Let’s Talk About Evolving Goals (Project 5)

There’s something so pure about the feeling of completing a goal you set. Not only do you have the satisfaction of completing whatever task you laid out in front of yourself, but it actually can increase your confidence and make you more likely to complete future goals. But when your goal keeps changing, are there different rules?

First, we have to ask why the goal is being changed? If you’re lowering it to something more attainable, then you’re not changing it, you’re settling. Or maybe you’re setting an intermediary goal to work towards what you actually want.

Changing your goal, on the other hand, shows that you’re internalizing it. You’re taking active steps and saying “Wait, wouldn’t it be better if I ____?” It shows self-awareness and evaluating what’s actually important to you.

Evolving goals are completely normal and healthy. I challenge you to look at goals you’ve set and haven’t worked on and ask yourself why you’re not actively working towards them. Do you need intermediary goals or are you just not interested in the goal you set?

My Evolving Goal

This was something I realized recently. I’ve always been in the habit of creating larger-than-life goals and telling myself that it wasn’t the right time to work on certain goals. I didn’t realize it was a sign.

You may have noticed Project 5 has been a little, well, quiet. Besides posting the project topic, it doesn’t seem like I’ve worked on actually writing a book. Abbey and I had this fantastic story, but putting words to paper was something both of us put off.

But we had the outlines of the book – it was a mystery novel. It had the twists and the turns. We planned out the characters and the settings meticulously. It was something we were interested in. But when it came to writing, we had no interest.

I think it’s because neither of us actually want to write a book. At least not at this point in our lives anyway. But we knew we had a story we wanted to see come to life.

I’ve mentioned before that Abbey and I are big fans of the Nancy Drew games. They’re essentially virtual escape rooms, filled with puzzles and clues. We’ve played so many, we’ve begun to recognize patterns in puzzle making. That’s when I realized that that was a way to express our story: making a game.

Everything clicked and fell into place. That’s what we’d do, we’d make a mystery game out of this story. We’d build puzzles and create dialogue and make a playable game. Who knows what form the game takes? Video game, board game, murder mystery party. It’s all something we would actually want to try. Also, wouldn’t it be fun for me to share some of the puzzles with you guys as we make them?

So with that, we have an evolved goal. I’m curious if other people think this way about goals, have you ever changed a goal you’ve had? If so, how did it turn out? I’m really interested if evolving goals have a higher success rate.

Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

My First Attempt at Calligraphy

This week, I received all my calligraphy supplies for Project 7! There’s no better way to decompress after finishing a massive task than to get a little creative, so upon finishing our law journal writing competition, we decided to blindly test the materials.

The Materials

I chose this set from Amazon (not sponsored!). After redeeming a coupon, the set went from $15 to $9. The set included one pen, eleven nibs, and some ink. While I don’t have anything to compare it to, I did like the pen and thought it was easy to use.

Without any instruction whatsoever, I blindly tested the nibs. Each one is different in both shape and size. Some have a pointier tip where others create a brush effect by a flatter edge. Some also are longer than others, I have yet to figure out what the effect of that is. Here’s what each of the nibs looked like:

As I was using the pen, I realized it was easier to use than I expected. The ink was easily controlled by the nib which surprised me. I thought using a calligraphy pen would be like writing with a needle – scraping the paper. But it really wasn’t. It felt just as natural as any other pen.

I Tried My Best…

From there, I decided to try writing a little bit of print and a little bit of script. I didn’t look up any sort of instructions – I wanted to start at the absolute beginning. While I will learn actual technique, I just wanted to mess around. I’m hoping that as I get better, I can look back on where I started and see some progress.

I also made a time lapse of my first attempt. (Yes, I did have to set up an Instagram just to post this, expect more content there in the future!). Check it out:

All in all, I was not disappointed. I expected more smudging, but I was careful not to overload the pen with ink. I’ve always had decent handwriting, but I’m looking forward to learning calligraphy fonts. I know consistency is the most important part and my handwriting has never been very consistent.

