Why You Should Trade in New Year’s Resolutions and Set Goals Instead

One year ago, my best friend and I sat down and set goals for the year.  She and I have spent the last three years or so encouraging and supporting each other toward our goals.  I remember right around the time that she and I got serious about our work, a friend in our community posted publicly that “New Year’s Resolutions were worthless.”  I grumbled defensively to myself, but in some ways now, I agree.  It is one thing to write down a bunch of resolutions, it is entirely another to set achievable goals for the year.  

Back to the goal setting.  A year ago, at the end of 2015, my best friend and I made our set of goals.  We separated them into different categories: Main Goals, Emotional/Spiritual Goals, Secondary Goals, and Tertiary goals.

There are two things you should focus on when setting a goal, it is best to ensure that it is both measurable and achievable.  While saying things like “I want to be a better writer” is all well and good, unless you outline how you’re going to progress toward that goal, it isn’t very measurable.

Our Main Goals were the most important for us to achieve.  Mine were things like “Write 500 words a day.” and “Write at least 1 short story a month.”  I also wanted to win NaNoWriMo again, and even though I did not accomplish all these goals, I still made a lot of progress.

My Secondary goals included things like “Blog on a regular basis” and “Find regular freelancing gigs.”  This year, my blog has grown a lot and that’s allowed me to connect with other creative people, both other writers and artists.  Their influenced has helped me to get closer to what I want out of life.

Tertiary Goals were things we wanted to work on, but may not get to in the long run.  My main goal in this category was to “Learn more about Graphic Design” which I did some of, but it certainly was not my focus in 2016.

When my friend and I met to talk about our progress, we were both a bit astonished.  My goal was never perfectionism, though I did not meet some of my goals, I made progress toward becoming the person I want to be.  We had both grown a lot over the last year.  If we had not set these goals, kept each other responsible for them, we would not have been able to see how much growth had occurred in the past year.

When I set goals this year, I added one more thing.  A theme for the year.  For 2017, my theme is Authenticity.  Though 2016 was a rather rough year in a lot of ways, but one thing I learned during it, was that I was much happier when I was authentic.  So this year, I will continue to focus on trying to be authentic and being the best version of myself I can be.

What about you?  Do you set yearly goals?  Do you have New Year’s Resolutions?

 

 

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A Geeky Guide to Leveling Up

In a video game, when you gain enough experience points and you’ve fought enough monsters, you level up.  Leveling up generally means that two things happen: First, you get access to better equipment and new quests, and second, the quests also have leveled up and you face a new level difficulty.  So how do you level up your real life?  How does it feel once you’ve leveled up?  What do you do once you’ve leveled up?

Start from the bottom and break down big goals.

You may wander into a few caves where there are level 70 trolls and you’re still rocking your level 5 daggers, metaphorically, of course.

In normal person speak:  You may have big goals you’re trying to achieve or big obstacles to overcome.  Rather than running full tilt at these things, sometimes it’s best to break what you are doing down into smaller, more achievable goals.

If you want to write a movie and get it made, but have never written a script before, setting a 3-month deadline for that goal is likely to lead to some heartache.  That’s making your goal int a level 70 troll, and you’re not ready to fight that troll.

Instead, you might want to take a screenwriting class, or read books on screenwriting.  Maybe your 3-month goal is to take a class and have a rough draft of your script, by that point.  That’s more like a level 10 troll, and something you can definitely manage.

Leveling up takes work.

In lots of games, there are ways to grind and gain levels quickly.  The problem is, if you don’t put the work in, you miss valuable lessons and content along the way.

Most of the people you admire scraped and hustled when they started out.  Lots of writers worked a full-time job while writing their first novels, comics, etc.  There might be a few that got lucky and somehow got the maximum payoff for minimal effort, but those people are usually few and far between and they often had someone helping them along the way.

There are times that putting in the maximum effort will be frustrating and disheartening, but we don’t get anywhere by standing still.  Keeping going.  If you work strategy isn’t working and you’re not making progress, step back and re-assess.

How do you know when you’ve leveled up?  Things get harder.  But they also get easier.

You know you’ve leveled up with the difficulty of things kicks up a notch, but you also find yourself able to rise to the occasion.  You’ve worked hard to gain new skills and insight, and though the new challenges are unfamiliar or unventured, you still have a bit of inspiration to go after them.

I won’t lie, there are times “gaining a new level” fills me with worry and anxiety.  I wonder if I am able to face the new challenges in my life and still manage my time.  You can use that fear as fuel, take it as a dare to dream bigger and do more than you did before.  In many ways, our biggest limits are in our head.

Don’t dabble – Tips To Stay Committed To Your Writing

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite authors for self-help, Gabrielle Bernstein, posted a video about staying on course for what you want.  At the bottom of her post, she had the option to tweet about it and the tweet basically said: “Stay committed, don’t dabble.”  This concept is something I’ve talked a lot about with those in my little circle of productivity, the group of women that I email and do writing sprints with.  The truth is, I used to dabble a lot.

