My husband came home yesterday and said, “Well, they’ve worn off.”  Me:  “What are you talking about?”  His reply, “Attendance at the Y is back down to half of what it was on January 2.  The New Year’s resolutions have worn off.”

Already?!  Although I appreciate not having to wait for a treadmill, I’m always kind of sad to see that the solid goals that people set taper off so quickly.  It’s part of why I don’t really encourage clients to make New Year’s resolutions, but rather to set approachable goals throughout the year.  I hate to see folks set themselves up for disappointment.

This month, I decided to talk to one of my oldest and dearest friends about how she approached and got organized to achieve a huge goal.  Caroline Hensley is a wife, mother, middle school band director, and a 7-year breast cancer survivor.  We’ve known each other since we were both 18, and I know from personal experience that she’s a pretty organized and determined individual.  It didn’t really surprise me that roughly one year after finishing her treatment she decided to participate in her first Susan G. Komen 3-day event (that’s 60 miles of walking, for those of you who are not familiar).   Here’s our conversation…

SS:  How did you get inspired to participate in your first 3-day?

CH:  My cousin did the 3-day in Boston the year I was diagnosed.  We are very close, and she wanted to participate because she felt there was nothing else she could do for me to support me during my treatment (she lives in Rhode Island, and I’m in Tennessee).  She wanted to raise money and try to help out in that way.  At that point I didn’t even understand the magnitude of the event, but we had kind of joked around about doing it together sometime.  Within the next year I said to her, “Why don’t we just meet and do it together in Washington DC?”  That was in 2008.  I was initially scared to commit, but also didn’t want to shy away from the challenge.

SS:  How did you approach and plan your training schedule?

CH:  Komen helps you with that.  First of all if you’re going to do it and you have been in treatment you must be cleared by your doctor before you sign up.  They obviously don’t want you to do anything that might be harmful.  Once you clear that hurdle there is a training schedule they give that tells you how much to walk, rest, etc.   They also provide support and training suggestions. The weekends are when you do the longest walks.

SS:  What would you say was biggest organizational or time planning challenge in getting ready for the event?

CH:  Committing the time on weekends.  If you’re going to walk 12 or 15 miles, you will be away from home for a considerable chunk of time, and really, no one wants to do it with you.    You have to get your head in the right place and be ready to leave your family for the day.  To get through it I listened to music, and a lot of times I would take my cell phone and call people.

SS:  Yes, I remember you calling me some during those times.

CH:  It’s a commitment not just on the part of the person doing it, but their support system as well.  My husband had to be on board because there were all those Saturdays he provided childcare for our daughter.  That was a biggie.   I also have a walking friend in the neighborhood who did some training with me.  There’s a certain amount of thinking “Can I really walk 15 miles today?”, and having a friend or family member assure you that it’s possible helps.

SS:  Were you into fitness before?

CH:  As far as walking goes, yes.  That’s my sport.  It was natural for me to pick something that worked with what I already knew.  If it had been “Swimming for the Cure” I probably wouldn’t have done it.  It was a lucky fit for me.

SS:  Let’s segue over to fundraising – how did you set your goal?

CH:  Komen sets the goal for you.  It started at $2000 the first year I did it (SS: as of this writing, the goal is $2300), and they have all kinds of ideas about how to handle the fundraising.  I never posted or sold things –really, my biggest success was through sending letters and emails to friends and family with links to the fundraising website.  I think in many ways I was more organized with the fundraising than with the actual training.

SS:  How many events have you participated in to date?

CH:  For walking years –  Washington, DC., Boston,  and Tampa.  Crewing years, – Atlanta and Tampa.  Crewing includes helping out with a variety of camp services such as handing out towels, setting up, watching lost and found, and serving meals.  When you crew there is no fundraising requirement.

SS:  What’s next for you?

CH:  I’ve taken a little time off just to take a breather, but I definitely want to do a walk again.  The date and location is up in the air right now.  Depending upon her interest, I would love for my daughter to do one with me someday.

SS: What advice do you have for other survivors who might be considering an event?

CH:  Do it!  It builds confidence after you’ve been at a low point and you aren’t sure if things will ever be the same.  Organizationally, you have to have your head squared away.  You have to organize your mind.  You have to think, do I have the time?  Do I have the support?  There are resources on the Komen site that can help with support – for example, they have the “3-day Friend Finder” where you can indicate where you live and if other people are training in your area.

SS: And what about finding the time?

CH:  I tell my students this a lot:  you have to find reasons why you can do something, as opposed to reasons why you can’t.

Caroline’s story serves not to make any of us feel discouraged at this time of year, but rather to inspire and instruct us about how to plan and execute any ambition.   From the initial spark of interest through to the end of the goal, you have to plan your work and work your plan.  You certainly don’t have to jump into a full 3-day event – there are races, events and walks for all types of cancer, so you can choose something that fits you.

This month’s Approachable Challenge:  Find an event in your community this year, and a way to participate.  Whether you volunteer, donate, or commit to a full race, you can feel good about your contribution knowing that it’s healthy and helps others.  One fun event to try:  The Celebrate Survivors 5K in Nashville, August 2, 2014.  For more information, go to http://www.survivorsconvention.com/survivors-5k-run.asp.

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Sara S. Skillen is a Certified Professional Organizer®, speaker, blogger, and the founder of SkillSet Organizing based in Nashville, TN. Specializing in situational disorganization, she offers highly individualized organizing and productivity solutions to help clients thrive in a distracting world. Sara is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), currently serves as the chair of NAPO’s Awards & Recognition Committee, a NAPO Ambassador for Tennessee, and is also an Evernote Certified Consultant. A former educator, musician and paralegal, she is also a wife, mother of two, Labrador Retriever-lover, and serial list-maker.

Read more about her at www.skillsetorganizing.com.