A guest post by James Orrin.
Every year, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions in an attempt to change something about their lives, alter the course of their futures. Unfortunately, most don’t succeed. I recently read some statistics that suggested that only about eight percent of those who make resolutions accomplish their goals with consistency, year after year. Sadly, until last year I fit neatly into the failing side of those numbers.
Why? Because change is difficult, especially the broad, life-altering change that New Year’s resolutions often entail. It’s easy to talk about change, but once you’ve begun, it can feel like a giant boulder standing in your path, discouraging all forward progress.
So how do you deal with a giant boulder? You break it into smaller pieces.
When most people make a resolution, myself included, there is a distinct pattern of vagueness to what they want to accomplish. Exercise more. Eat healthier. Read more. Write more. Travel more. Usually, that’s as far as it’s taken, but I think that’s the reason I fail—I haven’t completely thought out my goals. I need to break them into more manageable chunks and ask myself a lot of questions, not unlike brainstorming a new story concept.
Here’s an example from my life. Last year, one of my goals was to attend more writing conventions. This sounds simple, but there are a lot of steps to take in order to make it happen. I need to decide which conventions I want to attend, arrange time off work, budget money from each paycheck for my trips, purchase registration, and then book hotels and flights. It’s easy to lose track of your goal if you haven’t thought it through, and then, as the first convention approaches, you realize that maybe you haven’t budgeted properly and now you can’t afford it.
I also need to ask myself why I want to attend more conventions, what I hope to gain from it. The most obvious and important answer is to network. As a new writer, my greatest assets are other writers. Not only can other writers help me accomplish my goals, I’ve also been surprised at how much I can learn while helping writer friends accomplish their goals.
So I want to network at conventions. This means I’ll need to consider how to network. How will I meet other writers? How will I conduct myself with them? How will I keep in touch with them after the convention is over? As a natural introvert and anti-social person, these are very important questions to answer for myself.
Once I had answers to all of these questions, I was able to create mini-resolutions, each one a step along the path to my greater goal. When taken individually, each was fairly easy, and made me feel as though I was making progress. And by doing this with all of my goals last year, I was successful with most of them—which was more than I could say for previous years.
I’m doing it again this year. I’ve taken each of my hopes and goals for 2014 and broken them into mini-resolutions. If you find yourself falling short of your goals year after year, professional or personal, I suggest doing the same. I’ve found it to be tremendously helpful.
James Orrin lives in Northern Arizona, where the unique blend of landscapes fuels his imagination and passion for writing fantasy and science fiction. His personal website is www.jamesorrin.com.