Accomplishments as Motivation

For years now, I have been creating a list of accomplishments for the past year. I used to do it around my birthday, but in the last few years I’ve done it at the end of one calendar year before I set my goals for the next year.

I’ve already written about my goals for 2017, but I wanted to write a little more about my list of accomplishments because it’s been an incredibly useful tool.

I’m also facilitating a Goals Group for 2017, and the first assignment I gave the group was to make a list of 50 accomplishments from 2016. Yes, 50! It sounds daunting, but they did it. (You can, too.)

When you decide to write a list of 50 accomplishments, you start out with the obvious ones: “Posted x blog posts,” for example, or “won NaNo.”

But when you get down to #20 or #30, you have to dig a little deeper. At this point, even if I start out focused on writing accomplishments, I’ve started branching out into every other area of my life to find accomplishments. Stuff like, “hosted Christmas dinner for the whole extended family,” and “ran a half-marathon,” make the list.

Then it gets even harder—but, I believe, even more worthwhile.

The first time I made a list of #50 accomplishments, somewhere right around #49 or #50 was the accomplishment: “I became less defensive over this past year.”

Until I wrote that statement, I hadn’t been consciously aware that I was working on trying to become less defensive. Of all the accomplishments from that year, becoming less defensive was the one I was most proud of. And it was something I’ve continued to work on, consciously, in the years since.

I happen to believe, as Byron Katie does, that “defensiveness is the first act of war.” I’m still defensive at times, but much less so than I used to be. (I suppose I should check in with the people around me, to see if they agree!)

My defensiveness is just an example, but knowing that about myself—and that I had improved on it, motivated me to continue to work on it.

So try writing down 50 of your accomplishments from 2016. You may not believe you have 50, but I know you do.

 You may be surprised how much what you learn about yourself will motivate you in 2017!

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: I became a master life coach by way of being a family physician. These days, I coach, speak, write, and blog on life coaching topics. You can find my life coaching blog here and my website at

Paring Down the Goals List

“Goals are dreams with deadlines.”   –Diana Scharf

I am a goal-oriented person. I love creating goals and checking them off my list. When I looked over my goals list from last year (and the year before, and the year before,) there was one goal that I hadn’t achieved, yet had continued to put on the list year after year: Write a book.

Given that I’m a goal-oriented person, as previously noted, I had to wonder why I haven’t achieved this goal.

There are a lot of practical reasons why I haven’t achieved this goal: family obligations, work obligations, etc. But those are just excuses.

Is this goal one I really want to achieve? My knee-jerk reaction is, “Yes! Of course,” and after some reflection, I know that I really do want to achieve this goal. I have a particular book in mind and I feel passionately about it.

So why haven’t I completed it?

It comes down to fear. Doesn’t it always?

I have a limiting belief about this goal that is basically summed up as: “Who do you think you are trying to write this book?” You can hear the tone, can’t you?

Yeah, me, too.

But that voice, with its nasty tone, is not going to stop me.

I have worked with this (limiting) belief and will continue to work with it until it stops interfering with the work I want to do in the world.

While I do that work, I’m also doing the work of writing the actual book. I have broken the task down into manageable chunks, and broken those down even more. I’m going to build trust with myself by setting an easily-achievable goal of 5000 words written on the book by January 31st.

I have many goals for 2017 and I’m shining a spotlight on one. I’ve given it a deadline. I’ve reviewed all the obstacles to achieving this goal and come up with a detailed plan to get me past each one of those obstacles.

I think I have a much better chance of completing this book by the end of the year.

What’s your most important goal for 2017?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon:  I’m a master life coach, blogger, writer, and speaker. Check out my life coaching blog here. Happy New Year! Wishing you a wonderful, productive,  2017!


Friday Fun – What’s your starting point?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.


If you don’t daydream and kind of plan things out in your imagination, you never get there. So you have to start somewhere.

Robert Duvall

We’ve talked about goals for the coming year and the importance of breaking them down into steps and discrete actions – what is the starting point of your writing goal this year?


wendy-shotWendy Thomas  – I’ve polished up my manuscript and my query and I’m working my way through the Guide to Literary Agents 2017. My starting point is to send out at least 5 queries a week until I’ve either gotten a nibble or run out of agents’ names (at which point I will revise and start all over again.)

lisajjacksonLisa J. Jackson: I have a goal to submit short fiction this year. My starting point is to find markets for my short stories, and actually I’m thinking I might find more markets for my non-fiction than fiction as I keep getting ideas for those markets in my e-mail! We’ll see. But this year, I definitely want to submit and publish fiction, and having a market gets me started on a path.

At the end of the Long Trail, 9/8/2016.

