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Monday, July 07, 2008

Setting Attainable Goals

It's Monday. Though it's the start of the week at my day job, it's the end of the week for my writing goals. Why my week runs Tuesday to Monday... long story. And the most important part of that long story is: it works for me. For some folks, Sunday through Saturday is better. But I digress...

One of my goals for this week now ending was actually a "cheat" goal, because the text of the goal reads "outline goals for second half of the year". Setting goals should not be a goal in itself, you see. But for me, achieving goals is a lot about time management. So if I write a task on my goal list, I know I have to carve out time to sit and perform the task -- in this case, taking a piece of paper and listing what I want to achieve in the next sixth months.

The important concept here is the attention to what I want to achieve and how I can make that happen. I recently had a chat with someone who said "My goal is to be published within two years." Hey, no argument that's a worthy aspiration. But it's a dream, not a goal. As a goal, it's got a built-in flaw and no, it's not completely the two-year thing. The trouble with that goal is that it does not rely wholly on personal ability. Unless you've already decided you're going to self-publish through a vanity press, part of the goal is in someone else's hands. The decision to publish you or not publish you belongs to an editor and/or an editorial board and/or a publisher -- and marketing may have their say as well! So to say "My goal is to be published" is to put your goal in someone else's hands. You've given the power to achieve that goal to someone else.

This, of course, is a very long way of saying, when you set a goal, make certain it's a goal you personally can achieve. Absolutely don't give up the dream of publishing, of best-seller lists, of Oprah picks and Pulitzers. But make your goal to write the best book you can, to write every day, to take a class in writing craft, and so on. Set a goal you can accomplish...

...and you'll be surprised by how much you achieve.


Nicole Maggi said...

Wonderful post, Jen. It's so true! I've been setting daily and weekly goals, but I haven't been thinking long-term so I'm impressed with your outlining goals for the rest of the year! For me, it's been a struggle just getting my goals achieved from day to day that thinking ahead kinda stresses me out. *g* But, I think perhaps this is something I need to work towards. You've inspired me!

Gerb said...

So true, so true. And those of us who have collected rejections know that putting a goal in someone else's hands is not only folly, it's extremely discouraging. So I would add that not only is it important to set goals we can achieve, but to not let discouragements along the way knock us from the path of reaching them.

Julie O'Connell said...

Great post, Jen. I am the worst when it comes to goal setting, and it shows in my lack of productivity.I have one more re-write to do with my book, then I have to finalize the synopsis, and then I'll start sending it out. I wanted to be done by the beginning of July, but that didn't happen. I'm now aiming for the end of the month. Here's to a productive July for me and for all of us!

Ginger Calem said...

This is such great advice. I'm a goal setter and have found it really keeps me on track. Sometimes even goals I thought I could control turn out I can't. So this is a great thing to keep in mind. A reality check.

Anonymous said...

Hold on. I'm supposed to achieve my goals?

In all seriousness, Jen, you make an excellent point about crafting goals that can be achieved, by you, under your own steam. Otherwise, it becomes an excercise in frustration and counterproductivity.

And if you do set goals that rely on your own efforts, when you acheive them, YOU get the celebratory pats on the back.
And the celebratory chocolate. Mmmm. Chocolate.