Goals First

The Little Red engine faced his biggest challenge, and as he climbed the hill, he encouraged himself. He repeated, “I think I can, I think I can.”   Getting to the top was his goal and pure hope and determination gave him the strength to push forward. Like that engine, we will face mountains we will need to climb. Goals strengthen us because the only way to the other side is to push past challenges.  I define goals as a hope for a specific outcome. It serves as motivation and a guide. Goals are to be placed as the first priority in the planning process. It is most important and should not be overlooked.

Years ago, I worked in direct sales, and controlled when and how I worked my business. I decided what I would do after I established my financial and leadership goals.  I worked very hard, but I was disappointed at the end of each month. I had to ask myself, are these the wrong goals?  I gave myself time, and and after a while, I began to understand the company’s sales algorithms. The top salespeople sold a certain  number of units each week consistently. They encouraged us to only work on the things we could control. We can not control who would buy or what they would buy, but we could control how many people we spoke to each day. We could control how many phone calls we made each day. I began to realize that consistency in the things that I can control was my best form of accountability. It was also my favorite measure of success. Success was not based on the outcome but on my consistency as I met each challenge.

My goals changed from being result oriented and became action oriented in describing my desired outcome.  For example,  instead of saying I want to sell $1,000.00 in products, I say I want to sell 100 units to reach my goal of $1,000.00. In turn, I’ve changed the way I plan.  My plans became task oriented and served as helpful action points in achieving the prize. For example, I can plan to speak to 10 people a day (which can make approximately 3 sales).

This example of an action oriented goal can be changed to even meet student’s needs. For example, instead of saying I want an A on my math test, I would say I want to study 2 additional hours this week to make an A on my test. My task oriented plans may include studying math facts and practicing additional problems for 30 minutes each day.  Those 30 minutes do not include the normal time I take completing homework assignments. You may need 30 minutes with a tudor or a teacher, and that is to be written into the plan. These are only examples in helping you to understand goal setting and the role it plays in planning.

I conclude with words of encouragement. Life is full of the unexpected. There will be times when things do not work out. Planning does not shield us from people hurting our feelings. It does not shield us from disappointments.  I have learned to have faith in God and this has produced true confidence.  I believe that God blesses beyond anything my efforts alone can produce, so I include prayers as an active part of the planning process. Planning is not a perfect remedy, but God gives me perfect peace with whatever comes. “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” – Proverbs 16:3

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Using A Planner

I’m not an organization expert or planner guru. This is not an advertisement. This is for people who are looking for wisdom regarding planning.

Planning is for the wise and the strong. It is also for the weak and faint at heart. In grade school, I had problems focusing. After almost an entire year of fun and games from the back of the class, the teacher finally contacted my mother to tell her of our failure. It was a failure to complete assignments, a failure to determine how much I had grown, and a failure to succeed in making me third grade ready. She could not allow me to ascend to the next level if I was not proficient in the basics. That year I made an amazing discovery and realized that I was easily distracted. It was a wake up call and I understood all that I could loose if I did not focus. Planning is my way of making sure I’m remaining focus.

When I pull out my planner, I think about the appointments I have during the week. I then think about my goals for the week. Do I have any assignments due? Am I responsible for organizing an event or gathering (small or large)? These are things I must think about when sitting to plan. Just a side note, I am a bit “extra” when it comes to planning. I am beginning to break almost every task down into smaller steps. This helps me to evaluate how much I can realistically accomplish in a certain amount of time. For example, if I need to make a phone call, I need to place the number beside the task listed. If I do not have the number, then a phone call is placed on the “to do” list and I leave space for finding the number. It becomes a two part action.

Although time is like money, never forget people first before things. Planning is only a tool.  With that in mind, using my planner helps me to appreciate how my time is being used. I can even celebrate small failures. What others may call wasting, I call investing. For example, if I spend four hours on the phone with my sister for her birthday, then I am making an investment in her and our relationship. I can look at my huge “to do” list and reflect on how she is more important than all of those items combined. Although time is like money, love should always be first.

Living Well

Traveling Well

First, I can only accomplish living well and traveling well with prayer. I can not take credit for the favor that my family received on these trips but I can share the process. In fact, this summer we took a short family vacation. It was a small getaway of four days and four nights to Pittsburgh, PA., “Home of the Steelers”. Nice people by the way. We had so much fun bonding and catching one adventure after the next. This was truly an adventure full of grace.

Secondly, to travel well, we must refer to our foundational principles for positive posture, we definitely will need to have clear goals. Without established goals, you can get lost. Many people get lost in “chasing” the best deal and forgetting all that glitter is NOT gold. This applies to all things in life, not just traveling. Once you have outlined the things that will make your trip comfortable, you begin to realize that the best deal is not just about money. It is about how things align with the experience you are trying to create. This recent trip to Pittsburgh was an idea that originated from my husband’s desire to attend a Steelers game with our six year old daughter. My nine year old, a Redskins fan, and I only planned to tag along to just getaway. I think of this short trip as a bucket list item for my husband. He wanted to be downtown in walking distance to everything. He added that he wanted to expose the girls to nice things, so he wanted to stay in the best hotel in Pittsburgh. As a budget savvy Mommy, I do NOT mind. I just need clear goals so that I can look for the coupon for it. And even if it does not go as planned, at least you have a strategy or game plan to serve as your default.

