Category Archives: Motivation

Resources on Goal Setting and Quitting Goals

This month, you’ve read posts from us about when it’s okay to quit your goals, the merits of seeing your goal through no matter what, and everything in between. We’re not the first to write on the subject, and I found the following books, articles, and resources helpful in my own journey when it comes to goal setting, especially when it comes to writing.

  1. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Some writers keep this next to (or in place of) their Bibles. It’s just that important and instrumental for their process. I think I can say with confidence that this is an objectively foundational book in cementing your process as a writer. Julia Cameron guides you every step of the way in a 12-week process of deep contemplation about who you are as a person and an artist, what’s standing in your way, how to move past those things, and how to make meaningful goals to achieve what you want. I personally give the book 5/5 stars, and if you’re interested in this book, I recommend that you surrender to the process. You’ll want to fight it and cut corners. DON’T.
  2. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. Part of me doesn’t want to recommend this to people at large because it is so personally important to me. But, in my heart, I want everyone to succeed in being happy in doing what they want to do the most, so here it is. I’ve given away more copies of this book than I can remember, and I don’t mind buying more and more to give away until the day I die. If that alone doesn’t make you want to pick up the book, consider this quote: “Keep growing quietly and seriously throughout your whole development; you cannot disturb it more rudely than by looking outward and expecting from outside replies to questions that only your inmost feeling in your most hushed hour can perhaps answer.”
  3. Why You Quit on Your Goals (and How to Follow-Through Instead) by Jose Ramos. I like this article by Ramos because it goes into how not reaching our goals makes us feel. Those feelings can snowball and eventually stick us in what feels like quicksand, unsure of how to get ourselves out.
  4. 5 Times You Should Quit Working on Your Goal and Walk Away by Amy Morin. Amy Morin offers practical examples of when following through with your goal doesn’t make sense anymore. Relatable and concise.
  5. A good planner. I’ve lost this habit since college, swapping out the physical planner for a To-Do list app, Google calendar, and a Notes app. This year, thanks to inspiration from friends, I’ve picked up a physical planner. Here’s a great list from people who tested out some of the best planners on the market right now and their suggestions. 

 

What are some of your favorite resources when it comes to goal setting and when it makes sense to re-evaluate? What’s your favorite planner or app that helps you organize your daily tasks and goals?

Setting Realistic, S.M.A.R.T. Goals – A Guest Post by Shannon Fox

I still remember that day in middle school when our teacher showed up with a pile of school-issued planners for each of us to use keep track of our homework and learn good study habits. I excitedly flipped through mine, mentally vowing to use it religiously and fill it up with neatly written, color-coded tasks. The fact that I have terrible handwriting was a non-issue. With this planner in my hands, I was about to morph into one of those uber-successful adults with letter-perfect handwriting.

Imagine my surprise when I looked up and saw my classmates were less than enthused by our gift from the school. They looked even more dismayed to learn that we would actually be required to use this thing and we would need to show it to our teacher weekly. I silently cheered as I thought of all the free points I was going to get towards my grade.

Though the color-coding and perfect handwriting aspects never materialized, I did use my planner religiously. I scooped up all my free points week after week and began my love affair with planners, to-do lists, and scheduling out my days by the hour. Over the years my physical planner has largely been replaced by a digital calendar, a to-do list on my phone, and an online project management tool (I use, love, and recommend Trello). But my desire to track and plan my life has not waned.

I would estimate I meet 85% of my goals or more. If I don’t meet a goal, it’s usually because of one of two reasons. It could be because I’m busy meeting another, more important goal. Or it could be because my goal is too ambitious and almost impossible to meet.

Take this most recent goal I set for myself as an example. I’m almost embarrassed to admit I seriously thought this was at all possible. But after I finished writing the latest draft of my novel in November, I (super) optimistically thought to myself, I can have this edited and revised by February. Two months, that’s no sweat. Easy peasy.

I promise I was of sound mind and entirely sober when I came up with this goal for myself. I’m also not naïve, I’ve written and edited books before. But somehow I really believed this was doable.

You’re probably wondering how that goal is working out for me. Well…let’s put it this way, I’ve edited twelve chapters out of eighty-four total. At the time of this writing, I have about two and half weeks to finish the other seventy-two chapters.

Obviously, I’m not going to be making this. Not even close.

