Littles, Bigger!


I’m no genius. I don’t have the answers to life’s most pressing questions (Who does?). But I do know what matters to me, what I believe, and where my boundaries are in pursuit of those things.

If you have followed me recently, you know that I’ve been battling some serious writer’s block. For like a month and a half. I’ll know I’ve moved past this when I’m sitting somewhere else doing something else … and, in the most inconvenient sort of way, feel compelled to put my voice out into the world on something bizarrely specific. That’s usually how my posts get started.

In the interest of getting back to that spot, I’ve spent the last week or so trying to quiet my mind. A quiet, peaceful mind is almost always a suitable starting place for ideas. So here we are. Welcome to Phase II of Mission: Overcome this Nonsense. 

Let me tell you, overcoming writer’s block is hard. It’s hard in all the busy-ness. And it’s also hard because I know I’m at least halfway to blame for some of the situations that have me frustrated. For one, I’m usually too patient with other people and not patient enough with myself. If only I had learned to balance those things earlier  … and meanwhile, thank God for reminders to keep trying.


When I feel stuck, or blocked, or anything like that, the first place I go is my planner. I would be lost without it. Here’s why:

My planner is my pulse on life. This means what’s been done, what will be done, and what I should probably be doing right now. Sometimes, that’s blogging, but today it’s laundry. Which is why I’m blogging instead. We all need a break from chores from time to time.

My planner also keeps me calm, motivated and on-track. When I am working on something difficult, or ambitious, or that might take a long time, I put it in my planner. I also use it to see what goals I set for myself in the future. Or to see what I’ve accomplished for ongoing projects. Or to figure out all the stuff in the middle – the stuff that’s more present (but which, sometimes, doesn’t feel like a gift at all – cough writer’s block cough).

Finally, in the process, my planner reminds me that I am an intelligent and capable woman, so I should empower myself to make changes. I’m not Cinderella. I don’t need a Fairy Godmother. I’m perfectly able to get myself un-stuck, un-blocked, un-frustrated, un-anything, in the direction of just about any something.

Where did I say I wanted to be? Why? How and by when? I just have to reevaluate what I set out to do, consider whether my current path gets me there, and sometimes (well, mostofthetimes) make adjustments to help myself along the way.

Adjustments like resetting boundaries. Here I ask myself, what am I willing to do or endure to achieve the goal I wanted? Renegotiate terms and you might start to feel better already.

Adjustments like resetting approaches. Here I ask myself, if being stuck isn’t a result of boundary definition (or lack thereof), then are there other ways to see the project or problem at hand? It should be noted that having another person at this step can be really helpful!

Adjustments like resetting goals. Yes, you read that right. Sometimes, it’s not just the approach or the boundaries that need a hard reset. Sometimes, it’s about the thing you were aiming toward to begin with. Was the goal a representation of your honest self and where that person wanted to go? Where that person is capable of going?

In the rare occasion that I reset a goal in its entirety, it’s usually because I’ve failed to meet one of my own qualifications. I’ve either been inauthentic or set the bar too low. There it is. In probably the millionth “duh, Ryan” moment anyone who reads this blog will experience, I think I just got somewhere.

I set the bar too low. 

Last year, for my blog and undoubtedly for my life, I set the bar too low. Don’t get me wrong. I set out to do a lot of meaningful things. The only trouble is, I achieved them earlier than I thought and failed to make new plans fast enough to prevent frustration.  Of course, I might also have saved myself the trouble and aimed higher to begin with. Bless my heart.


Goal 1: Find a New Job

Last year, I re-relocated to NYC after a five year hiatus. How the hell did so much time pass so quickly? Either way, in that time, I had a lot of interesting jobs. Some were better than others, but the last one was truly incredible. Like, crying when I left because it was so incredible, incredible. Like, less a job and more a life being left behind incredible.

As a result, when I moved back here, my immediate career ambition essentially started and ended with “Find a New Job”  (I had some specific requirements, don’t worry!). I thought this might take me months – as in six plus. It took me a lot less time than that to land somewhere pretty awesome. And while I am beyond grateful for that good fortune, I realize now that aiming for an immediate solution got me an immediate solution. Rookie mistake. Thank God for a strong mission I can connect to!

Goal 2: Find “Home”

Ok, so in fairness, this goal was actually not that easy, and took a fair amount of time. But with a lot of effort invested after my 9-5, I got there. In my universe, there are loads of quiet hours at home for this coming-to-terms-with-yet-another-move project.

But come now, was I really supposed to just find “home?” What about everything that comes after that? What about the other beautiful parts of life that come with it? Yep, busted again.

Goal 3: Write

This blog, the end.

As we all know, it’s not that simple. My big failure here was in neglecting to attach a goal to the imperative, “write.” At the beginning, I was waiting to see where my other goals would go in order to set this one. That was short-sighted.

If my goal was simply “write,” I achieved that after the first post. Clearly that wasn’t it, because I kept writing. Third time’s the … well, at least it’s making the point.

Set the bar low and the probability of getting those results, exactly as you set out to accomplish, is high. Which, of course, has several meanings. Not again. I will not consciously set low-bar goals for myself ever again. And that’s not a goal, it’s a promise.


A lot of my time during the day is spent thinking about, writing about and speaking about metrics, and the outcomes they are designed to measure. This has been the case in just about every job I’ve ever had.

What a shame, then, that I’ve been so delayed in applying the same logic to myself. I can dream bigger, plan bigger, do bigger things. What the devil am I waiting for? I have my planner and myself. That’s all I ever really needed.

See you there,

Ryan Vale McGonigle 

P.S. Because I took a picture, I should mention that I’ve lived by my Passion Planner for almost three years. It’s not for everyone, but then again, neither am I. My #PASHFAM gets it.

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