The third step, you must have a good attitude in order to travel well. Earlier I mentioned that plans may not go as planned, but the right attitude will help you to feel that it is part of the adventure we call life. Every challenge carries with it an opportunity, but most of the time you can not see it until the hard part passes. To smile in the heat of adversity is almost like you are standing and seeking the face of God.

Finally, make sure you have tip money. It is better to give than to receive. Tipping reflects on you. It relates a message that says “you believe in adding to the quality of life for others”. Inadvertently you add to your trip by showing appreciation for others. This also helps you to fight the temptations of filling your trip with empty pleasures, missing the purpose of any trip. I see a trip as taking a date with yourself, and part of being good to yourself is being good to others. It is a time to reconnect with yourself and those you love. Sometimes we can loose touch with what matters in our day to day. Most trips remind us that the world is bigger than just what we see every day. I hope this helps you to reboot.

Peaceful travels

A Plate Of Herbs

I grew up watching my grandmother cook large batches of food. She would feed multiple families and still have leftovers. The amazing part if it all was her attitude; surprisingly, she wanted to serve. She cooked after working all day, preparing healthy hearty meals. She would say we needed food that would “stick to our bones.” I watched her pour her heart into every dish. After our first bite, she would ask with such a gleam in her eye, “how does it taste?” It was always good, because her secret ingredient was LOVE.

I really believe the example she left was a rich legacy in loving and serving others. Although I do not enjoy cooking as much as she did, I try not to forget the secret ingredient each time I prepare a dish. Freezer cooking is one way that I can manage our resources without sacrificing the joys around meal time. Truthfully it is all about the company around the table  that makes the difference. We must focus on pouring into one another as though we are filling a glass to quench a need.

This week I was not feeling well. The flu has been going around but Mommies do not get a day off. My husband tries to jump in and help, but meal time requires a whole lot more. It was good that I could pull out freezer meals to provide healthy hearty meals.  We are still working with the freezer meals from January.

We try to bag dinner to last 2 days each. We plan our freezer meals as if there will not be any days off in the month. We do this because in case they eat more than I originally planned, the next day we can easily pull out something new. My husband, a former college football player and personal trainer, must feed his muscles. Easily my 2 day prep of his favorite foods usually end up lasting a single day. Now my truth, honestly I must work on showing grace when his appetite mess up my schedule 😉.

Love and Peace

Eating Royally with Freezer Cooking

For a couple of years, I have been trying my hand at freezer cooking and I love it. I recommend it to everyone, because of the money you save and the ease it offer in eating balanced meals every day. The goal of freezer cooking is to make meal time stress free and enjoyable for everyone. It is a way to provide healthy and delicious options consistently. We can do that when we cook large amounts of food and divide these meals.

I start out with preparation. I take a few days to think about the meals we want to have the following month. I use a scrap piece of paper to brainstorm. From past experience, I realize that 15 main courses will feed us the entire month. I usually try to make 4 of these casseroles for weekend meals. During the prep stage, I look through the freezer and pantry to do an inventory of everything we have. I check to make sure I have freezer bags and other freezer safe containers. During this phase, I begin cleaning out the refrigerator, dumping old food, and wiping things down. I want to make sure that I have nothing to do but cook and store on the days I am freezer cooking.

Day 1, I prepare a menu and shopping list. I take the family calendar out and strategize on what dishes support the schedule. I think about the weather and ways to prepare seasonal foods so that it can be both delicious and nutritious. We make sure the menu include meatless days, but most of our main dinner courses will be meat dishes. I go through my recipes and pull the ones I will be using. I think about the main and side dishes. Is it a simple dish that needs to be accompanied by a fresh salad? What food to schedule on the day I have meetings, piano lessons and homework? I think about the days I can make short trips to pick up fresh fruits snd vegetables. A day filled with activities, would not comfortably fit a trip to the grocery store for fresh produce for the week. I try to section the shopping list by categories and by stores. This will help me to figure out how much time each trip will require and how much of the budget.

Day 2 is shopping for the bulk of the items. We usually shop at a wholesale store because they offer larger portions for a fraction of the cost found in most conventional stores. We prefer wholesale stores because we want to focus our savings in the area of quality meats, grains, organic and non-gmo foods. When I arrive home, I refrigerate the foods I will not start cooking or prepping on this particular day. Most of the frozen items are organic vegetables and fruits that can remain frozen until mealtime. I try to get the hardest, dirtiest, or most perishable things done first. I label the zip lock bags with the name of the item to be stored and date them, making sure to add any notes I would need to remember on the day we eat it. It is good to set out the seasoning and spices needed for today’s dishes.

I begin by first cleaning the large batches chicken. I personally do not like to eat feathers and hair, so this is going to require a lot of energy to get it clean enough for us. I divide the cleaned chicken and place them into their labeled bags. After thoroughly cleaning the area, I wash my hands to finish these first freezer meals. I do not cook the chicken on Day 2 but I bag it with all of its ingedients to finish in the crockpot on the day we eat it. So the final thing before placing the chicken into the freezer is to add the seasons in the bag that goes with the label on the bag. Finally, I steam the 5 large bags of Kale, divide and place them in the freezer. I also put the first batch of beans in the crockpot. I leave the beef in the fridge to prepare the remaining dishes on the following days.

It usually takes me a few days to prepare and store 15 meals. I can go on, but I just want to layout the process for now. I use the crock pot for a lot of the dishes, so I am able to work on portions of the meals even on busy days. I also choose one day for baking large batches of breads to accompany soups and stews. This should be enough to get you started. Please let me know if you found this helpful and want to hear more.