Posts tagged Goals
Small is Beautiful

Most of us exist and thrive under the illusion that we need to do more, to be more, and are always be looking for ways to become bigger and better. If we're not constantly searching for the next promotion, a bigger house, more money, it feels as though we're not following the right path. Simply being happy and satisfied with our current lot, and valuing relationships, craft and the environment over all else, is definitely not the norm.

Often, the realisation hits that this ongoing desire for more only increases our stress levels and leaves us burnt out. Our health and wellbeing suffer, as we work harder, work longer hours and continue to make sacrifices - whether consciously or not. But this realisation doesn't necessarily mean anything will change. In her Guardian article, Madeleine Bunting argues that "Small is beautiful is the cry of the romantic idealist, and there seem to be none left": she appears to be right.

Modern society dictates that bigger and better is the norm. If we're going to be able to afford our own home and go on holiday and just exist comfortably, there's no other option than to keep aiming for this: there is no apparent alternative, because we cannot exist without money (although this man definitely tried), so we must make more to achieve our goals.

But what if we changed the goalposts? What if instead of having to go big or go home, we could change what we wanted from life, and as a result, reduce the necessity to be reliant on more? I'm not suggesting that we give up on becoming homeowners, or never do anything spontaneous or exciting, but that changing our small goals, our stepping stones if you like, could be the key to still achieving what we want, without spending all of our time grinding through life. There are always sacrifices to be made, but it's our choice what these sacrifices are. The question that must guide us through life's choices is not how much more do I need? but what is important to me here?

Let's say you wanted to reduce the number of hours you work a week, so that you can spend more time with your family, because relationships are what you've decided are important to you. This goes against the grain, because you're actually aiming for small rather than big, and often working part-time (or anything less than a 40-hour week really) is viewed with derision, but why shouldn't we want more time for ourselves and our loved ones? The only problem arises when you realise that you can't afford to reduce the number of hours you work. So you have to make a sacrifice.

Your options are:

  1. Sacrifice your time (and possibly wellbeing) and stay in the same position you are now.

  2. Sacrifice something else, by making something else smaller in your life. Perhaps it could be the amount you spend on food, or the number of times you drive when you could walk? It could be something more impactful, like downsizing your home (the Tiny House Movement is thriving!), or giving it up entirely. Your 'sacrifice' needn't be all that terrible: look on it as an adventure, an opportunity.

If you want something badly enough, there will be a way to achieve it, and it doesn't necessarily require a bigger investment. To work less, aim for less. To escape the cycle, change what you're aiming for in life. It's not easy, it won't happen overnight, and you'll still have to work hard. But surely, in our world of conglomerates, of billion pound deals, and of ever-expanding commercialism, a small, simple life that separates itself from these things, and values all living beings over pounds and pence, is worth striving for?

 

A Slow Living Guide to Setting Goals

At the start of a new year, resolutions are flying around all over the place, decorations are shed, and it's back to reality. For most, that means a much busier lifestyle, with more complications and demands on our time, so it seems quite apt today to be focusing on living a slower, simpler existence, and how setting goals with this in mind can help to ease the transition.

The crux of slow living lies in knowing what you want and what’s important to you. How do we know what we’re slowing down for if we haven’t decided what’s important?

So let’s get started.

First, list the 3 most important things that you want to prioritise in your life. These should be things that you might not feel you have time for, or that have fallen by the wayside as your life has slowly got more and more chaotic. Why 3? It’s both achievable and allows us to push the boundaries of what we really want. Try to limit it to 3, and if you’ve got more ideas you can follow the same process later once you’ve worked through the steps to prioritise them in your life.

You’ve now got a basic grounding, but in order to set goals we need to transform these priorities into something more specific. For example, instead of just writing “family,” change it to “visit my parents at least once a week.” We’re using the idea of SMART targets here – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.

Obviously you’re not going to be able to fit anything new in during the times you currently have to spend at work, in appointments etc. So you’ll need to figure out when your best day / time of the day is in order to squeeze in your goals. Somethings that can mean getting up a little earlier, or cutting out that extra hour spent browsing social media, but prioritising your important things means living a happier and more fulfilling life.

Here's the important bit...

Once you’ve scheduled them in, try including them one at a time. The problem with resolutions is that we're expected to include all of them immediately, and no one has the time or mind-space for that.  You might succeed for the first week, or even the second, but then something will slip and the first thing you’ll lose and forget about is what you’ve most recently implemented. Try one goal at a time (and ideally focus on this one goal for a whole month) and you’ll be developing a ritual rather than just a standing entry in your diary or planner.

