Did any of you make New Year’s resolutions for 2016?
Have you broken any of them yet?
I stopped doing resolutions several years ago and instead focus on setting goals. I find that by doing this, I stick with it (for the most part).
The other day I read a blog geared toward authors with a series of goals we all should be setting for ourselves. I find the list quite disturbing because most of the goals are based on someone else’s action making them happen (like increasing book sales, etc).
It made me sad to read that list and think of the number of people who will no doubt set goals they won’t be able to achieve. I learned the hard way when you base your goals on something that you don’t directly control – you set yourself up for disappointment and failure.
In truth, a writer has very little control over their book sales. Just because I write a new book, advertise it, promote it, offer it on sale, blast it out to readers through newsletters and social media, send it to reviewers… doesn’t mean it will sell. I have absolutely no control over how many people will actually purchase the book. So to set a goal based on something like that isn’t smart.
Goals I can control are the number of books I write this year or sending out the newsletter consistently, or even reaching a certain word count by December 31, 2016. Those things are 100 percent under my control and would make good goals. And it isn’t enough just to say I have Goal A and Goal B. Writing down goals is a good way to make that transition from dream to reality. The follow-up to that would be to devise a set of actionable steps that will help you carry out your plans.
I know I’ve shared this before, but I’ll do so again. When you set goals, make them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timed.
SMART goals are a good way to move from thinking about doing something to getting it done.
To reach a specific goal ask yourself the who, what, where, when and why questions. Who is involved? What do I want to accomplish? Where will this take place? When will it take place? Why do I want this to happen?
A goal that is measurable is one that can be tracked by progress. When you measure progress, track results and meet deadlines, it spurs you on toward greater accomplishment. Ask yourself questions like “How many?” “How much?” “How will I know the goal is accomplished?”
Actionable goals help you identify how to make a goal happen. This part of goal setting requires planning. You must think out each step of action you need to take to make the goal happen and the time frame in which you’d like to see the results. Even goals that are a stretch (ones that get you beyond your comfort zone) are attainable when you grow to reach them. If your goal is to get out the door on time in the morning, what specific steps can you take to make sure it happens?
To be realistic, a goal must represent an end result you are willing and able to achieve. You can have a stretch goal that is up there in the stars and still have it be realistic. You are the only one who can decide how lofty your goal should be. Just make sure it represents progress. Some of the highest goals accomplished didn’t seem that difficult because they were a labor of love or evolved from a deep passion. If you honest-to-goodness believe your goal can be accomplished, then it is probably realistic. You can also determine if a goal is realistic by looking at past accomplishments or determining what conditions or factors need to exist for the goal to be realized. (A goal that you will become a rock star and sing in front of a million screaming fans this year probably isn’t a good goal for someone who has never performed on stage before. A goal that you will lose 30 pounds by exercising and eating healthy is realistic and achievable.)
A goal is timely when it is tied to a time frame and has a sense of urgency. The steps leading to the accomplishment of your goal will also be time-based. Let’s say you did set a goal of losing 30 pounds by Dec. 31. Anyone could show up at your house and see that you have in fact lost 30 pounds. I consider this step the goal’s deadline.
So let’s look at a goal. You might set a goal that states “I will read a hundred books this year!”
While that is a good start, when you make it SMART you make it doable and provide the basis to hold yourself accountable. “I will see post a list of all the books I’ve read by 5 p.m. Dec. 31, 2016.” Anyone could drop by your house after 5 p.m. Dec. 31, 2016 and see if you, in fact, have your your list of books posted.
This is where you will also create your action steps. You might write down something like:
To achieve this goal I will …
• Make a list of book I wish to read.
• Set designated time for reading every day.
• Read two books a week.
• Maintain a list of books read.
You get the idea.
When you share this goal with at least two other people, it will hold you accountable and help keep you on track.
The last part of the goal is setting a reward for yourself when you achieve it. Put it in writing and hold yourself to it. What realistic thing would you award yourself for meeting the goal? A pedicure? A spa day? Dinner at a favorite restaurant? Think of something that will give you some inspiration to keep going when you feel yourself dragging.
Set those goals and see what fantastic things you can achieve when you plan it out step by step.
As my auntie used to say “plan your work and work your plan!”
Oh, and if any of you are wondering… my goal is to publish 10 new books this year! Hold me to it!