Deborah Lee Luskin: Great question! I don’t have an answer. I’m in the middle of several projects, both teaching and writing in addition to my regular commentaries and blogs. I’ve got a good rhythm going. It feels as if I’m already in second, ready to shift into third.

Lee Laughlin CU 7-13

Lee Laughlin – I’ll tell you next week. LOL. It’s been a slow start to the year due to illness and travel. My goal for this weekend is to work through my annual goal planner (Susannah Conway’s Unraveling the Year) and figure out what my next steps are.

Friday Fun – Are you where you want to be?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION:  Here’s a good few questions to ground us all in the upcoming year: 

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been” – George Eliot

Who is it that you truly want to be? Are you on track?

What steps need to be taken to get you you there?

Deborah headshotDeborah Lee Luskin: Love the Elliot quote! When I’m fully present, I’m in the exactly right place. When that happens at my desk, words fly!



JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: The definition of who we want to be is a moving target, a mercurial vision that shifts and shimmers as our own hearts and minds evolve. I am not sure if anyone ever feels, or is meant to feel, that she has fully become the person she wants to be. I don’t believe we can ever be “done.” It’s not as if, after all, one is a turkey with a pop-up timer to indicate perfection.

I suppose, in a way, this means that each of us must live in a perpetual state of discontent, ever striving toward a new goal and a new identity; and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When we stop learning and exploring and seeking adventure, we stop growing. And when we stop growing, we die.

All that said, I do not feel that I am currently on track to be the person/writer/artist I want to be. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what steps need to be taken to get me where I want to go; but I do feel a tide of sorts rising within me. It’s not just the New Year energy. It’s something else that has been building over the last year or so and seemed to reach a tipping point after the election.

The thing that makes me smile is that even though I’m not (yet) where I want to be and I’m not sure how I’m going to get there, I’m excited at the prospect of deep change and endless possibility. Eliot was right, of course, and I’m hoping to prove her point in the years ahead.

Goals and Accomplishments 2016

It’s that time of year again, my friends. I’ve been looking back over the writing goals I shared with you in January. I also reviewed the Reality Check post I wrote in February. That reality check was prophetic. This did not turn out to be the year I wrote 100,000 words.

In fact, of the 10 goals I set in January, I’ve accomplished only 3.

That tells me how unrealistic my goals list really was.

I realize I have to cut back on the goals and focus on only 1. Just writing that makes me squirrely. I almost wrote “a few.” I almost wrote “1 or 2.” But really, I need to set 1 goal for my writing life.

More on that in the New Year.

For now, I’ll say that, with reflection, I can see my pattern of over-committing myself. I do it in every area of my life. The problem with that—okay, one of the problems with that—is I end up doing some of the things I’ve committed to, but not necessarily the most important things.

I am afraid to prioritize. I want to do it all.

But I can’t. And I don’t.

So it’s time to change my ways.

And…I did accomplish a lot in 2017. I accomplished a lot of things that weren’t on my list back in January 2016. One of the things I accomplished that I feel most satisfied about is my art journal/planner. I had so much fun with that and I plan to continue to combine my writing with art in the next year.

I could make this review of my goals for the year into a reason to berate myself, but that won’t motivate me to reach new goals. I choose to make this review an opportunity to learn about what works for me and what doesn’t.

Onward, friends!

How did your year go?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I’m a writer, blogger, master life coach, and family physician. I’m grateful to this community of writers and readers and wish everyone a joyous holiday season and a wonderful New Year!




Friday Fun – Writing Victory

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: What writing victory did you have this week?

Lee Laughlin CU 7-13Lee Laughlin – Some weeks the victories are massive (YAY, I solved a major plot problem). Some weeks, like this one, the victory is in the slow and steady pace.  I wrote every day. I was at a workshop last weekend and I learned a lot, but it’s material that will take some time to integrate into my writing. I’m ok with that.  I’m counting this week as a win!

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: I love this question because it makes us stop and think about what we’ve accomplished. Too often, the life of the freelance writer is a non-stop race from deadline to deadline, with nary a pause to catch your breath, never mind pat yourself on the back for a job well done. But, it’s important to acknowledge even the small victories as you achieve them. Such acknowledgement goes a long way to buoying your spirits when the going gets tough or your confidence fails you.

My small (professional/copywriter) victories this week include successfully pulling off a couple of pieces (one for my column and one for a client) even though I had very little raw material to work with and landing my first project with a new client. On a personal note, I was more consistent with my Morning Pages practice, and had a small epiphany about a writer-related project/event that’s just in the planning stages. I hope that after Saturday, I’ll be able to add that I spent a few hours focusing on both that project and some long overdue free-writing. Fingers crossed!