There's been a lot written on this blog about slow living, so if you're feeling inspired, here's a few more ideas to get you started on your slow living journey:

Resolutions

Resolutions-2015-Creative-Countryside

  1. Make more preserves, specifically marmalade, jams and pickles, to see us through the year without having to pop to the shops all the time.
  2. Stop buying things I don't need. In a similar vein to the resolution above, I'm frustrated that I forever allow myself to buy things from the supermarket that invariably I either don't need or could make myself.
  3. Always have nature in the home. I try to bring flowers in during the summer months but I want to feel a part of the outside world for more than just three months of the year.
  4. Explore more. There's a veritable feast of nature's delights on my doorstep and sometimes I need to step back for a moment and make time to forage and wander.
  5. Be brave with new recipes and try to avoid frozen food (fish finger sandwich anyone?) even when I'm busy.
  6. Be self sufficient in more than just potatoes and onions. Ideally I want to avoid buying lettuce, fruit, tomatoes and a few other things.
  7. Raise a turkey for Christmas. This one has been at the back of my mind for a couple of years and I'm determined that we give it a go at last.
  8. Take more photographs. I have tried to do this over the past few months and I really think I'm getting there, but I want to start the new year with a fresh enthusiasm for documenting our life and the seasons.
  9. Allow myself time: time to write; time to recover if I get ill; time to spend with loved ones rather than at work; time for myself every so often. This past year time has been my most precious commodity and I've not always spent it as I would have liked.
  10. Be happier. Whatever it takes.

What do you have planned for the year ahead?

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Eleanor CheethamGoals
Goals for August
Creative Countryside Summer Photo 5

August is going to be a good month, I've decided. I am planning to enjoy every last bit of these summer days both on our holiday to the Lakes and at home. It's time I really embraced the season; although I try to live as seasonally as possible it has been more difficult the busier I have got at work, and the garden (and produce) has been somewhat neglected this year. I suppose it's a question of balance; between work and home, house and garden, family and time together. So this month I'm going to try and get that balance just right!

Last month's goals were on the whole successful - I have definitely started to enjoy cooking again (tuna steak, tomatilla salsa and homemade wedges last night!) and doing more has linked nicely with spending time with family. That being said, I could still do with finding a little more space in my life for actual activities rather than just obsessive Netflix marathons. But the less said about those the better.

Goals for August
Goals for August

My goals for August are a little more specific than previous months, which I hope will allow me to focus in on what I want to achieve. Swimming in a lake is something that definitely needs to happen when we go away; the camp-site we're staying at is right next to a lake so it would be rude not to, right? (I am desperately hoping for good weather for this one!)

Sending out save-the-dates is something we've been meaning to do for a while but just haven't got round to. Mr CC has designed them so I'm pretty excited, I just need to send them to the printers now!

Normally I take part in Circle of Pine Tree's The Year in Bookswhich means I always read at least 1 book a month. Now I have a bit of time to myself, my aim is to read 2, and with quite apt timing a few friends and I are starting a book club to discuss and drink once a month. Any recommendations for future reads?

Finally I'm going to let myself get creative again. I always bake the same things - I'm a pro at sponge cakes and cookies - but I really want to try something new. Bring on the frosting. And considering my craft space is currently non-existent, I am definitely going to get something sorted out, and soon. Charlotte-Heather has been sending me motivational tweets so I am determined it will happen!

What are your goals for August? Are you trying out anything new?

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P.S. How's your Big Summer List going? Check out mine here!

Eleanor CheethamAugust, Goals
Goals: July
goals for july

My goals for June were - I have to admit - a little ambitious. That is, they would have been achievable had life not pushed into every spare second and kept me busy from dusk until dawn. This sounds like an excuse, and I suppose in a way it is, but I don't want these goals to be something I should feel negatively about; after all I set them for myself, and if I don't achieve them it's only me that really suffers.

