Goals: Setting, Sticking to, Achieving

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I’ve been reflecting on goals, as, I guess, one is apt to do at this time of year. I’m fairly certain of my career goals, though not the exact path to achieve them. I posed this question on Twitter and Facebook. I’d love feedback from you, too:

How do you all set, and work towards, goals?

I’m smack in the middle of struggling through some writing work for a goal that I previously set (get published in an academic journal/compilation). Getting these words out is such a MASSIVE struggle! Even though I have lots to say on both subjects.

Why do you think that is?

I wish to God I knew.

I’ll be back with a much more cheerful topic (gift giving), soon.

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15 thoughts on “Goals: Setting, Sticking to, Achieving

  1. Have you ever tried the “outline” view (under the “View” menu usually) in your word processor? I always use it to get down my rough ideas before I write. In University my outline doc was usually more pages than my final draft! The beauty is that it lets you organize topics and suptopics with individual arguments, quotes etc… then if you drag the subtopic to a different point in the document, all the point form notes move with it! It might help you get past your writer’s block? Good luck!

  2. Very timely post for me as well, so thank you for sharing. Yes, I’m the same way at the moment. I used to be a scientific researcher but my contract ended and I realised that I’m a maker and creator, not a researcher. Now I have to set a new path for myself and yes, it has been difficult. I want to do so many things and I really feel I need to focus. I’m really happy you’re doing this soul searching work FIRST – it’s a difficult step but absolutely critical for success, I think. Once you have the core, you can build around it. I think of it in that way. Not moving towards something, but determining your insides and building *around* that. Who you are is always there and always has been – I just had to connect with it and then build around that. I realized that I’m an craftswoman and a teacher – so I’m tuning my blog towards couture sewing techniques and making them simple to understand for others. I’m no expert, for sure, but I do love it – and I want to dedicate my life to something for the right reasons. A very happy Christmas to you and love your blog :)

  3. Great questions! Setting and working towards goals is a real weakness of mine– I always tell people that I’m really, really not goal-oriented. It’s not that I’m lazy, because I love to work and commit to a million things, but I tend to shrink away from anything competitive and am always more interested in the relationships surrounding work/career than achieving more “success”. But, I would say that breaking things down into achievable bites might help, and making sure that broad, general goals (“Start a new career”) are broken down into measurable pieces (“Punch up my resume on Tuesday”. “Send resume to friend for proofreading Wednesday am”.) If my goals or projects are too broad, I can’t see any results, so it’s hard to keep trucking.

    As far as the actual writing goes, I have lots of advice, actually! I studied lit and film criticism so I wrote so, so, so many papers in college that I finally figured out that the best thing for me is to do an outline format first, similar to Gillian’s suggestion. I just banged out in my word doc the main things I wanted to talk about in order-ish, and as I felt inspired to work on different parts, I sort of filled in the blanks. I found it so paralyzing to sort of start from the beginning and write a line at a time, so I would work on the parts I felt most confident or excited about and usually ended up writing or rewriting the intro at the very end.

    Also, a book recommendation, “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott. It’s a really excellent book about writing, but if you don’t have the time to read a whole book right now, one of the best takeaways for me was her idea that everything starts from a “shitty first draft”. You just have to pump out your first draft without letting your inner critic hold you back, and THEN you can begin to revise it. But get everything out there first. My inner critic is always like, “Yeah, but this paragraph sucks!”, but the whole point is that the shitty first draft is SUPPOSED to suck so you can go back and work through it! Good luck and happy writing! You can do it, girl!

      • AHAHAHAHAHA!!! I love you, dude! Thanks for the advice! You hit it right on with the shitty first draft. I’m getting stuck at that point, because I keep revising as I go along. And that shit ain’t working!

    • i have to agree with pretty much everything sonja’s putting down here…especially about breaking things into bits and (if possible) doing them in the order that makes sense to you rather than an “official” order. obviously not always possible, but definitely helpful when writing. i was a writing major in college, and while i often ended up doing most of the actual writing last minute, i always did better when i had broken everything into bits and working on them as i felt inspiration to do so. and definitely let that first draft suck – all that matters is that the ideas are written down!

      also, bird by bird is excellent – so is stephen king’s “on writing” and brenda ueland’s “if you want to write,” which was recommended to me by one of my fiction professors when i was struggling.

      xoxo and good luck

  4. I actually have a freaky talent for long term goals – it took me years to realize it. I’m persistent, but patient and flexible. There are always roadblocks in any big project. What helps me most is realizing that there is always another route to the same goal. Can’t get through a wall? Well then, try over or under or around and if that fails buy a parachute. Otherwise, you are just banging your head up against the same wall.

    With papers (history major), the best advice I ever received was “there is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.” I always wrote section headings (like an outline) and then populated them – not necessarily in order. That way, I could work on sections that were on my mind without having to wait to get there. Or if I got stuck, I could focus on a different section and come back later.

    Good luck, Nettie!! This sounds exciting!

    • Thanks for sharing!! You reminded me that I did accomplish a long term goal (complete graduate school) and have been living with the reward (my library job) for the last year. That was total planning on my part and the very first time I set a goal like that and accomplished it! I should not forget the various strategies/changes of plan that it took to get there.

  5. Such a great question! Do you think what might be holding you back is the fact that the project seems so big? I’ve found it helps to break large projects into small steps – what’s the first, actionable thing you need to do to inch closer towards the goal? And the next thing? Breaking it down into chunks makes it seem much more manageable.

    I don’t know if you ever feel this, but I’ve also found in the past that sometimes I haven’t wanted to start working towards a goal because I was scared of either failure or success. Failure is an obvious fear, but I also find myself fearing success and the complications it can bring, whether that’s envy and malice from others or a sense of anticlimax when the dream becomes real. Or maybe that’s just me?

    On a more practical level, the Pomodoro technique is brilliant. I also find that writing down what I’ve achieved that day just before going to sleep keeps me motivated to keep going.

    Good luck!

    • Tilly!!!! You are so right about the fear of both failure AND success!! My complications come in a different package than yours. I have a lot responsibility as a parent. That sometimes prevents me from taking action on goals (due to lack of time/scheduling conflicts) or allowing myself to dream big. It’s not something I resent at all, but it can really slow down the decision making process something fierce.

      Thanks for your feedback!

  6. This is one of my favorite subjects, I had to comment!

    In addition to all the helpful suggestions above, I find it’s really important for me to (1) pick one major goal at a time and (2) form concrete habits that contribute to the goal (something you do every single day). The second one is more for those times when you feel like procrastinating, or maybe don’t know where to start, or keep putting something down and picking it up again.

    BJ Fogg at Stanford has a bunch of research about this and I pretty much follow his techniques for forming habits. They’re basically to do your habit every day, start really really really small (like instead of “write a blog post every day” I’d start with “write one sentence of a blog post every day”), and to have something that triggers your habit (like doing it after you drink morning coffee).

    When it comes to writing specifically, I’m a firm believer in what Ann Lamott says about “shitty first drafts.” I ALWAYS have to remind myself while writing: Don’t stop. Doesn’t matter if it’s crap. You’ll fix it later.

    • Thanks so much for adding your thoughts to the discussion! This is really valuable feedback. The best bit being micro goals. I hope to employ that strategy right away.

  7. Ok, I have no good advice as I am crap at setting and achieving goals myself. Although I do love that Chuck Close quote that I think I wrote in a comment a while back- the one about inspiration being for amateurs. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I loved reading the suggestions in the comments. Great stuff here. Good luck!

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