Thursday, January 8, 2009

Have you written down your goals for 2009?

Happy New Year!

A lot of people like the New Year because January gives us a sense of starting over, of beginning afresh. We’ve drawn a line in the sand. The old year is behind us. The new year is in front of us, looking clean and fresh. We have a clean slate to fill, to do as we wish. The new year provides new possibilities. I can’t wait!

Some people make New Year’s resolutions. And many fail to stick to these “ideals”. Why is it so hard to keep those New Year’s resolutions?

I think the problem with our “good intentions” is a lack of motivation and planning. Also, these resolutions can be big and vague – “an ideal” rather than a reality. Sometimes we make New Year’s resolutions because we can and it feels like the right thing to do. Perhaps our friends are making them, so we feel as if we should too. Usually no one polices us, so what does it matter if we don’t keep them? Do we really want to achieve the results? Not always.

Let’s forget New Year’s resolutions. They don’t work for a lot of people.

Have you ever heard successful folk talk in terms of New Year’s resolutions? They don’t. What they talk about is goals.

What do you want to achieve in 2009? What are your goals?

My partner, Rob Parnell, and I write down our goals. We don’t restrict our goal setting to the New Year. We’re constantly setting goals and working towards them. This is the way we live. We discuss our goals almost daily and we brainstorm ways of achieving our desired results. We’re always moving in the direction of our goals and often achieving them. Goal setting works for us, as it does many people, and that’s why I’m writing to you today.

If you haven’t set your goals for 2009, if this is not something you normally do, I’m suggesting you give it a try.

Writing down your goals helps you determine what you want. It helps you look for ways of achieving the results. It gives you a direction or directions to take. What you’re doing is opening your mind.

I’m going to give you a simple example of a goal.

You go to the fridge and discover you’re out of milk. You decide that you need to buy milk. This is your goal. Now you know your goal you immediately think of ways of achieving it. What are you going to do? Go to the shop to buy more milk. Okay, which shop? How are you going to get there? When will you do this?

That might seem like a silly example but I’m simply making a point. Once you determine a goal, you start the ball rolling, looking for ways of achieving the goal until you reach it.

Writing things down helps you remember them and gives you plenty of opportunities to refer to them later. A lot of people write shopping lists. I know I do. If I don’t write down what I need from the shop, there’s always the chance I’ll come home without something important. I have a tendency to forget once I’m surrounded by all those groceries.

Writing things down is a commitment. You have to find pen and paper. Or you have to turn on your computer and open a new document. You have to write or type. It takes effort. You’re engaging your body and brain.

I’m assuming, because you’re subscribed to my newsletter on writing children’s books, that you want to write children’s books. Therefore you have a goal to write children’s books.

To take that assumption further, I’m going to move on to a writing example of a goal. You want to write a picture book and get it published. This is your goal. The best goals are specific and have time frames. I thrive under deadlines. I always meet these deadlines and there are a lot of deadlines in publishing. So give yourself a deadline. You want to write a picture book and submit it to a publisher by June 2009.

The next question – how are you doing to do it? Do you need to borrow recent picture books from your library and familiarize yourself with what is being published? Can’t hurt! Do you need to read books on writing picture books, written by experienced published authors? Do you need to do a writing course? Should you join a writers’ centre or group?

See how writing down a goal makes you start thinking about ways of achieving it! This is part of the process. Once you have a written goal, you need to look at your options on how you’re going to reach this goal.

The next step is action. You need to take action. In other words, you need to move in the direction of your goal. Writing down goals, thinking about how you’re going to achieve the goals, helps motivate and inspire you. You can see what you need to do and how – all so clearly.

Have you ever had a goal to drive from your home to another city? You’ve never been to your destination. This is all new to you. What do you do? Explore ways of getting there, I’m sure. You probably consult a map or maps. Maybe you talk to other people about the best way. I bet you have a plan. Not too many of us would drive around aimlessly and hope we got to our destination by chance or miracle.

Why would you want to act this way with your writing career? Or the rest of your life?

Write things down, plan and take action.

Remember what I said at the beginning of this article about New Year’s resolutions? Often they are big and vague. Be specific with your goals. Don’t make them too big or impossible. That’s a sure fire way of reducing your chances of success. You can give up too quickly if your goals are too big or too hard. Be practical. Make the steps to reaching your goals achievable. Break them down into small steps. But push yourself. Move out of your comfort zone. Make sure you write your goals down so your whole body is engaged and so you can remember them and refer to them later. Create a lifestyle in which you’re aware of your goals and refer to them every day.

You can adjust your goals. They’re not written in concrete. Goals are meant to help you achieve what you want from life. Think of this process as your friend and do what works for you.

I wish you plenty of health, wealth, happiness and success in 2009. If you’re already using goals, I hope they’re working for you. If you’re not using goals, what have you got to lose?

Happy writing!
Robyn Opie


Anonymous said...

Hi Robyn,
Your post is very true. I'm a big believer in setting goals and making a plan to achieve them.
J. Aday Kennedy

Robyn Opie said...

Thanks, J. Aday.
Wishing you great success with your goals for 2009,

The Book Chook said...

You're spot on about making bite-sized, doable goals!

If we can narrow our focus to the achievable goals, we waste less time panicking, for a start.

Great advice here, Robyn, thank you.