Goal Setting (and Why I’m Terrible at It)

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”
-Lousia May Alcott

My name literally means ambition, so it’s with some irony I tell you this: I absolutely suck at setting goals.

My goals are either tiny things, which I can do no-problemo in 2 days flat. Like my homework, or semi-regularly updating my blog or whatever. Or my goals are incomprehensible, elaborate things which are so far away that they seems more like dreams than actionable goals. Like becoming a doctor, or publishing a book or figuring out how the strange thing we call the human brain works.

In 6th grade, a teacher introduced his class with “A goal is a dream with a map and a stopwatch.” As an introductory lesson, we were supposed to come up with goals and draw a ‘map’ for it complete with important ‘milestones’ and ‘distances’.
I don’t remember what my goal was, but mine was the only one in class that came back with red ink. Too short term, was the remark on the paper. Em-bar-as-sing!

For some reason, those words stuck with me (the goal definition, not the ‘short term’ thing). When you have a goal, there are two ways for you to figure out how to achieve that goal. Either you can work your way forward or you can work your way back.
In my opinion, working your way back is so much easier than working your way forward.

Okay, you tell yourself, I want to publish a book. What can I do about it now?
Easy, you write up a first draft.
What can I do right now for a first draft?
Come up with a plot-line and some characters?
What can I do right now to come up with some characters and a plot-line?
Start writing. Now!

See what I mean? It gives you a set plan, something black and white to look at as you decide what you’re going to do next. There’s no ambiguity, no waiting around wondering “What am I going to do now?”

“Sometimes you don’t need a goal in life, you don’t need to know the big picture. you just need to know what you’re going to do next!”
-Sophie Kinsella

I take my words back. I’m pretty good at goal setting. It’s the execution of the plan that I suck at.

Right now between my Google Drive and storage on various laptops, I have eight different stories started. That’s right- not one, not two but eight different stories. I have like 6-7 chapters for each for them. They are my babies. My poor neglected, malnourished little babies.
Before you suggest combining them all, let me warn you: They’re all very different genres and I’m equally stuck in all of them. So don’t suggest it unless you think a book about a high-school secret society which forces you to accept all dares (no matter how stupid) for initiation can somehow be combined with emotional robots,  faeries who will trap you in alternate universes and an evil Snow-White’s step-mother [Deep breath in] would be interesting. Actually, that does sounds kind of interesting. Confusing but interesting.  Knock yourself out trying to write something that fits in all of these things.

Surprisingly this was actually a pretty fun post to right. I definitely did not expect that when I gave it the rather bland title: Goal Setting.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
-Ernest Hemingway

Anyways, back to my point: The most important part of goal setting is execution. That means no procrastinating by rambling about how bad you are at setting goals. No reminiscing about stories you tried (and failed) to write.[Sigh] Yes, I’m looking at myself. Chop,chop darling. Back to work.

Let me just end this with a quote:

“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.”
― Chuck Palahniuk


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