We are fast approaching the best holiday — New Year! And with that, comes resolutions. But before you resolve anything, let’s talk about setting goals and defining success.
Original photo by Melanie Magdalena
This is something that has been on my mind for a really long time. In fact, it’s been a theme for the year, really. The older I get, the more I realize that there is no one size fits all definition of success. I mean, you’d think I’d know that. I picked a career path that doesn’t lend itself to the standard definition of a profession.
But I’m a late bloomer. You probably know that about me as it is.
Anyway, a weird thing about being in your thirties is watching the people you grew up with flail. Not that everyone does it, but a lot of people do. It’s like we’re all wrestling with the definitions of success that we’ve been sold, and actually thinking about what we want from life. Those two things rarely, if ever, line up. And you find that your friends either spend their free time building a new job or hobby that will sustain them, or they just watch TV from the time they get home from work until they go to bed.Setting Goals and Defining Success Click To Tweet
I’m not trying to make a judgement call here. I am saying that if you put your faith in a standard-issue definition of success, you’re more likely to sit around and watch TV. I’m also not saying that there’s anything wrong with watching TV. I definitely do it, and there have been seasons of my life where I could really only muster the energy to watch TV. But if you find that this season of your life has been going on for years and years, but you have big ideas you’d like to work on, it might be time for some mental health intervention.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve been working my ass off this past year, and I gotta say…it’s starting to pay off. I have some uncooked thoughts on this as of right now that I will share once they reach the proper internal temperature. But for now, I just gotta say that consistency is the magic pill. (Which also, by definition, means it’s not a magic pill at all.)
So, using consistency as a lens through which to view this information, I’m going to talk about setting goals and defining success. I’m hot off the heels of a good year and I did just take a course in quarterly goal planning. So I’m ready to talk about what’s working and what’s not working when it comes to the sort of mindsets you need to have in order to make shit happen.
And before I really get into it, I have to say that the number one thing that has changed this year is that I don’t have a lot of negative people in my life. And it’s not that I ever had anyone trying to tell me that I couldn’t do something. But I did have people who would just talk about how fruitless it was to work toward things in general. And while I didn’t believe it, their negative talk definitely subconsciously shaped how I approached the work I did and the opportunities that I sought out.
So, with all that preamble, let’s talk about setting goals and defining success.
Setting Goals and Defining Success
Know what you want and work backwards.
This year I’ve really been thinking about how I want to live my life, not just the goal outcome. I’ve had several people encourage me to think about the day-to-day life I want and how much I want to work and what I want to be working on. When you really think about how your ideal day should be, it keeps you from doing stuff that doesn’t align with that ideal.
If you’re interested in trying this yourself, check out this post on creating your writer’s vision statement. In 2019, this is how I’ll approach the work I do. I won’t be taking opportunities that don’t work for me, and I won’t be worrying about social media in a way that doesn’t support what I’m trying to build. It’s really freeing. I feel almost giddy about it.
Break the desired result into small chunks.
So, we all know that you can’t do big, hard projects in a day. No one does. And yet, we let that stop us from tackling big, hairy scary projects. I can’t wake up tomorrow and have sold three novel manuscripts if I never sit down to do the writing sprints that would lead to those novel manuscripts. I can’t get speaking gigs if I never post the online content that matters. I can’t treat my blog like a little fun hobby if I want to build a professional platform.
Everyone has their starting points. And everyone has a ton of work that they have to put in. So if you feel like people are tackling projects left and right and getting where they want to be while you’re left behind, that’s not quite it. I will never publicly admit how much time and money I’ve spent learning to bend Pinterest to my will. I may admit that I’ve spent more time on YouTube than I have on my day job this year, but you’ll probably be able to figure that out easily since I’m about to hit 150 videos for my first year on the platform.
Set deadlines for each of those chunks.
The best thing I’ve ever done for this blog is choosing to adhere to deadlines. These are promises I make for myself, and I don’t break them. So people know that I post twice a week — Mondays and Thursdays at 5:30 AM. And this is the way it has been all year. (This is going to change for 2019, but more on that later.) These deadlines have ensured that posts have gotten written when they need to, and it means that I’ve had to plan ahead and approach my blog like a job and not just a side hobby.
Breaking projects into small tasks and then setting deadlines for those tasks is the only way to consistently make progress. I used to think that I didn’t have enough time to do what I wanted to do, but now it’s clear that I can functionally do anything, I just have to consistently make progress toward it. Sure, it takes a long time. But it takes even longer when you don’t start in the first place.
Sometimes you put a system in place to make stuff happen. You think it will serve you and get you where you need to be. And maybe it does for a few months. But then, maybe after like six months, you realize that it’s not working anymore. And honestly, the only way you’re going to realize this is if you’re tracking what’s going on. Blind faith doesn’t get you anywhere, and that’s true of everything, not just success and goal setting.
Making sure you can track progress is a really important part of goal setting. It’s easy to make a measurable goal, but if it’s the sort of goal that will take you a long time to reach, you need to make sure you’re making the kind of strides you need to to get there. You can use a planner to track this, or you can use spreadsheets. The point is you have to figure out what’s going to work for you. And once you do, you monitor where you’re at until you get where you’re going.
Perhaps my biggest pet peeve in life is doing something that isn’t working. This is why I track what I do — whether it’s with my blog or YouTube or novel writing. If I see that something is holding me back, I get rid of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s something I’ve always done, or if I have to learn a huge new process to make it better. I’m not here to spin my wheels. No one really is. But sometimes, that’s what we do because we don’t take time to re-assess.
Be careful with this step. It can be really easy to use this as a stage to compare yourself to others. When I say re-assess, I mean you need to look at what you’re doing and where it’s taking you. You don’t get to use this stage as a time to look at so-and-so and all the progress they’ve made, or an arbitrary benchmark that you heard from some productivity guru. EYES ON YOUR OWN PAPER.Setting goals? EYES ON YOUR OWN PAPER. Click To Tweet
And now you’re a raging success, right?
So, following these steps for a month is kind of worthless. I’m not saying that to demoralize you. But I’m saying that because working toward your ideal vision for your life for one month is only going to give you a month’s worth of progress. And the first month is going to be the month where you make the least amount of progress anyway since you are just starting to build momentum. And if you quit after one month and start again a while later, you’re basically reliving the worst month over and over.
And it’s worth noting that every day isn’t going to send you great rewards. But you’ll have really good days. And the more days you work, the more good days are coming your way. December has been a great month for me, but know that I put a lot of stuff that’s paying off into play back in January. So yeah. It’s a game of consistency.
How Do You Set Goals and Measure Success?
What’s been working for you this year? How have you measured whether or not you’ve met your goal? What’s the one thing that keeps you consistent? Do you know what your ideal day looks like?