Thursday, October 24, 2013

Goal Setting Can Increase Self Worth

Too often goal setting is rife with guilt and game playing.  Somewhere in life, people learn that not meeting a goal is so horrific that they don't make goals at all. Or, if they do, the goals are set at a bar so low that anyone can make them.  I find this truly sad.

Early in life my parents taught me to set goals.  Being the oldest of nine children, I probably felt particularly put upon to also serve as an example for my siblings by meeting my goals. However, that was my own feeling and not reinforced by my parents. Fortunately, my parents' philosophy was that goals should stretch me to reach for the stars--to reach for what I wanted most. Because if I never tried to reach for it I would never get it. They followed up this philosophy be rewarding us equally, whether we tried but failed or met the goal.

I bring this up because two things around goal setting and reaching for the stars are coming up in the next two months.  First, at the beginning of 2013 I set a goal to write 300,000 words this year.  That's because I wanted to complete 6 books by the end of 2013. My books run between 55,000 and 75,000 words. I had one book already started at the beginning of the year, so it really meant completing 5-1/2 books. Some of my colleagues looked at me like I might be a little crazy.  Others applauded the effort but let me know I was unlikely to make it.  I am two months away from the end of the year and I'm currently at about 180,000 words.  I know by the end of this week, I will have at least 10,000 more words. I'm shooting for 20,000. Will I make it? Can I write 100,000 words in two months? I don't know. I've never done that before. But I can sure try.

This brings me to my plans for November. Every year the month of November is dedicated to "National Novel Writing Month" also known as NaNoWriMo.  This is an event where hundreds of thousands of authors (more than 200,000 authors participated last year) around the world set a goal to complete 50,000 words in one month.  Here's the interesting part. About 20% of the participants actually make that goal. I would hazard a guess that almost none of them would have made the goal if they didn't set it in the first place.

This is the first year I'm participating in NaNoWriMo. I figure, if I'm going to make my 300,000 word year end goal this will get me closer.  If I can do 50,000 words in November, then I can do 50,000 words in December and make my goal. What if I don't do 50,000 words?  I'm still happy.  Just trying means I will do more words than I would without the goal. It pushes me in a very public way. Just like posting my progress on my blog is also public. 

Will all my words be perfect? Nope. Not even close. But it's much easier to edit words that exist than a blank page. It's much easier to get a full novel out of 50,000 words, and only have to find another 20,000 than to make it in time with only 10,000 words, or worse a blank page. It may be that on December 31st my goal of making 300,000 words this year will be a dream unmet. However, I can tell you already that the 180,000 I already have is significantly more than I've ever done in one year. I can also tell you that if I don't make my goal, I will renew it for next year. I know I can do it. I know there were many times I could have been writing but I let other things get in the way.  What if I do make 300,000 words? I'll celebrate like crazy. And then I'll decide what my stretch goal for the next year will be.

Whatever your dreams and goals in life, I say reach for the stars. Making the commitment to reach--to try--will get you closer. Celebrate every attempt. If you don't meet your goal, then start again. You will already have a leg up the second time. You will already have ideas about what needs to change to make the goal. When you finally make that impossible dream, take time to celebrate all your hard work. Bask in the glory for a little while. Then make the next goal.

I hope you will root me on to the end of the year. Share some of your goals so I can root for you too. They don't have to be writing goals. They can be reading goals, weight loss goals, exercise goals--whatever you want in your life. Just be sure to dream big!


Paty Jager said...

Wow that is a lofty goal! I don't think about the words, I think about the books I want to finish. If NaNo goes well for me I will have written three books this year and that's with this year being hard on me writing wise. So much traveling for family health issues and writing that I didn't hit the goals I had set. But next year... I plan to get the Halsey Trilogy done, the third Isabella book out and have two mysteries ready to roll out.

I hope you make your goals and NaNo give you the momentum you need. Good luck, I have confidence in you.

Danita Cahill said...

Way to go on the word count so far, Maggie. That's impressive.

I'm like Paty, I think in terms of projects, not words. I got one book finished and published last year. By Thanksgiving, I've gotten two done this year. So, I'm shooting to write three next year.

Best of luck in hitting your goal!

Anonymous said...

Thanks gals. The reason I choose word count is that it gives me weekly and monthly goals to track. I find if I do books then I can easily distract myself with excuses, believing I can write that book in a month. Well sometimes I can, but then the editing takes several months too.

When I have a word count I keep writing every day, and if I miss a day then I make up for it the next day so I can keep my weekly count good. If I have a particularly busy or bad week, then I try to make up for it so my monthly count is good.

It's funny how each person chooses little tricks to keep going. But I do definitely believe in setting high goals--not easy ones. :)