Heather Tomko on Goal-Setting for the New Year

Heather Tomko, Ms. Wheelchair USA 2018, shares her tips for starting 2019 strong. Thank you to Heather for contributing to Cure SMA’s Start 2019 Strong initiative!

I’m not traditionally a big “New Year’s Resolutions” type of person. I don’t know exactly what it is – maybe it’s partially the fact that I don’t like to fail, and I know that resolutions often don’t stick? Whatever the reason, I’ve never written out a list on January 1 of what I want to change in my life over the next year.

I am, however, a goal-maker. And I think there is something to be said for the rush of motivation that a new year can bring. It’s the same rush that I get in September, when a new school year starts – the feeling of a fresh start, a new beginning. And I think it’s smart to take advantage of that while you can! It’s so much easier to get things done when you have motivation and don’t need to force it.

2018 was a really big year for me, and I don’t want to lose that momentum in 2019. I entered in, and won, the Ms. Wheelchair USA pageant, I celebrated one year of blogging at The Heather Report, I was awarded the Dick Thornburgh Disability Service Award, and started my own advocacy organization, Accessible YOUniverse.

I learned a lot about goal-setting and achieving last year, too. The most important thing that I learned? Start small, but dream big.

Most, if not all, of the things that I accomplished in 2018 weren’t even a blip on my radar on January 1. But when I found out about each of them, I let myself dream big, and said yes. And then that’s where start small comes in. I’m a big list-maker, so I write down each and every little thing that I need to do. It feels SO good to be able to cross things off my list, and helps me to see things adding up and getting done. Writing each and every blog post might seem hard some days, when it’s cold and dark out and I feel like I have nothing to say, but they do add up and before I knew it, I had already been blogging for a year. Participating in a pageant can seem overwhelming, but it’s all about the smaller deadlines, and just making sure you’re keeping on track little by little. Focus on the details, and getting each one of those done – don’t focus on everything that’s left to do, or else you’ll feel overwhelmed really, really quickly.

I think sometimes, too, you have to just take a leap, even if you feel like you’re not fully prepared. No one is ever fully prepared for everything that they do, and that’s ok! Did I feel ready to launch my own organization? Absolutely not! I still don’t feel completely ready – there’s always more to do and to learn. But sometimes you just have to trust your gut and take that leap to be able to move forward and succeed. You have to be okay with, and even accept, the unknowns, and trust that you can figure it out on the way.

Don’t be afraid! But don’t go into things blindly, either. Once you have a goal, chip away at it little by little, and use each small success as a stepping stone to bigger things.

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