Grad School Goal-Setting

Photo by @gradlifemcgill instagrammer @aleksbud

Photo by @gradlifemcgill instagrammer @aleksbud

The new year is almost upon us, and that means it’s almost time to create new year’s resolutions to bring with us into the beginning of January and the following 12 months. Many of us create these goals – exercise more, eat healthier, be happier, submit your thesis – but what is the difference between goals which are achieved and those which are not?

When setting goals, it’s important to set SMART goals. That not only means that the goals should be “intelligent” in the classic sense, but should also follow the acronym: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Following these guidelines will help you formulate and follow a specific plan, and get you on track to making lifestyle or other necessary changes to accomplish your new year’s resolutions.

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Waiting for Midnight

1.5

The year may change and so might the setting, but those final moments leading up to midnight always feel the same. The champagne cork will pop soon, and the clock will shove December and the last twelve months aside. We wait in anticipation to welcome a year that’s new – a set of four digits we are not yet used to writing out. The countdown to midnight always comes with a whole lot of excitement and a little bit of angst. It is a chance to start fresh, but it also comes with some pressure to think ahead, to set new goals, to better ourselves and change all those little pesky things about our lives that we wish we could change! Who knows what the year will bring. That is the beauty and the scariness of life, after all…

When I welcomed 2013, I wished for a whole lot, like any ambitious, hopeful person would! I wished to surprise myself with my progress in my PhD work and be successful, even (and especially) outside of my comfort zone. I wished to cherish simplicity and beauty, and to recognize those important moments in time, before they become memories. I hoped to be able to dwell less on what is not absolutely crucial and to worry less (which, I admit, is easier said than done). I vowed to make more time for family and for people I care most about. It was also important to me to make time for new creative projects and for passions that add to who I am – and who I wish to become. I wanted to write plenty, travel plenty, cook plenty, photograph plenty, and love plenty.

Looking back, 2013 turned out to be a great year.

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366

Last year at precisely this time, I spent a couple of days reflecting on the year that had passed – a big year that held many happy moments, opportunities seized, travels to brand new corners of the world, but also many challenging obstacles and lessons learned. Then, looking forward, I conjured up a list of all I hoped 2012 would bring – kind of like New Year’s Resolutions but, errr, 21 of them (ambitious, aren’t I?). I shared these with you in a post at the start of the year: http://blogs.mcgill.ca/gradlife/2012/01/12/a-year-that%E2%80%99s-new-4-thoughts-moments-lessons-hopes/.

Although I kept these wishes or resolutions in mind throughout the last twelve months, I actually didn’t re-read the post until just a couple of days ago. When I did, I was happily surprised that I could indeed check off all of these bullets, and that what had seemed to be a random list of wishes actually turned out to be a recipe for a successful, balanced and wonderful year.

One of the common themes in my list of hopes was the need to make room in my days for balance and creativity, with the aim of achieving (or holding onto) carefreeness, peace of mind, and stable health. Every day of the year, I made a conscious effort to make time for my hobbies, make time for my friends and family, make time for ME, for the joys and inspirations of daily life, even if this meant that I devoted several hours to something other than my complex and time-consuming PhD work.

I read books for pleasure, watched movies and weird TV shows with my sci-fi-loving husband, spent weekends playing with my nephew, called my grandmothers more often, tagged on some extra days to conference-related trips so that I could have some time to unwind and explore, often doubled the time that making supper normally takes just so I experiment in my cooking, and took pictures – lots and lots of pictures – so that I would get into the habit of always searching for beauty and inspiration, even on the most ordinary days.

This photo project was one of my favorite resolutions for 2012. I created an album called “My 366 for 2012” and snapped at least one photo every day of this leap year. Some are not particularly good. Some are downright boring. Some days I was home and could not for the life of me find something worth photographing. But, in the end, this collection of snapshots helps me look back on all the moments that were captured, as well as all the moments in between.

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A year that’s new (4) : Thoughts, Moments, Lessons, Hopes

Hopes

That’s enough of looking back. Here’s to the year ahead – wide open and ready to be written. Full of hope and promise! Here are some of my wishes for 2012.

  • I hope that 2012 will bring only those challenges which are absolutely necessary, as 2011 brought enough challenges to last a while!
  • I hope to complain ONLY about what is really worth complaining about.
  • I hope for the year to be filled with new recipes, new adventures near or far, new memories with old friends, new research contacts and new developments in my projects.
  • I hope for a super productive year where I am filled with energy and able to accomplish a LOT in my work. (more…)

A year that’s new (3) : Thoughts, Moments, Lessons, Hopes

Lessons

A year is a collection of moments — both good and not-so-good — and, hopefully, a collection of lessons. I think it’s when you stop to reflect on them, or even jot them down, when you best realize all that you’ve gained in a short period of time. Here are some of the lessons 2011 taught me – perhaps not ground-breaking ones, but simple realizations I’ll carry with me to the new year.

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A year that’s new (2): Thoughts, Moments, Lessons, Hopes

Moments

Just like every year, when 2011 began, I had no idea what it had in store for me, and for all of us. I have to say that, this holiday season, I was quite excited to let 2011 slip on by and was ready to welcome 2012 with open arms. It wouldn’t be fair to say that it was a bad year (although I must admit, I have said it a few times already!) but it certainly was an eventful year — both in a truly positive and truly negative sense. I’ve had a couple of big, eventful years in my life so far, but 2011 was by far the most up and down year ever – with very high ups and very low downs.

The past twelve months have held the biggest challenges, scariest experiences and most-eye opening realizations ever. It was a year that shook me up intensely, probably just to see how well I could still stand, in the end. It pushed me in hard ways to change my perspective, and to somehow find a balance between changing and growing, yet staying fundamentally the same. It brought along the most amazing triumph I’ve accomplished in my academic life to date, and the sweetest experience of discovering how much joy a tiny baby can bring to our personal lives. It gave me awe-inspiring and absolutely memorable travel adventures that I would not have experienced if it weren’t for my academic career, and for that I am incredibly grateful. It forced me to find a balance between health, PhD work, family and my passions – writing and photography – and to discover, sometimes through intense hurt and disappointment, which people in my life are here to stay, and which relationships are simply not meant to be, for one reason or another, as much as you want them to be. It renewed my faith in second (and third, and fourth) chances, yet broke that faith as well. It brought many smiles and moments of pride and confidence, yet many tears and moments of sheer doubt and hopelessness. It also made me realize that this is probably just the beginning of such up-and-down years — we’re growing up, after all, and life is bound to get more and more complex, throwing fast-balls and curve-balls that we may never be ready for, but still have to catch somehow.

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