GoalsforJune
GoalsforJune

Goal number 1 was definitely achieved; I even did some gardening after work one evening! Goal number 3 was also fulfilled (Mr CC is pretty glad this one is over and done with). The rest were a little more difficult. I am, however, determined to persevere and will keep looking back to June's goals as well as those for the month ahead. So without further ado...

goals for july
goals for july
  1. Watch less, do more. I'm still in the habit of sitting in front of a film or the television after a long day at work. Must resist!
  2. Start to enjoy cooking again. I go through phases and lose my motivation for cooking, usually when I'm busy at work or otherwise, and currently I'm experiencing a lull in my cooking creativity. It's time to get the recipe books out.
  3. Make more time for family. Although I see my close family on a regular basis I would like to spend more time with relatives that live outside my village. I'm a busy person, but it's all about prior planning and realising that some things are more important than worrying about fitting everything in.
  4. Stop feeling guilty. About eating unhealthily sometimes. About forgetting to exercise. About everything, really.
  5. Get inspired. This links quite nicely with my second goal, but I also want it to apply to this blog and my creative writing in other spaces. It's about time I sat down and appreciated all of these inspirational people and places that surround my life.

Have you set any goals for July? Do you want to work on any of the same things I do?

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P.S. Want to see my previous goals?

Goals for June Goals for May Goals for April

Goals: June
GoalsforJune

So it's June. Already. How on earth are we almost half way through the year?! I had a lovely weekend planting peas, eating lunch with family and gorging on the first of the season's strawberries; I always wait for the British ones to appear in the shops as they always taste so much fresher and more - I don't know - strawberry like! They're great as a stop gap until my parents' crop starts to fruit.

As the weekend progressed I also looked back at my goals from last month, and I have to admit that I did pitifully little to achieve some of them.

maygoals
maygoals

tried to do number one, I really did. Some days I achieved this goal and others I spectacularly failed, but I knew this would be slow and steady progress rather than an instant effect. I am pleased to announce that goal number two - getting to grips with wedding stationery - has definitely been achieved.  Mr CC and I spent a Sunday morning playing around on photoshop creating a 'logo' of sorts for the wedding (a sycamore leaf with a small heart cut-out inside) and then created our Save the Dates - or should I say Bookmark the Dates (!). All will be revealed in another post another time...

The last three goals really came into their own over the last week or so. Mr CC and I went out for dinner, I made and froze some lovely looking meals and I took lots of photos in the dazzling sun that shone so beautifully over this past weekend in particular. I'm not sure why it took me all month to reach these goals, but nevertheless they have been attempted, and that's what setting them is all about really.

I'm quite excited about June. There's always lots going on, so I'm hoping it won't disappoint!

GoalsforJune
GoalsforJune

Here are this month's goals:

  1. Spend evenings in the garden. I need to make a conscious effort to remember that when I get in from work there is usually an hour or so that could be spent quite happily in the dappled late sunshine (weather permitting) instead of settling down on the sofa straight away. There are only a few weeks left until the daylight hours begin to wane once more, and I intend to make the most of them.
  2. Make elderflower cordial. If you've never tried making your own, you really should; it's so easy and tastes delicious - much better than anything you could buy. Keep an eye out this month for a 'How-To' blog post.
  3. Be (almost) vegetarian. Now this isn't a choice to avoid meat because I don't like or agree with it - sausages and mash is my favourite meal and I don't see that changing any time soon - but rather a conscious effort to eat healthier and more frugally. So although we will be having meat and fish this month, it will only be from those meals that I made and froze last month, I don't intend to purchase anything more. Not sure how Mr CC will feel about this...
  4. Write every day. Because why not?
  5. Read every day. Because I'm getting into a lovely reading habit now and I want to cling to it for as long as possible.

Do you have anything you're going to focus on this month? I'd love to hear from you!

CC x

P.S. Check out previous monthly goals here:

Goals for April

Goals for May

Goals: May
maygoals

I have no idea where April has disappeared to.  Somewhere in the midst of Easter eggs and blossom falling like delicate fragrant snowflakes May has appeared.  Along with the delight of two bank holidays, May always rejuvenates my love for living in the countryside, opening the front door to fresh air and birdsong.

Last month I set myself five goals.  Some I have to admit were more difficult than others, and because of the sheer speed with which the days seeped away I wasn't as dedicated as I had hoped. However, I can happily report that I did indeed make more time for reading, attempting to read in snippets rather than sitting for hours at a time, and I feel so much better for it.  Can you miss reading when it's gone?  This month seems to indicate there's truth in this musing.

