Board member blog post: Setting goals for 2016

megan_sweasBy Megan Sweas, JAWS Board Member

I have never been one for New Year’s resolutions. Eat better and work out more; make new friends and spend time with loved ones; read more and write more; gain more Twitter followers — and spend less time on social media. Our goals for personal and professional improvement can seem to me to be overwhelming, sometimes contradictory and let’s face it, unachievable without a few extra hours a day. Add “Become more efficient and waste less time” to the list!

At the same time, it’s important to reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re going. The opportunity to do so first drew me to JAWS’ Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP) in 2010. I was ready to move on from my first journalism job and not sure what to do next. JAWS helped me find my path first to grad school, then to freelancing and writing a book — which had always been my answer to the “Where do you want to be in 10 years?” question.

Once you’ve achieved that 10-year goal, what’s next? This question was perhaps my main motivation for reaching out to Debra Eckerling, a trained journalist, blogger, editor and a writing/goal-setting coach, last year. Together we planned a goal-setting workshop for SoCal JAWS for January 2015. We’re hosting our second annual workshop with Debra on Jan. 26, 2016.

I learned from Debra not to think of goals as generic platitudes to self-improvement that we dump on ourselves once a year, only to get frustrated and quit by February. She asked us to write our vision of ourselves at the end of the year, and then to break that vision down into smaller steps that we can achieve over time.

Of course, this is easier said than done.

Soon after our event I was sidetracked from my goal, writing for a large national publication (that doesn’t exclusively cover religion, my specialization): I got a job. Before I knew it, it was June, and my notes from the goal-setting workshop were still sitting in a pile on the side of my desk.

I’m not complaining, but as I look back on 2015, I’ve realized two things. One, life happens, and it’s OK if priorities change or goals are put aside. But two, reflecting on goals is still useful. Having a vision of where I want to go, for instance, helped me evaluate the job offer and decide that it eventually could help me achieve my goal.

I still might not like New Year’s resolutions, but I’m looking forward to hearing Debra again this year and getting refocused on some more immediate goals.

How might JAWS help you with your goals in 2016? Here are some ideas:

  • Attend a JAWS regional gathering to make new connections. (Find your regional group here, and if you’re not on the site, contact me to find out how to start a group).
  • Want to learn about a new topic/skill? Recruit an expert to lead a regional training.
  • Use the member directory to look up somebody you want to meet.
  • Share an accomplishment on the listserv.
  • Sign up to have or become a mentor.
  • Plan to attend JAWS CAMP in Roanoke, Va., October 28-30 to network and learn new skills.
  • Think about leadership roles with JAWS that might interest you.