The Usefulness of Goals

The plan today is to write “something about goals.”

What do I have to say on this topic? Past Brian really set me up today because when it comes to writing blog posts, specificity is key.

Come to think of it, specificity is key with setting goals, too. You can start with a goal like “I want to buy a house some day” but if you can turn that into “I’m going to buy the house on Maple street next year,” you’re more likely to achieve what you set out to accomplish.

I have a goal to get one of my novels traditionally published. It’s not a very specific goal, though, which may be why I haven’t moved much closer to reaching this goal. I keep writing and showing up, as it were, but maybe I’ll find more success if I focus on publishing a specific novel. Narrowing the focus to Spin City or Synthetic Dreams would make it possible to set specific steps and timelines.

I’m not narrowing that goal down tonight, but it’s something I will definitely consider.

The difference between a goal and a dream is action. You can imagine how your life will change when you win the lottery, but until you actually buy a ticket, it’s a dream, not a goal.

Goals don’t always need to be practical, but they should be achievable. You should be able to make plans and take steps towards getting closer to your goal. Setting a goal to become an astronaut or a professional athlete is actionable and achievable until you age out. Until then, you can study and work out and try to make contacts with the right people. Once the window closes, however, it’s healthier to shift to more possible targets.

Goals don’t have to be life changing. I set smaller goals for myself in my writing and at work all the time. Writing a blog post every day for 31 days in a row is an achievable, actionable goal that I’m accomplishing. Writing 50,000 words in the month of November is a goal I succeeded at 3 times in the past, and plan to do again this month. But sometimes I just focus on my daily goals. Make the bed. Clean the garage. Attend all the meetings on time.

Succeeding at things we set out to do makes us feel good about ourselves, and it leads to being able to achieve larger, more complicated goals. When I have a monster project at work, I break it into smaller tasks, focusing on the easiest at first so that I can leverage the feeling of accomplishment to launch into more challenging tasks.

When you fail to achieve a goal, when something goes from possible to impossible, it is important to forgive yourself. Trying to hit a target is laudable and good, and sometimes it has to be enough that we tried, even when we fail. I have certainly become discouraged after missing the mark. I’ve been downright depressed for weeks at a time after some particularly poignant misses. As of this writing, I’m on my feet and moving forward. I might still trip, but forgiveness and perseverance are just as important in achieving goals as focus, skill, and luck.

It may help to write your goals down. Do you use daily planners? Write your goals in there, or in some other journal. Or post them in public on a blog. Just having them on a page in front of you can be beneficial, even instrumental in being able to find success.

I like to use a whiteboard to list short term goals and the tasks necessary for completing them. As I finish tasks, I put a checkmark next to the item. Every time I check something off my list, it feels good.

Give yourself time to not be goal focused. This might be hours, days, or weeks. We all have different needs and different requirements to regain our mental fortitude. I try to play computer games in the evenings. As important as I believe it to be to have goals, it’s just as important to have waking time without any structure or plans.

Anyway, I suppose I don’t have that much to say about goals. Probably nothing you haven’t heard before, but maybe someone out there could use the reminder.

Also, if you need these two things…

That thing you’ve been thinking about doing but you’re afraid to take the first step? You have my permission to go for it, if you’re looking for permission. You have my support, if you need it.

If you’re overwhelmed and overburdened, and you just need to stop and breathe for a while, you have my permission to do that, too, if you’re waiting for someone to give you a break. You also have my support, if you need it.