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: My writing victory for this week was more editing-related as I had a 48-page medical course document to complete and a college blog article to revise. The first was a straight edit, the second was making edits after receiving feedback before the blog post is published. I managed to get entries into my 5-year journal each day this week, too! Little tasks, but big in that my days are quite busy with packing and putting stuff in storage so owner of condo I rent can start showing it. (I’m also, therefore, packing to move — getting a lot of cleaning and decluttering done!)

Milestones, Birthdays, and Other Reasons to Celebrate

As I celebrate another birth-year I’m thinking back at all that has changed in the past 365 days for me – good, bad, and other.

Let's Celebrate!In realizing personal growth, improved fitness and health, and the addition of more race bibs on my walls and books on my shelves, it dawned on me that birthdays are quite similar to business milestones.

Any date we choose as the date to pause, reflect, appreciate, and celebrate is a birthday, in a sense, isn’t it?

December 31 – a big party day to celebrate the end of a year; being grateful for it ending over if it wasn’t great and being excited for new possibilities in the next 366 (leap year) days.

January 1 – most notably to celebrate the start of a new  year – a blank slate, a way to start fresh. However you want to think of it. (September 1 feels more like a fresh start to a new year for me.)

July 4 – celebrating America’s birthday; reflecting on the history, how far (or not) we’ve come; where we can be in the future.

Think of all the activities in your life that have dates that involve reflections, evaluation, celebration… Annual physicals.  Twice-a-year dental exams.  School exams (weekly, quarterly, finals). Graduations.  Anniversaries.  Races.  Games.  Births.  Deaths.  Holidays.  Vacations.  Bucket list items.  First day of spring.  First day of summer.

In our businesses, we have goals we want to achieve and dates we want to achieve them by. They are dates where we evaluate our progress, celebrate successes, make changes, and pick a new date for the next evaluation. Those deadlines are random dates on the time continuum.

Each (and every) day is a milestone of some sort, isn’t it? A new day brings new possibilities. Yesterday is done. Whatever happened, happened. Today is new and full of possibilities.

Today, I get to take a few moments to reflect on all I’ve done in those years, celebrate with family and friends, and dream about what I’ll do in the upcoming years. I started the day listening to cardinals chatter (they weren’t singing, and I don’t know what to call their beautiful sound!) while I sipped my first cup of coffee and wrote this post. I’ve done a lot in the past year – some things I imagined, some things I didn’t. I’m where I want to be in some regards, and not in others.

It’s a Wednesday – not a day of the week that gets much respect other than for it marking the half-way point of a common work week, but still a new day with a lot of potential.

And it’s time to get to work — deadlines to meet, don’t you know? I’m raising my cup (of coffee) to you as I wish you another fabulous, productive day in the spectrum of your life.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Writing Reality Check

turtle photo (1)A couple of weeks ago I read a blog post on The Huffington Post that helped me take a step back from my To-Do List (you all know how much I love my to-do lists!) and take a deep breath.

My priorities right now are family (which includes my health and wellbeing as well as my family’s), then coaching, then writing. This is intentional—it’s exactly the way I want it to be.

I continue to work on my writing every day. But the steps I take are sometimes very small–what Martha Beck calls turtle steps. I’ve written about this before but it’s come up again because of this article and my realization (again!) that I’m not going to write 100,000 words this year.

If I write a sentence or a paragraph, I’m happy. I think about writing a lot, and I really enjoy the time I get to sit and write—whether I’m a quiet library as I am now, or I’m in the waiting area of my son’s karate studio.

It’s too soon to say the writing goals I set for myself just last month are unrealistic—you never know what will change—but I’m recalibrating my goals for right now.

So I can continue writing and, more importantly, so I can feel good throughout my day, whether I’m writing or cooking, creating a new worksheet for my clients or going for a run.

Goals turn dreams into reality by putting a due date on them, but I don’t want to sacrifice being present for all the moments of my life in order to achieve one goal, no matter how important.

Slowly but surely I’ll accomplish my writing goals, while feeling good and living my life.

That thought definitely allows me to take a long, deep breath.

How about you?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, master life coach, family physician, mom, grandmother, and stepmother. I’m feeling overextended this winter but also focused on some small goals that will hopefully lead to bigger goals later in the year.

Friday Fun – What does it mean to “make it” as a writer?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Success can mean very different things to different people. What does success as a writer look like (and feel like!) to you? Do you believe you can ever truly “make it” as a writer, and – if so – what does that mean, exactly?

Lee Laughlin CU 7-13

Lee Laughlin: Ok, I’ll dive in on this one. I am a successful writer when words I’ve written impact someone else either positively or in a way that makes them consider an alternate perspective.

I am a successful writer. People have commented on pieces that I’ve written for the Boston Globe, our local newspaper and even things I’ve read at our annual school board meeting. People seek me out when they need to craft a message to convey information to their audience in a way that the audience will understand.  I’ve “made it” in my local sphere.