…And Then My Boyfriend Blew Me Out of the Water

My boyfriend also gave it a go. He might have been the underdog being a lefty, but he was able to pull together something very impressive. He’s always been a bit snotty about his pens, always using only a certain kind of pen because he liked the way the ink flowed. Before trying the calligraphy pen, he was already an accomplished doodler. Here’s some of his older stuff using normal roller-ball pens:

Needless to say, he couldn’t wait to get the calligraphy pen in his hands. He managed to make this on his first go:

(To see a time lapse of his work, check out the second slide in the Instagram post above!)

He also had an absolute blast. I made the executive decision to leave the calligraphy materials at his house so he could dabble whenever he wanted.

I’m excited to take on this project and I can’t wait to get into the real stuff! Playing around was fun – but now it’s time to craft an actual skill. We’re looking forward to both learning more and discovering a new world we know nothing about.

How’d we do? Share your thoughts with us down in the comments below!

Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

The Importance of Being Competitive with Yourself

Hello again! I know I’ve been gone for a while – which is a little ironic seeing as my last few posts included gems like What I Learned from Blogging Every Day and Four Reasons Why Taking a Break Can Boost Your Productivity.

The Writing Competition

I’ve been away working on my law journal writing competition. What started as a three-week chance to earn a spot on a law journal at my school turned into one of the most stressful experiences in recent memory. Something kicked into high gear and I just wanted to compete. As someone who is usually low stress and hardly ever feels competitive, this was a strange shift. One I definitely wasn’t prepared for.

Now, I’m not allowed to talk about the specifics of the competition, but what I can say is that it was hard. The topic, in my opinion, was very difficult. I spent two of the three weeks just trying to understand the material, not a single word written.

Finding the Competitive Spirit

Something happened while I was competing and every ounce of my body just wanted to win. So much so, that I (safely) went home to stay with my parents – abandoning my boyfriend who was also competing – just to completely focus. I kicked all other distractions out of my life, including this blog.

It was a roller coaster of emotions, but I got through it. In the end, I turned in what I thought was a really strong effort. But honestly, even if I don’t make it, I’ve found peace. I forgot that while I make an effort to better myself in my personal life, I’m often complacent in my academic life. Being the best in the class has never been important to me (that’s why I started a project trying to do it, I wanted to see if I could motivate myself to compete). I’m excited that I’ve found that drive to compete.

Maybe it’s a byproduct of this blog – because since starting this journey I’ve just wanted more for myself. Not handouts, but I wanted to earn every bit of satisfaction. Finding competition has been one of the most fulfilling experiences and I’m really glad these weeks of mental burnout and suffering are over. I’m even more glad I came out on top.

The Validation

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, this morning I received my grades for the motion I wrote. It was the only other thing I slaved over, and I slaved over it because it was a part of my project. The grade came back and I was way above the average. Pushing hard and competing against yourself does pay off.

Do you compete against yourself? Do you find this practice healthy? I’d love to hear any and all thoughts down below!

Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

Four Reasons Why Taking a Break Can Boost Your Productivity

As someone who is always working on projects and posting about them every day, I can understand why people think I’m more productive than most. But I’m not. To be honest, I’m probably less productive than you think. It’s all about time management. I’m an adamant believer in working smarter, not harder.

I’ve been in rigorous academic environments for a while now and one thing I notice, especially in law school, is that so often people incorrectly equate working more with doing more. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

There is so much danger in working until you drop. That “grind mentality” leads to much less success than little progress every day. We need breaks. Breaks can be anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple of days. Sometimes, taking more time off is critical. Allow me to explain:

1. Breaks Allow Your Mind To Reset

“Just sleep on it!” It’s a phrase we’ve all said, the concept of waiting to make a decision until the morning when you’re all fresh. Sometimes, though, we need to “sleep on it” in the middle of the day. Think of it as restarting a computer. When your computer is moving slow, you reboot it and there, it’s fine again!

Taking a break allows your mind to look for new solutions by looking at it with fresh eyes. You’re looking at your problem in a whole new light, right? Not quite. In difficult and nuanced situations, your brain has likely been processing your problem all along. According to a theory proposed in 2006, called Unconscious Thought Theory, your unconscious mind helps you make better decisions for these issues:

[C]ontrary to popular belief, decisions about simple issues can be better tackled by conscious thought, whereas decisions about complex matters can be better approached with unconscious thought.

