very colorful dream board

Reinventing Resolutions: A Road Map to Your Desires

Thick snowflakes are lazily making their way to the ground outside my window here in Montreal. It’s January, yet again. That means that a whole new year lies in front of us, its pages as blank and clear as the snow-covered sidewalks outside. With the start of 2019 come promises of grandeur; weight to lose, marathons to run, personalities to improve. For interpreters specifically, we’re talking languages to learn, classes to take and certification tests to pass.

However, New Year’s resolutions have a bit of a bad rap. According to US News, 80% of us will stop trying by February! We’ll slip on our diet, skip out on our classes, and suddenly we’ll be back in our same old rut, grandiose plans be darned. So, you may ask, why bother with resolutions at all?

Well, usually the problem is that people make their goals too vague and unrealistic. For example, take the decision to “be a nicer person.” Okay, but how? You need a plan for when the driver ahead of you cuts you off and gives you the finger. Otherwise, your well-intentioned goal of being a nice person won’t help you very much. Or consider this goal: “I’ll pass my certification test this summer.” That’s a perfectly admirable goal, as long as you’re willing to commit hours and hours to study. If not, it’s simply unrealistic.

Personally, I’ve always liked New Year’s resolutions. I love the idea that we can start fresh, evaluate how far we’ve come, and play a part in where our journey will lead. Resolutions can fail, but they don’t have to. The more you reflect on your desires, and the more realistic your plans to achieve them, the more success you’ll have along the way. So, let’s pave the way to success and build a roadmap to achieving our interpreting goals!

Step 1: Unleash your desires

            This is the brainstorming moment, the moment when you can bring your daydreams to light. What are your dreams?  What are your fantasies? Perhaps you want to work in federal court one day or translate a novel. Maybe you want to work for the United Nations. Reserve yourself a couple hours, alone or with friends, and let your imagination fly with whichever medium you prefer. If you’re a writer, write your intentions down. If you’re a painter, paint them. If you feel like it, turn your desires into a collage! Every year I make a vision board, cutting out pictures and words from magazines and turning them into an inspirational work of art for my wall. Yes, it sounded like the corniest thing ever when I first heard about it, but now I can’t start a new year without it. This is our moment to dream big!

Step 2: Harness your desiresopen notebook, hands holding a pen ready to write on it

            You’ve just dreamt big, and that’s great, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Now that you’ve had a chance to unleash the power of your desires, it’s time to pick one, realistic goal for the year. Just one! And don’t say, “become a better interpreter.” That’s way too vague. When you harness your desires, you should follow the SMART criteria: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. For example, one of my goals for this year is: Interpret a five-minute intermediate Speechpool speech into French with fewer than 5 grammatical errors by April. This is specific. I can measure it (count the errors) and it’s achievable (I hope! Otherwise, no worries, I’ll just have to readjust). It’s certainly relevant, and I’ve made a deadline so it’s time-bound. You can do the same, and the process will force you to consider whether your goal makes sense for you or if you should pick a different one.

Step 3: Pave the road to your desires

            Now that you’ve set a specific goal, you need to think carefully about how you will get there. Sometimes this means you have to reconsider step 2; if you want to pass a certification test but have no time to study, you’ll need to give yourself a simpler goal or allow yourself more time. Here, too, you need to be realistic. In order to achieve my personal goal, I’d love it if I could study French three hours a day, but I know that I would fail before I’ve even begun. Your “road” needs to be drivable. The better your plan is, the more chance you’ll have of avoiding that February 80% drop off! Think about what you can do regularly to work toward your goal, and take steps to achieve that now. Also, think about how you will avoid obstacles. You will have fear and self-doubt. Life and family will get in the way. What will keep you going? How can you motivate yourself? I have an outrageous number of motivational post-its on my wall, and a sticker chart on my refrigerator because I’m a nerd. When I meet milestones along the way, I’ll reward myself. You should, too.

            So, there you have it! Some thoughts on turning 2019 into a year that you continue this awesome journey of yours, and you tweak it toward wherever you want to go. Don’t forget that there will be ups and downs, and your Desire Plan may take some rearranging. That’s not called failure; it’s called life. Good luck!

Portrait of Athena MatilskyAthena Matilsky fell in love with Spanish the year she turned 16. She chose it as her major at Rutgers University and selected a focus in translation and interpreting. After graduation, she taught elementary school in Honduras and then returned home to begin freelancing as a medical and court interpreter. She has since achieved certifications as a Healthcare Interpreter and a Federal Court Interpreter. She was the recent editor-in-chief of Proteus. Currently, she works as a freelance interpreter/translator and trains candidates privately for the state and federal interpreting exams. When she is not writing or interpreting, you may find her practicing acro-yoga or studying French. Website:

4 thoughts on “Reinventing Resolutions: A Road Map to Your Desires”

  1. Maria E. de Villiers says:

    Dear Athena,
    A very empowering and uplifting essay! You’ve done a fantastic job at sharing with us how to unleash our desires and make them realistic, attainable and fun achievements. Thank you Athena! May you have a wonderful and fulfilling 2019, and may you reach all your dreams!

  2. Carmen Mustile says:

    Yes, I want to have a goal too this year. I like to contribute a 5 minute simultaneous interpretation and posted on Speechpool. But first I need to commit to understand how it works. Thank you posting, your approach to goal setting is inspiring.

  3. Catherine Shaklee says:

    Great article Athena! Thank you for inspiring us!!!

  4. Bashir Nefzawy says:

    Thanks Athena! really inspiring: very useful tips indeed !,

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