Tis the season for new year’s resolutions. We look back on what we’ve accomplished – and didn’t – in the past year, and resolve to do better and do more in the coming year. While this is a good sentiment, there’s a reason that a lot of traditional New Year’s Resolutions wind up being forgotten or discarded before the end of January.
I prefer to call my decisions “goals” instead of “resolutions.” The reason is because a goal is something specific. A goal is a desire with a deadline, rather than just a nebulous “Imma do better this year.” So here I’ll give you a few tips about how to set goals that you might actually be able to achieve, instead of just struggling futilely with the “Imma do better” thing.
Dream big. It’s okay to start out with a big, grandiose, impossible-to-achieve idea. In fact, it’s better to start out with this, because once you go through actual goal-setting steps, you might realize that it’s not so unattainable after all. Go ahead and dream big and let your imagination run wild.
Get specific with your vision. Now we start adding details to your big grandiose dreams. Let’s say your wild dream is to turn your spare bedroom into a fully-furnished writing office and get three books published, too. Now get specific. What three books do you want to publish? Do you have one or more manuscripts in some stage of drafting or finished, or will you have to begin all three of these books this year? What does your ideal writing space look like, and what sort of budget or space allowances do you have to work with? To help with this stage, you can create a vision board or dream board – find pictures that represent what you’re dreaming about. Pinterest is a great place to start for creating dream boards.
Plan out the action steps. Now we get really specific. So your dream is to get those three books published this year. You have one completed third draft of a manuscript, one partially-completed first draft, and a notebook full of ideas. So what will you actually need to do to accomplish your dream? Start listing out specific steps: send completed third draft to an editor, finish writing first draft, outline a story from one of the ideas in the notebook. Obviously more needs to happen to get three completed, publishable books, so keep on writing out the steps that you will need to take to achieve this dream.
Assign dates and deadlines. This is what makes the action steps actually work. “Send third draft manuscript to editor by Jan 15, 2016.” “Finish writing first draft by March 1, 2016.” “Finish clearing out spare bedroom and list the old furniture on Craigslist by April 25, 2016.” The dates and deadlines is what turns these ideas from dreams into goals.
Write your goals. Studies have shown that writing down a goal or a dream vastly increases the chances of it actually coming true, because the act of writing it helps to solidify it in your mind. Write your list of goal – complete with all their details, and their deadlines – and put it somewhere that you’ll be able to see it frequently. Which brings me to the last point:
Review your goals every day. Writing down your goals is good, but if you just stick the list in a drawer and never look at it again, it won’t take long for all those specific dreams and action steps to fade from your mind. By reviewing your list every day, you’ll be constantly reminding yourself that you have until March 1st to finish that first draft. So if it’s February 20th already and you’re not done, then that means you’ll need to stop watching Netflix for a few days so you can reach your goal. If you put the list in a drawer on January 2nd, then you’ll likely have forgotten what your specific deadline was.
So now go dream, envision, set dates, write it down, and have a happy new year!