Friday, January 3, 2014

Setting Goals is Easy, Reaching Them is Hard #1


To reach any defined goal  you first have to know yourself and what it actually takes to accomplish your goal. The reason most New Year goals fail is because they aren't clearly defined or there is an environmental or mental/emotional block. Do you want to climb Mount Everest? It's done every day by real people. But you have five young children, limited funds, and no mountain climbing experience. Does this make it impossible? Today, yes. Tomorrow? That depends.

How about becoming a doctor? Or getting a college degree or learning a particular skill? Can you achieve these overnight? Again, probably not and if there isn't some adjustment in thinking, probably never. The mountain climbing goal is not impossible despite the children clinging to your legs and lack of money and experience. You just won't be doing it next week since this is a long term goal.

Novelists start every idea in much the same position as a mountain climber. Who are the people? Where will it take place? How many pages will it be? How will I eat while I'm writing the book?

I know this post seems to be kicking off on a negative tone, but that's only because the way to complete a big goal is to be totally clear on what is true in the moment. You will then be able to effectively choose what to do next.

Rather than tackling everyday doomed-to-fail type New Years goals like losing those last ten pounds, adhering to a regular exercise schedule or being nice to my spouse, we'll look at a way to change your perspective about  staying committed through the long haul. Who knows? Your five pounds could disappear, the barbells become your best friend and your spouse seem much more lovable.

But first we need to tackle what is going on in our lives right now, then head toward how we want it to be. We do this with a series of questions that require brutally honest answers about what we lack and, yes, what we're good at (do not beat up on yourself or be socially acceptably modest - no one knows your answers but you).

What You Want and Why

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • What is the current state of the goal (halfway there, haven't started yet, it'll happen in a pig's eye -- Be brutally honest but don't beat yourself up)? 
  • What will your life look like when you succeed?
  • What must you do to reduce the gap between what's true now and what is needed to make it a done deal (for most of us, this takes some hard looks at our behaviors, habits and routines)?
  • What behaviors, habits or routines support achievement of your goal?
  • If those traits aren't in your box of tricks, what will it take to develop them?
  • What are you really good at? How can you use it to further progress to your goal?
  • Which of your acknowledged behaviors, habits, or routines are most detrimental to your success?
  • Can you eliminate them? (there is no easy answer because sometimes the sacrifice is too much)?
  • Lastly, ask – do I really, really, really want to pursue this goal?
We might call this sharpening our swords because there's a good chance many of you have not asked yourselves these kinds of questions before. Be willing, when you ask, to set aside previous opinions about the subject and take a fresh look.  You could be surprised to find that many of your goals are designed to please other people or meet society standards. Don't pull back from this knowledge. The fastest way to success is to know what you truly want and that can only happen when you're totally honest with what that truly is.

The more effort you put into your answers the more likely you are to succeed in reaching your goal, no matter how long term, so give a second look at your answers before you tackle section two. Since this is the uplifting part it can be easy to slip into cheerleader mode -- "Yes, I can, rah, rah, rah!." So before you begin, ask again -- do I really, really, really want to pursue this goal? It's important you do, because a goal that doesn't speak to your heart will bring no lasting satisfaction even if you do reach it.

Making Your Goals Stick

  • If you really do want to pursue this goal, say out loud and write down: I really want to achieve ________
  • Are you committed to achieving it? Commitment is different than 'want,' because it implies perseverance.
  • Are you willing to develop the traits that will lead to success?
  • What traits or skills do you already have that will help you succeed? Can you use them to jump start your project?
  • If you're ready, say and write down: I am committed to achieving ______ by (the date you come up with during the next steps)                
Figure out how much time it will take to achieve the goal (example – 300 pages, can do 2 a day, so I need 150 days). Do the same for the stretch goal. You might have to backtrack your production history to see what goal is  within the bounds of current reality.

Figure out how much time you actually have to work on the goal. Look at a yearly calendar. Set aside all days that are already scheduled, even it's only for a doctor's appointment. Figure out how much time in each day is used for grooming, housekeeping and family/friends. Then calculate what's left over. Cut that in half and give the remaining hours to moving toward your goal. If that's only an hour a day, you might have to work with a weekly number.

Set a deadline:  (Be reasonable and choose a time frame that with steady commitment you can predictably reach. Most of us will estimate too optimistically so whatever you come up with, cut it in half. Assure that you have the proper resources for setting your goal and make that part of your game plan.
Stretch goal: (Choose an improbable target and resist the temptation to pull back on it.  Go for your dream!)
Put your deadline date on your calendar.

Do the math (examples):
Goal: 2 Pages per day for a 300 pages will take 150 days
Goal: Learn to set up climbing gear
Stretch goal: Save xxx dollars each week/month for culinary school tuition.

Move your deadline dates up or back, depending on what's possible and your level of commitment.

Establish Milestones for particular achievements. For instance, chapter two finished by March 15, begin climbing lessons by mid-January, check out culinary schools by February 12, etc.

You will have setbacks. Life happens and commitments slip. The worst punishment for failing to keep up is that most of us go into an orgy of self-criticism. This not only doesn't help, it works against us, because we can find ourselves subconsciously avoiding re-commitment because the waves of self-recrimination are so uncomfortable. Many people eventually drop their goals because of this phenomena.

The way to deal with setbacks is to acknowledge that we've let our commitment slip, then re-evaluate. Again, life happens. Perhaps we need to extend our deadline,  maybe rearrange our schedule or get outside help or even change our attitudes. And always, always, use these setback moments to ask yourself, "Do I really, really, really want to do this?"  If the answer is yes, reset your goals and move back into action.

If it turns out to be 'no,' consider going back to step one until something clicks.

In the meantime this is a brand new year, 363 days left ahead of us. Let's use them to stay connected to our love ones, reach our invigorating goals, and have fun!

Till later,

She woke up one morning on a Mississippi riverboat with a huge headache and no idea of who she was. Nearly two years later he came after her, claiming she killed her own father. She says he's got the wrong woman. He says she'd guilty as sin. One of them is right . . .

Award-winning, bestselling author Connie Flynn writes both long and short fiction and is published in multiple genres, including paranormal romance, romantic comedy, mystery and suspense and contemporary fantasy/sci-fi. She lives in Arizona on a lush green park where she walks her dog and escapes from the hot desert sun. Her latest release is the twists and turns romantic suspense, KNOW WHEN TO RUN.

 Return To Connie Flynn Website


  1. Connie, You've provided a lot of good information. I know you used to always have us set 3 goals at the January meeting of Desert Rose. There is something about writing down a goal that stresses me out. I'm going to have to print off and re-read all you've said here. Thanks and happy New Year!

  2. Roz, It is stressful to write down your goals. What if they're the wrong ones, what if you don't stay committed, what if you backslide or fail (actually you can never fail, you can only quit). The thing about writing it down is that as woo-woo as this sounds it's actually true that putting it on paper strengthens commitment. So try it with just one goal, write it down someplace where you can find it later, then look at it next year and you might be pleasantly surprised by what you notice. Thanks for stopping by. It's always nice having visitors.

  3. Great post! My goal is to finish my current WIP.

  4. Connie, this is wonderful advice -- I can envision coming back to this page again and again, anytime I want to set a new goal!

  5. Tina and Laurie, thanks for the wonderful feedback. I plan to make additional posts on the topic of goals because this one actually ends when you start your journey toward the goal. There's still the business of the ongoing road.

    So glad you stopped by.


All comments are welcome