Last year I wasted a lot of time and effort setting yearly, monthly, and weekly writing goals. I read lots of articles on goal-setting, most of which repeated the same basic, sensible advice:
- Set realistic-but-not-easy goals
- Begin with your Big Goal and then break it down into sub-goals and sub-sub-goals so you won’t feel overwhelmed.
- Track your progress and make adjustments where needed.
Why sensible? Because it seems to make sense, right?
Then why is my success rate so appalling? Why didn’t I achieve more of those detailed, reasonably-difficult goals? They’re intuitive and sensible, right?
For me, not so much.
It’s a mistake to assume that, like a magic bullet or a secret handshake, one method of achieving goals works well for everyone: extroverts and introverts, plotters and pantsers, visual learners and auditory learners and kinesthetic learners, lefties and righties and OMG what about the ambidextrous?
There are a number of reasons the above method doesn’t work for me. I’m an analytical thinker, a left-brainer. Give me something to analyze (say, a Big Goal) and I’ll spend days breaking it down into miniscule chunks of future achievement. Analyzing gives me the illusion of control and an excuse to procrastinate rather than Do the Work.
Never forget that writing is the most dangerous profession. Words are important and risky and scary.
Doing the work requires me to anesthetize my analytical right brain and turn loose the creative left side of my noggin. Who knows how much of what that produces will be embarrassing, imperfect twaddle? Twaddle that I’ll need to submit to my critique partners, and ultimately to agents, editors, and Susie next door. That’s a looming landslide of potential criticism, rejection or ridicule. Of course it scares me!
You’ve probably guessed by now that one of my many faults is a tendency toward self-criticism. Having lots of goals to potentially fail to achieve feeds into this negative aspect of my personality. And giving me free reign to reassess and make adjustments to the goals I spent days setting is like plugging my brain into an eternal procrastination feedback loop. It’s a prescription for failure.
This year, I’m trying a couple of new methods to help me progress toward my Big Goal. Both have shown documented results for many people.
One is Intention. Each morning, I focus for a few minutes on my intention to accomplish a couple of small steps in support of my current Big Writing Goal.
I’m also following writer Lynne Johnston's blog Small Steps to Big Change: A Kaizen Approach to Personal Growth at http://smallstepstobigchange.com/ . This blog leads me through learning a Zen approach to life, change, and achievement (including goal-setting).
Will this approach help me achieve more this year? Tune in next January for a progress report.