A Theory of Unconscious Thought, Ap Dijksterhuis and Loran Nordgren, 2006

You can read the full paper here.

2. You Can Compartmentalize Your Work

I’m notorious for this one. If I’ve got two assignments due, I only work on the one that’s due first. I won’t even touch the second one until the first is done.

This is a useful technique for the same reasons as above. You’re keeping yourself exposed to only one problem at a time. Cranking out assignment 1 and taking a long break before assignment 2 allows your brain get ready for a new topic.

Psychologist Jordan Peterson argues that getting small tasks done can keep us motivated to keep moving and that these small changes make a big impact in our lives. It’s powerful stuff. It’s a bit more motivational than concrete evidence of compartmentalizing, but if you’re interested, you can listen in yourself here.

3. The Longer You Work, The Less You’ll Accomplish

This is the law of diminishing returns. Eventually you’ll hit a point where the more effort you put into something, say studying, the less you’ll retain. That first hour of working on something is primary real estate. Measuring out the wood you’ll cut to make furniture, chopping all the vegetables for a soup. Whatever it may be, there eventually comes a point where your brain just won’t get much more.

While I could explain more on this topic, I think it’s best summarized by a Ted Talk my boyfriend sent me last night. Go ahead, watch this for yourself. You may be surprised:

4. You’ll Probably Be Happier Doing Your Work After Taking Breaks

Scaling back can be invaluable. It’s common knowledge since burning out doesn’t feel good. But happiness can boost productivity (check out this academic paper from the University of Warwick about work environments and productivity).

It’s exemplifies why those who have the “grind mentality” might not get as much done in a day. One social media hustler, Gary Vaynerchuk, consistently advocates for working until you can’t any more. A real-estate investor, Graham Stephan, took the opportunity to explain exactly why this mentality doesn’t work for everyone – and why it didn’t work for him. I’m a big fan of this video because it promotes mental stability and also accomplishing big goals:

If you made it this far, I hope something has struck a chord that it’s okay to move slow. This method works well for me, but I want to know: what productivity tips do you have? Does this method work well for you?

Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

Another Big Announcement: Project 8

You thought yesterday’s news was exciting? I’m here with another new project! It’s finally a physical project, too. I’m going to run a 10k.

My (Not-So) Athletic Background

I’ve always been relatively in control of my general health and fitness. As a kid, I was a big softball player. All throughout college, I was a bit of a gym rat. I was never really obsessive, but I enjoyed working out. When I started law school, working out took a bit of a pause. A year long pause to be exact.

Even though I enjoyed working out, I’m not much of an athlete. Especially when it comes to running: my knees face slightly inward so I have a strange run. I also have asthma and feet that don’t quite fit properly into any shoe. On top of that, I’m really slow. I tend to interval run: walk x feet, run y feet, etc. My runs in college averaged around a 5k (3.1 miles).

Despite my quirks, I’ve always wanted to run races. Five years ago, during my freshman year of college, I tried to run a half marathon. Somewhere around 8-10 miles into my training, I got nasty shin splints and nixed the idea since I didn’t want to injure myself. Nothing more embarrassing than a freshman girl hobbling to her classes from a treadmill injury. Since then, I haven’t tried distance running.

But with the creation of this blog, I wanted to try a race again. I figured a 5k was a little too easy and with the next highest race being a 10k (6.2 miles), I thought it might be a good goal. To break out of my interval running, I want to try and do it in under 60 minutes.

My First 10k

Fast-forward to yesterday morning. It was time to kick myself into shape. I figured I’d try the 10k without any sort of training to establish a baseline. I’ve gone on maybe two other runs this month, both 5ks. Besides that, the lethargic quarantine lifestyle has kept me from any other workouts.

So at what might be the most out of shape of my life, I took to running the 10k. My goal was to just be under 2 hours. This is what happened:

Mile 1: There’s some nature reserves and parks near my home that I thought I’d run to. The problem is that they’re at the top of a 300-foot hill. So right at the start of my run I was met with elevation. Great. I didn’t even try to run it. At least I’d coast down it on the way back.

