February 24, 2016

Hope is not a Plan: How to Realistically Follow Through with Goals.

Yanko Peyankov

I have always been a dreamer, a list maker, a check it off and look at my accomplishments kind of person.

As a child, until my early 20s, I associated accomplishments and awards with self worth. At one point in 2014, I was stuck in a modge podge of confusion, unrelenting desire, and my entire being teetering on the edge. In yoga “the edge” is that moment you want to come out of a pose because it is uncomfortable, or you are afraid to fall out; I was taught this is the moment the pose/the yoga begins to work.

Spring 2014 was the first of my many “edges” in which I stayed. At the time, I was pursuing a dream of traveling through an opportunity in travel nursing. Simultaneously, I was in  a relationship that was unhealthy for me and the person I was with. Although we cared for each other, it was a crutch holding back each of our potential. I saw the opportunity to travel as an exit from the relationship and an entrance to my dreams. For the first time I was making the transition from I should to I am.

It is one thing to think about dreams and doodle them in notebooks, and another to do something about them. I found this excerpt in one of my journals from around this time, and it was here I went from just making a list of acceptance and accomplishment to writing my own story.


Sacramento, CA

“Kevin [my younger brother] left about an hour ago. It was a nice treat to sit and chat with family, especially since I haven’t seen him in almost nine months. Sometimes you learn more about yourself through your family and that may be because we aren’t as different as I once believed.

I decided to ditch the mind games—6.75 miles. A nice jog/run. Anything worth having/deserving takes dedication and ethic.

I have to figure out what my goals are. What do I want for myself? For my future? And how exactly do I get there?

Here’s the thing, I have no reason to stay…[in the relationship] Why would i? I felt stuck. When I look back will I be able to say it made me better? I need a real relationship—with myself. And this adventure will def help with that. “

When inspiration strikes, or if I find something I am truly passionate about, I utilize a formula to make it happen.

This could be in the new year, or a new moment. Inspiration strikes when we don’t anticipate it. When I was younger, I thought that if I checked something off a list it was a goal met, or just because it was on a list, it would matriculate (hard work or not). Well, time has taught me otherwise and I continue to learn.

On the berth of each new year, many contemplate how the next 365 or 366 days can be mind-blowingly different than the last. The anticipated hope that dreams will materialize, and the magic of midnight will smooth the sea just a bit. We are well into the second month of the 2016. Has the list of resolutions already been filed in to the “maybe next year” category?

Well, did you know there is not a rule book or a specific timeline one must follow to do, be, or matriculate into your very best self?

You can set goals for yourself any moment, day, or second inspiration strikes. December 31st and January 1st are gleaming symbolic opportunities, but seizing the moment and committing to what you need anytime is when magic happens.

Hope is not a plan.

Spring 2014 was a fantastic slap of reality for me in that sense. Webster reminds us, that in a noun form, hope is a feeling, and aspiration; the verb form of hope is to want something to happen. Nowhere in the definition is there an action item. Hope is imperative, but not action. So what can one do?

I mentioned before about a formula I utilize to solidify goals and work toward their maturation.

Below are six key things I have learned and that have worked best for me! Some are lessons of harsh truth, and others were acquired through experience.

1) Be specific, realistic, and honest.

One of the more common mistakes I have made in the past was establishing unrealistic goals and wondering why they didn’t pan out. When I would want something, anything, on a list, I assumed it would just happen. I would set myself up for failure. Even though failure is a learning step, it is not always necessary if you are honest with yourself.

For example, I wanted to spontaneously run a 10 mile race that was three weeks away. I put it on a list. I was always athletic but not necessarily a runner, but what was the difference? So I would run and run and in two weeks I went from a comfortable three mile run to running 14 miles. The Friday before the run, I went jogging and hurt my ankle and wound up in a boot for four to six weeks. I over worked myself.

So, for the next race I wanted to do, I made a plan. Although the goal was still the same, I was honest with my body and ability and worked up to the mileage needed to succeed.

2) Be affirmative.

The power of positivity is a wonderful thing. I strive to write what I will do instead of what I won’t. If I find a negative word or adverb, I flip it around. Goals are supposed to be inspiring, not dreadful. For example, “I will eat four to six servings of fruit a day,” instead of “I will not eat sugary foods or carbs.”

3) Make it measurable.

Procrastination and I have a terribly successful relationship. When I set lists and goals, even for the day, I give tasks time restrictions, because for me: if I have open ended time frames, I instantly have all the time in the world and my to do’s become my should haves.

For example, I will write for 10 minutes a day Monday through Friday. I will meditate five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night for 10 days.

4) Accountability and adjustment.  

Keeping a log or a note pad of progress helps to keep me honest and have integrity.

Is it impossible to cook healthy meals every single night between schedules and deadlines? For me? That’s a loud yes, but  like a good pair of thanksgiving pants there is always wiggle room. I pick a day of the week that, for that specific week, is not so stressful to meal prep. This allows for making healthy choices work in real life, budgetary concerns, and menu differentiation.

Find yourself an accountabili-buddy or group to…

5) Surround yourself with positivity and support. 

What’s worse than when you are doubting your goals, and your friends echo with an I told you so? (First, get new friends—kidding!) But really, align yourself with those who have similar goals and are encouraging to build up, not break down. Social media does have a purpose other than Facebook rants and hashtag wars. There are numerous groups and sites who are in community with one another and aiding with goals. If you have friends and family who are interested, even better!

This is crucial because…

6)  Failure will happen, and that is good.

No, I am not crazy. Every performance or experiment will not be successful and that is okay. Get a chuckle. Shake it off. These setbacks can be lessons to tweak and try again. If you continuously find yourself failing after adjustments, the overwhelming feeling is consuming and you are going to give up—stop. Breathe. Take a break and re-evaluate. Why is this not working? Where can I adjust this? Is it timing? Or is it time to say I have committed my best, now it is time to try something new?

Regret is never a to-do. I have deleted that word from my vocabulary. I now live by: “It is better to have tried than to wish you tried.”

Goal structuring can be a vulnerable process, but that is where breakthrough lies. Find your edge. Teeter, fall, fail, and readjust. The opposite of resolution is fear, laziness, timidity; things that exist when we do not fully commit. Through crafting goals aligned with my values, in a specific positive, measurable manner it has allowed new light, experience and opportunities to fill my life. I just took some vulnerability to greet my edge, and dive on down.


Author: Bridget Dwyer

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Yanko Peyankov/Unsplash 


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