal 51: To be able to dive
I spent some time practicing this year and am getting better. I still have a fear thing to overcome but I'm gaining confidence.

Goal 55: To get the highest grade pass for the next Open University course I am taking
I never did achieve this goal and I've no plans for more studying in the near future. Still, looking back - I possibly could have achieved this but the cost would have been too high. In writing out 100 goals I was conscious I wanted balance in my aims and objectives. If I had achieved this but been divorced as a result what would have been the point?

Goal 71: To finish reading Goals! And apply it
I finally finished reading this before Christmas. Some of the latter chapters were quite freaky but leaving aside the visualisation and secret power stuff, there is a lot of practical suggestions for simple, honest hard work which I plan to use.

Goal 78: Be earning £100,000 a year within 5 years
In 2011 I began to believe this is an achieveable goal. It will take a lot of hard work but maybe like Stephen King I could achieve it by doing something I love...

Goal 88: To lead climb outdoors
Improving at lead climbing indoors this last year makes this goal seem more achieveable.

Goal 89: To change laws for the better
Having a little more time towards the end of the year I found myself getting more involved with petitions. Whether it has made a difference I've yet to see.

Goal 96: To stand on top of Ben Nevis
This was one of the highlights of my summer. It was a long hard slog up that mountain but a wonderful and satisfying experience. A dozen family and friends hiked up the steep slope. At times most of us felt like giving up. But as long as we kept taking one more step, we made it.

Is there anything you want to achieve in 2012? Maybe you don't feel you can commit to making goals. Whether you have dreams, ambitions, goals or objectives - I encourage you to write them down. Writing them down makes them real in your own mind. It frees up your thoughts to consider ways you can make your dreams into reality. It acts as a reminder that prompts you when an opportunity comes along.

It also gives you something you can look back on and see how far you have come. In 2007 when I wrote down three life goals to achieve by the time I reach 40 I didn't know how I could achieve any of them. Looking back now, I am glad I chose to write down those goals.

May you have a successful 2012 and make good progress towards your dreams or goals.