There is always room for growth and improvement, now, I want to “make it” in a larger sphere. I’m working on a romantic fiction novel. When that’s published and someone says to me “thanks for the enjoyable read”. I’ll know I’ve made it in that sphere.

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: I knew I “made it” as a writer when I completed my first year as a freelancer. I made my living as a writer. I’m now on year 10 and each year is better than the last. I’ve been published in fiction and non-fiction; seen my byline and ghostwritten. I write for fun. I write for money. I write because it’s what I do. I’ve “made it” and will keep “making it” as long as I can and in a variety of ways!

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace:  Reading the other responses, I realize that this is a more complex question than I realized. There are as many ways to define and measure success as there are kinds of writing.

For instance, though I have attained a certain level of success as a freelance content writer (I support myself and my daughter with my writing and have earned the respect and referrals of many great clients), I have not (yet!) given myself the opportunity to seriously pursue success as a fiction writer (I dabble, but don’t submit). Also, though they are not paying gigs, I consider my bi-weekly column in my local paper and my role  here on Live to Write – Write to Live to be writing successes. I may not be financially compensated for this work, but it gives me great satisfaction and the joy of connecting with others.

Would I ultimately like to earn a good living writing fiction? Yes. Do I consider myself a failure as a writer until I’ve accomplished that goal? Definitely not. I like to think of my “writer status” as a work in progress. Today, I’m a successful content writer, practicing essayist, and aspiring fiction writer. Someday (in the not-too-distant future) I plan to be a published author and someday after that, a profitable novelist. Until then, I’m going to do my best to savor all my successes – small and large – in all the parts of my writing life.

photo of Julianne HolmesJulie Hennrikus: The goal post keeps moving, doesn’t it? I do think that publication is a benchmark, but does that mean “making it”? I suspect that, for me, making it will be to continue to write, and to get better at my craft. Add to the publications. Perhaps, one day, to be able to support myself as a writer? Not sure, but I’m in for figuring this out!

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin: I like Julie’s image of a moving goalpost – and I’ve been guilty in the past of moving the goal further out as soon as I’ve scored. But no longer. I also used to measure myself exclusively by how much I earned with my pen, but now know that money is only one, limited, measure of success. Both these traits – moving the goal and measuring success only by income – breed chronic dissatisfaction, which can still the pen. I now believe that success is a series of achievements, from writing daily to reaching an audience. By that measure, I’m increasingly successful: writing, publishing, earning, and reaching a growing audience.

Reflections for the New Year

Isn’t it odd that we haven’t celebrated Labor Day yet? September 1 is the beginning of the year for me. I worked in academia for years, so I got used to September being the start. I also work in theater, and this time of year is when summer seasons are winding down, and regular seasons are heating up. So, with my new year upon me, I am very reflective in early September.

Happy New YearAs regular readers know, my dream of being a published author is about to come true. On October 6, Just Killing Time, written under the pseudonym Julianne Holmes, will be released by Berkley. This is such a thrill, but the details are coming at me fast and furiously. I’m planning a launch party, sending out ARCs, and planning some appearances. I’m also working with my editor on book #2, and starting to plot book #3. A friend reminded me to stop, and enjoy this journey. Hard to do, but something I really need to focus on–I will have other books published, but this is my only first.

Goal for the fall: enjoy the journey of publication

Another writing goal is to chip away at Book #3. As another friend said, on book #1 you learn how to write a book. On book #2 you prove to yourself you can do it again. On book #3, the game is on. I want to continue to grow as a writer. I want each book to be better. That means spending more time editing, which means the first draft needs to get done. Deadlines are actually a blessing, and I am figuring out how to work with them. That said, procrastination and I have a relationship, and we need to break up.

Goal for the fall: keep working on the story, and the story telling. Don’t loose momentum.

I write on a laptop, on my couch. When I get going, I will sit for hours and work. I am terrible about taking breaks, are you? This isn’t healthy on a number of fronts, and I need to develop new habits.

Goal for the fall: make moving around part of my writing routine. Walks for plotting, maybe a standing desk?

Final writing goal? Remember two things: be grateful, and be kind. Keeping these are core values are essential. Writing is a solitary effort that depends on community for success. I have a wonderful community, and am so grateful for them. But as importantly, I need to remember to practice kindness. I should clarify, kindness does not mean I am always nice. I am too old to be nice all the time.

Goal for life: Gratitude and Kindness, always.

How about you, dear readers? Do you think of this time of year as a new year? Any writing goals that you plan on rebooting this fall?


Julie Hennrikus is an arts administrator, J.A. Hennrikus writes short stories, and Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery series.