Secondly, I feel quite proud that I managed to blog at least five times a week for the entire month.  Admittedly this was made easier by a holiday spanning two weeks in the centre of the month, but I feel I have carved out an effective routine and intend to stick with it as best as I can (life permitting, of course).  My organised chaos was temporarily a haven, but it has slipped this week as I returned to the rigmarole of working life.  My slouching habits haven't improved much either, though I have made a conscious effort to sit better in the mornings. Finally, my random acts of kindness appeared sporadically throughout the month: I started a monthly donation to Water Aid, sent letters to distant friends and re-connected with family members I don't see very often.  A fulfilling, if extremely busy, month.

For May I have set another five goals:

  1. Don't sweat the small stuff.  I talked here about how I over-think things all the time, and I fear this will be a hard habit to break completely.  However I am more motivated than ever to try and let go of things that ultimately will not matter, than should not be festering in my thoughts for longer than a second.  Life is too short, as yesterday highlighted even clearer.
  2. Get to grips with wedding stationery.  We're designing our own and so far this hasn't progressed much further than sketches on scraps of paper and ideas floating around in our minds, but I feel like now is the time to start to see progress.  We're toying with a leaf motif and I want to have a go at stencilling some designs; I'm quite looking forward to letting my artistic side emerge once again.
  3. Make more time for Mr CC. We often sit in an evening; one on the laptop, the other drawing, writing or watching something on television, and although we chat, we don't actually set aside time just for us.  Money, work or general exhaustion usually limits our weekend and evening activities, but sometimes you just need to forge ahead anyway and forget these limitations.
  4. Start stocking up the freezer.  By this I don't mean frozen ready meals and chips; oh no. This will require far more time and dedication, but far greater rewards: I want to make a batch of dinners to freeze so that we are able to eat healthier mid-week when we often have no motivation or energy to cook something delicious.  I plan to set aside a day at the weekend for this.  Full freezer here we come!
  5. Take more photos.  I go through phases; at university I was incredibly snap-happy and never stopped, and when I'm off work I'm still the same now, but often I'll forget and regret it deeply.  I'd like to get out first thing in a morning and remember to take the camera with me at a weekend.  I'd also like to be able to document the progress in our garden more fully.

So there you have it, five more goals.  Do you have any thoughts for the month ahead?

CC X

Goals: April
april's goals

I've been inspired by Vivatramp to start a new blog series to do with another of my favourite things - lists.  I have lived my life through lists at times: to do lists, shopping lists, life lists, lists for lists, the list goes on...  In fact I find they focus me like no other organisational method can, so I will unashamedly admit to being a list addict.

This series of lists will guide me through each month of the year, and although these ideas already exist in my ever-growing pile of notebooks, it seems more definite and concrete to share them with you all on here.  So here goes.

  1. Make more time for reading.  Having a full time job plus blogging and the upkeep of our house and garden, really does reduce the amount of time I have left for reading.  It's something that I have always done at night in bed, just before falling asleep; it would calm my senses before enabling me to happily drift off.  Unfortunately, my body clock is rebelling.  Now, as soon as my head hits the pillow I switch off and all hopes of reading drift away with consciousness.  I need to fall back into better reading habits so that I can really enjoy the sensation of losing myself in a gripping tale.
  2. Blog at least 5 times a week.  I know that if I say just 2 or 3, then I'll lose focus, hence the optimistic statistic.  I work much better when I have a set routine; I like to know what's happening when, and that means my weekdays should ideally follow a similar structure.  I'm also supposed to be eating porridge every morning in an attempt to have a healthy breakfast, but that's not really working.  More structure required!
  3. Live in an organised house, rather than organised chaos.  Reading the previous goal, you'd be forgiven for thinking that I live in an extremely organised house.  You wouldn't be the first to make that mistake.  My house is organised for approximately 20% of the time; at weekends I will often get a sudden but bursting urge to tidy, clean and sort out everything in sight.  This will tire me out so much, that the house will be neglected for the rest of the week.  So the plan is to do little and often.  We shall see.
  4. Carry out random acts of kindness.  This needs little explanation; I am quite good at remembering birthdays, anniversaries etc.  but I really would like to cheer people's days for no other reason other than genuine kindness.  Probably the most important of my goals this month.
  5. Stop slouching.  Must.  Stop.  Slouching.  On.  Sofa.  My sofa is the best sofa in existence if you want to lounge around, sleep, stretch out... but I need to learn that the desk is much more suitable for blogging and work, especially because I occasionally suffer from lower back pain.  That said, I am often quite lazy once I'm settled in a certain location, and am currently writing this post while stretched out on the sofa.  Not a great start.

Do you have any goals to share?  Please leave links and / or ideas below!

CC

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