Thursday, September 30, 2010

Realistic goals

I guess many people set themselves goals. But how to reach them, so they don't end like most New year's resolutions?

I think the problem with New Year's resolutions, as with other goals, is that they're too ambitious.

Want to lose 20 pounds in a month and look like a model? No problem. Want to stop smoking in no time and never be tempted again? No problem. Want to be a model student and catch up on any studying you have missed over the last year? No problem.

There's nothing wrong with being ambitious, but ambitions don't always motivate us. Sometimes they can be crippling. We see the goal in our mind and we want to reach it, but because it's so unrealistic we can't ever succeed and when we realize it, the goal no longer serves its purpose. It no longer motivates. It gets us down, because we know there's no chance not to fail.

And who isn't scared of failure?

The ugly threat of failing looms over our heads every day and cripples us even more.

So that goal we set a few days, weeks or months ago?

It turns into the bane of our existence.

What was supposed to help us, destroys every chance we might have ever had to actually reach a realistic goal.

And that's the magic word: realistic

Even a writer needs a hint of reality in their life.

Realistic goals motivate.

Unrealistic goals depress.

I used to set myself unrealistic goals and I never reached them. I didn't even get close and it always made me feel bad. So unrealistic goals? Not for me.

I like goals that I can reach or maybe even surpass.

You might say: What's the use of setting a goal of 500 or 1000 or 2000 words per week? That way you'll never get that book written.

You're wrong.

I will get the book written, it'll only take longer. Every written word brings me closer.

So what would happen if I set a word count goal of, let's say, 10k per week?

I'd fail to reach it the first time, fail to reach it the second time and get so frustrated that I wouldn't write for a few days or weeks. Nothing gained. And worst of all: I would feel bad about myself, even guilty.

Maybe 10k is a realistic goal for some of you. You have to decide what's right for you. Only you. It doesn't matter if your writing buddy gets 5k written every day. That's great for them, but trying to keep up with them won't do you any good.

So try to find out what's a realistic goal for you and adjust it whenever something changes. Sometimes life gets in the way.


Life always gets in the way, but that's just one more reason to be fair to yourself and don't pressure yourself with unrealistic goals.

What do you think? Maybe some of you like unrealistic goals and don't feel depressed by them?


Bast said...

I totally do this sometimes. I'll set unrealistic goals. Well, it's not generally that they're unrealistic, but life gets in the way and for some reason or another I can't meet my goals. I usually feel depressed and then I'll stop writing for even longer (like you said in your post), but other times I'll work even harder to make a comeback.

I agree though that we should set realistic goals.

Lindsey Roth Culli said...

I love setting small goals because I love making lists AND-- crossing things off my lists (which is a lot easier to do with small goals). If I put "write a novel" on there, it could be months/years before I get the satisfaction of crossing it off. But if I put "write 2K" well, odds are I'll get to cross it off quickly!
Also, chocolate is a great motivator, too.

Emily Cross said...

Great post! It was only when i set myself small daily goals that I actually did anything! So slow but steady is the way to go!

Misha Gerrick said...

I tend not to set myself goals, but rather guidelines of things I want to get done.

That way they don't take on scary perportions in my mind and I don't have to constantly worry about failing. because there's nothing to fail at.


Sandy said...

I think you've captured the problem with high and unrealistic goals very well; I always set myself incredibly high word counts, and feel terrible when I don't reach them. It's better to start small and gain a sense of accomplishment from achieving your goals. :)

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

I don't know that I really set unrealistic goals. Ambitious ones, definitely, but I really hate to fail, so usually I'm compelled to strive for things I know I can achieve. But you make a really good point, though. I mean, sometimes life does get in the way, even with realistic goals. We shouldn't pressure ourselves so terribly.

Kathy Bradey said...

I have a hundred to-do lists lying around the house. I love to write small goals and cross them off. I am also quite partial to writing a goal that I have already achieved on the to-do list... just so I can have something crossed off before I get going! Weird, but feels good :)