By all accounts, goal setting is a good behavior and is something we should all practice. So, where did I go wrong?

If you’ve worked in an office setting or spent any time reading about productivity and time management, you’ve probably encountered S.M.A.R.T. goals before. A S.M.A.R.T. goal is a goal that is:

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Relevant

Time-Bound

Most experts advocate for the use of S.M.A.R.T. goals or something similar because they help people turn nebulous ideas into results. Here’s how my editing goal looks when run through the S.M.A.R.T. framework:

Specific: I will finish editing my book.

Measurable: I will measure my goal by how many chapters I’ve finished editing.

Achievable: I will read through each chapter to make sure it is fulfilling its role of moving the story along, is interesting, well-written, free of grammar mistakes, free of plot holes and plot inconsistencies, and is as polished as I can make it. I will then finish the chapter by searching in the text for each of the items on my list of words I overuse/should avoid and make corrections as needed.

Relevant: Finishing editing my book will move me to the next stop along my road to publication.

Time-Bound: I will complete this by the beginning of February (about two months time).

So, I did have a S.M.A.R.T. goal. All the parts were there. But what I was lacking was a realistic goal.

Here’s the thing about me: although I know time and energy are both finite resources, I tend to overlook that fact when I’m goal setting. Because it’s really just inconvenient and it gets in the way of my super optimistic goals.

I also forgot to account for the fact that along with becoming an (I hope) better writer over the last year and a half, I also became an (I hope) better and more critical editor. So with both these overlooked facts in mind, I set the super unrealistic goal of editing an entire book in two months.

Clearly, it’s not enough to set goals for yourself. It’s not enough to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for yourself either. You have to set goals that are reasonable in order to have a chance at success.

Some people beat themselves up for not meeting the personal goals they’ve set (and let’s face it, unless you’re lucky enough to be a full-time writer, all your writing goals are personal goals). It’s okay to be disappointed in yourself once in awhile. We’re fallible and we make mistakes. We have to constantly push ourselves to be better. But your disappointment in yourself has to be warranted. If you couldn’t meet an unrealistic goal, there’s no reason to be disappointed in yourself. There’s nothing wrong with you – it’s the goal that was wrong.

I’m not at all disappointed in myself. Okay, maybe just a little – but only because I was nuts to think this goal was viable in the first place.

But I’m not at all disappointed that I’m still editing my book and nowhere near done. I know I’m doing my best to keep up with everything in my life and whenever I do have time to sit down and work on my book, I really feel it is getting better. And that’s all that matters.

 

About Shannon Fox:

I have a B.A. in Literature-Writing from UC-San Diego. I write novels and short stories, particularly young adult, contemporary, historical, and science fiction. I maintain my own blog of book reviews and writing advice at IsleofBooks.com. I am a regular blogger for Equine Journal and Coastal Premier Properties. I have authored over 200 articles and blogs for online and print publication. I was also a research assistant to the authors for the published novels Teen 2.0 and Against Their Will. In addition to writing, my professional background is in marketing and advertising. I run a free marketing resource for entrepreneurs and small business owners at www.MinMarketing.com.

To Goal or Not to Goal, that is the Question

The first week of the year, my Facebook stream was full of irate friends who, apparently, loathe those who make New Year’s Resolutions. Anyone who had the words “Resolution” or “Goal” in their post got blasted by angry people who didn’t agree with their declarations of self-improvement. Mostly because said angry people all admitted to not being able to keep a resolution past day one. Their plan for the year, “Quit, before you commit yourself to something you’re going to fail at.”

Is that really healthy? You can answer that question for yourself, because it’s different for everyone.

For myself, I love making goals, and the only thing I hate about them is not hitting them.

The thing is, the moment I finish making a goal, I can tell if I’m going to be able to do it or not.

For instance, last December, I made the goal that I would finish the novel I’ve been working on before the end of the year. However, I knew better. To get something accomplished in December is like walking up a hill made of ice in women’s dress shoes. But I was desperate to get it finished, so I made the goal with the hope that it would spur me on.

Did it? Nope? And I simply felt guilty about it all month.

So what did I do? I spent the first week of January working on the outline until it was shiny, then when I was finally satisfied with it, I made the goal to get the stupid thing to my editor by midnight on January 31st.

An easy goal? Uh, no. I’m having to rewrite the last half of the book for the third time. That’s 50k in two and a half weeks. Sounds crazy? Yes. But I know I can do it, especially since the outline feels solid.

I’m hoping this is going to be my last insane, self-imposed deadline for the year. Because, while hitting them makes me giddy with joy, missing them makes me crazy, and sometimes the stress makes me cranky.

For me, there’s a fine line between pushing myself in order to grow, and laying completely unrealistic expectations at my own feet. And I know the difference.

So my “goal” this year is to stop pretending I don’t know my own limits and the limits of my time. Think through the plans. Break it down. How much can I realistically do each week? Will it cause other parts of my life to suffer? Is that acceptable for a short amount of time? If not, do I change the timetable, or skip this “thing” all together?

We Always Need a Goal

Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.

We all want something. It could be a new car, paying the rent on time, having a family, writing a novel, being a politician, or simply enjoying a nice cup of tea at 3 o’clock. It doesn’t matter if the want can be achieved quickly or if it takes several years to realize. Without the want, and without the conscious desire to reach it, there is no goal and nothing will happen.

Having a goal involves choice. We can choose to work toward or do something, or we can choose not to do anything. Either way, there will be an outcome, a goal achieved. Whether that goal is personally fulfilling or productive, whether it enriches or sabotages your life, that is another matter,. No matter the outcome, we all have goals.

These atatements may seem rather philosophical, but it’s important to understand that we always have a goal, whether we’re actively or inactively achieving it. Knowing that we have free agency to determine outcomes, frees us to set goals which are not only achievable but also fulfilling. And no, setting unrealistic goals in which one doesn’t participate to achieve the final outcome, doesn’t count. Unrealistic goals are simply fights of fancy or dreams. A goal should be something which spurs us into action (or inaction, but arguably, that is an action in and of itself).

A dream becomes a goal when action is taken toward its achievement.
Bo Bennett

Reaching the target may or may not always happen in the way it was envisioned. That’s okay. Without a goal you can’t get close to the target. For example, in high school and university, I always strived for 100% on exams. Did I achieve that? Sometimes but if not, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. I figured out early on that I always made mistakes, or forgot something. That wasn’t the point. When I strived for the highest mark, my grades were higher than when I didn’t. Having a goal meant caring. If I cared a lot, the results were better becasue I rose to the challenge. If my goal was low, my grades were lower. It was that simple.

So, what does this mean for me as a writer?

I want to write a best seller. So I read best sellers. I study them. I study as well as practice the craft. Will I ever write a book that has the potential to be a best seller. Yes. After writing the book, will my goals include all the promotion and marketing needed? Yes. How hard will I work to realize this goal? That is always the question. But my point here is is that without the goal, I can’t do the work. The goal is my motivation for writing what I deem to be a good novel. I don’t want to self publish messy first drafts. It’s about doing it the best I can. The added benefit is that having a goal and working toward it makes me happy.

People work better when they know what the goal is and why. It is important that people look forward to coming to work in the morning and enjoy working.
Elon Musk

We all have goals. We all need goals. Goals give us direction, purpose and ultimately the process of achieving them should make us happy. Achieving them should elate us but I’ve always found it important to understand that goals change and the art of moving toward the goal can influence and change the outcome.

In many ways, our goals are not that much different from a story or character goal. Like the characters we write, we have desires, passions, and needs. We strive to fulfill those passions. There are ups and downs, set-backs and rewards. We get more information, something interrupts our progress, we persevere, we fight, and ultimately, we come out the other side to laugh, celebrate, or cry.

Most of our goals are active goals. We need them. Through them, we find meaning in our lives and pass down that meaning through our characters, Incidentally, that meaning is also called theme and it makes sense when you remember the addage that we shoul dwrite what we know best. Story is about goals both achieved and thwarted. When we recognize our goals and work toward them, we compel ourselves to actively participate in their achievement. We give meaning, not only to our lives, but also to our characters.

Goals are important. Striving to reach them is important. Whether they are reached as initially dreamed of, may not be as important as having a dream and striving to fulfill that dream.

It’s not an accident that musicians become musicians and engineers become engineers: it’s what they’re born to do. If you can tune into your purpose and really align with it, setting goals so that your vision is an expression of that purpose, then life flows much more easily.
Jack Canfield