This was both in and out of writing.  I’d start a book, or write in online communities and happily proclaim I was a writer, despite the fact that I had no goals with my writing and I rarely finished anything.  I dabbled in writing.  There were no stakes with my writing, I did not take it seriously.  I dabbled in other things too, which took my time and attention away from the writing I did.  Part of this was due to the fact that I struggled to say “No” to people.  If someone wanted my time, attention and help, I would bend over backward and put my own projects aside for months on end.  There are times I still say “Yes” when I should say “No.”

This leads us to what I really wanted to talk about, how to stay committed and avoid dabbling, for writers and artists.

1. Learn when to say “No.”

Successful people know when to say “No.”  They have learned to say it with conviction.  I do my best to think very consciously when people ask me to work on projects with them. I often get asked to proofread things for friends, or to help them with their own projects.  I will say “Yes” only if there is a reciprocal relationship when it comes to helping with these friends, or if I believe editing their project will help me become a better writer.  It sounds harsh, but it also isn’t fair for them to expect me to beta/edit chapters upon chapters without some kind of give/take.  I also will take on a project here or there that I just really have an interest in.  Some of my friends are brilliant writers and I aspire to be more like them, so helping them would also warrant a “Yes.”

2.  Practice makes perfect.  Take your practicing seriously.

If I had a dime for every time someone said, “Oh, I like to write.  I could be a writer just like you if I had all the free time you have.”  Though I may have a flexible schedule that allows me to devote a lot of time to writing, that would mean nothing if I was not devoted to the practice.  I write nearly every day.  I manage my own schedule and I stay committed to the work I want to do.  I read books, I write, I read more books and I work to improve my writing.  Publishing credits are not something a magical fairy bestows on you and leaves under your pillow as you sleep.  You get the by writing often, sharing your work with others for eyed back, learning how to be a better writer, and then sending that work out into the world.  If you have a day job, commit to a word goal or an amount of time you will write each night.  There are writers who got published with small word count goals like 200-500 words a day.  If you write every day, those words add up quickly to short stories and novels.

3. Set goals and deadlines.

Every short story I’ve submitted has a deadline of some sort.   Usually, it’s a date by which you must submit your story.  You can set your own deadlines and I suggest having them somewhere they are easily visible.  I usually post my long-term goals up on my wall and keep daily and weekly goals in my bullet journal.  Deadlines give you something to work towards and they encourage you to finish your projects.

4. Finish what you started.

This does not go for every project and you will get to a point where you can identify when it is time to set a project aside and work on something else.  That being said, you still need to finish things.  I have not been great about finishing some of the novels I’ve worked on, but I’ve finished many short stories and comic scripts, even if they all did not make it to publication.  If a writer has 100 unfinished short stories, they aren’t likely going to be able to find a place to publish them, but if you keep finishing projects you can find a way to get them out to the world, either by finding a traditional publisher or through self-publishing.  If nothing is finished, there’s nothing to publish.
If writing is truly something you want to do, stay committed.  Don’t dabble.  If you keep at it, I am sure you will find a way to get what you want to say out to the world

And we begin again.

I spent a lot of 2015 figuring out the direction I wanted for my life.  I actually started this blog about two years ago, but for the first year or so it  laid dormant, until a friend of mine asked if I would write a guest blog for his website’s blog (Which has some amazing/inspirational posts).  At that point, I blew the dust off this blog and started to try post regularly.

I plan to do a lot of things in 2016.  Finish a novel, including all the revisions of it, so I can start publishing.  Submit short stories, hope they get published as well.  Make comics.  And blog a lot more.

I started this blog to highlight my writing, but as it has gone on, I’ve used it to share what I’ve learned about writing along the way.  I also wanted to hear from others and find out what they’ve learned along the way.  Our greatest resource is always the people around us.  I want to share things I love, and perhaps don’t love so much, over the next year.

One thing I’ve learned in the last year that I want to share with you is this:

If you don’t make a goal, a real and measurable goal, you aren’t going to get anywhere.

Let’s break that down for a second here.  The goal has to be real.  I want to write professionally and write comics professionally someday.  That is a real goal, but it would not be real if I put that I wanted to work for Marvel in 2 months.  That’s not achievable for me, yet.

How do I make a real goal that reflects that dream?  I could say that I’ll make my own comics, reach out to artists to collaborate, learn more about writing  comics over the next year.

Next, it has to be measurable.  I learned a lot about measurable goals when I taught special education.  Each student has to have individual goals that you can show real progress on.  If you can’t measure a goal, you can’t show progress.

One of my goals this year was to revise the novel I made last year.  At first I just wrote down “Revise VF novel” which is vague and not really measurable.  With encouragement from my best friend I wrote down deadlines for the completed first revision, when I wanted to send it to beta readers, when I wanted to start draft two, and finally, when I wanted to start publishing it.  That’s measurable progress.  If I miss deadlines, I’m not making the progress I need to complete that goal.

So make some goals.  Make them measurable and real.  Make sure they are something you can achieve in the time frame you plan to finish them in.

What are your goals for the year?  How are you going to work towards them?  Tell me how you do it, I’d love to hear your feedback!