Mile 2 and 3: This is where your body just wants to stop. Hands down, these were the most difficult miles. At the end of mile 3, I made it to a lake which was a nice little spot for joggers. All of them waved hello.

Mile 4: I had now accepted my suffering. My hips started to lock a little, but knowing I was on my way back, I found my stride. I was surprised I had it in me since pretty much every other run in my life was done by this point.

Mile 5: I was so jaded at this point. I did coast down that hill, but it came at the cost of cramps on the right side of my body. Also, queue the nausea.

Mile 6-6.2: I made it to my boyfriend’s house with a tenth of a mile to go. I did little laps around the sidewalk of his place. I was pretty much crawling. I looked like an extra for The Walking Dead. But damn it, I did it.

I was proud to have done it. As a student, I’m constantly pushing my mental strength, but to know that I’ve become strong enough to control and push myself physically was really exciting. I think I might have caught the bug again.

But now for the part you’re all waiting for: my time. I clocked in at 1:41:10. I was so proud to have finished, I didn’t even care. I also saw a variety of factors that could be optimized: I was out-of-shape, it was so humid, it was muddy from rain the day before, my asthma kicked up, I didn’t know how to pace myself, etc. etc. I know that to improve by 41 minutes is insane, but I know I can do it.

It was just so gratifying to complete my first run. I know that I’ll continue to get better. Seeing my boyfriend’s face when I walked in, he was so proud of me. As a runner himself, he was excited to see me trying something he loved so much. That in and of itself made it all worth it. I asked him if he’d plan my runs, go on some with me, and be a running sensei to me. He agreed to all of them.

As if that wasn’t good enough, I did some research: the cutoff time for most 10k races is 1:30:00. That means if I were running at 10k for a race I wouldn’t have finished or gotten my medal. So yeah, there’s still some work to be done. And man am I hungry for it.

Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

Learning a New Skill: Calligraphy

Now that I’m on summer break, I thought it was the perfect time to introduce some new projects. I know, I know, I’ve got other ones to finish – and I will finish them – but I couldn’t help myself. I came up with some good ideas.

Coming Up with the Idea

I realized that none of my current projects are about learning a new skill. Sure, some involve cultivating a skill, but none of my projects start from ground zero. After stumbling across a video on YouTube, I knew exactly what I’d do: calligraphy.

I’ve been floating around the idea of doing an art project for a while now, but I had no idea what to do. I’m alright at drawing but I’m sometimes too left-brained to let my imagination run wild. I like all my art to look perfect. But that’s pretty much the goal of calligraphy, isn’t it? To make these perfect little sentences. Also, it’s something that with more practice, I’ll inevitably get better at. How satisfying to be able to share quantifiable progess!

The Game Plan and End Goals

So with this idea in mind, I took to the internet to figure out a game plan. I found Lettering Daily, a site dedicated solely to learning script. They offer tons of free printables and lessons so I thought that’d be a decent place to start. I also checked Skill Share and found the same tutorials used in that video I saw. I think I’ll start with one of those.

Once my research was done, I brainstormed my end goals. I don’t start projects around here unless there’s a clear end goal so I can concretely say I finished a project. I think this one has two clear goals:

  • Learn five fonts: This requires me to learn different styles which I think can give me a broader understanding of calligraphy in general. Also, between five fonts, there’ll probably be at least one I’m good at… right?
  • Do calligraphy for someone else: Envelopes, weddings, anywhere that needs calligraphy. The test of how good I am is if someone else is willing to display it. It doesn’t have to be paid, just knowing in my hear that I learned a new skill seems to be enough.

Getting the Supplies

With high hopes, last night I set out for the stores to buy my calligraphy pen, ink, some paper, and of course the nibs. Unfortunately, I had no luck finding calligraphy supplies but I wasn’t going to let my artistic flame die. Instead my boyfriend and I got distracted and bought a coloring book. And well, this happened:

Oops.

Anyway, if any of you know anything about calligraphy or have tried it before, do you have any advice for me? Anything you’d like to see me write or try?

Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads