Monday, December 28, 2009

Reaching For Attainable Goals

By Nichole Giles

I’ve been thinking this weekend about goals. With the impending New Year, I suppose it’s a subject that can’t really be avoided.

My husband and I have maintained a gym membership for over six years. While neither of us is able to go every single day, we’re of the “waste not” variety, and refuse to pay for something we never use. So we try to go as often as possible, which usually ends up being three or four times a week. We’ve noticed that every year between January and March there’s a surge of new members who crowd the parking lot and hog the equipment. Then sometime around the end of March, the crowd starts to die out, and by May, gym attendance is back to normal.

Every year we speculate about the whys and hows of this phenomenon. See, to attend the gym for even a few months, you have to sign a contract. Usually, these contracts span for a year minimum, often more like two or three, and require either a large up-front payment, or monthly installments that cannot be canceled once the responsible party signs on the dotted line. So why do people pay for gym memberships and then only use them for a few months?

There are probably thousands of reasons, and each person has a different one, but in my mind I can’t help but wonder if people make goals for themselves that sound great to their ears, but may be impossible to physically attain. Did they perhaps plan to lose fifty pounds in three months? And if that isn’t working out, do they then get discouraged and quit? Or were they planning on having a firm, cellulite free figure after attending twenty fitness classes, only to realize that their goal will require much more effort than just those few classes?

It may sound crazy, but we all do this to ourselves. As the New Year looms, we set goals, planning for our future. And of course we set our standards high, sometimes not knowing what we’re asking of ourselves. That is the only way to get the things we most want in life, right? But sometimes, I think it’s better to set smaller goals that we can actually reach.

For instance, rather than setting a goal to get a big publishing contract, complete with a half-million dollar advance, maybe we should consider making a goal to first finish the rough draft of a manuscript. Or finish the edits and submit to fifty different agents or publishers. Or maybe that’s even too much. For some, a daily goal is better. Perhaps a certain number of words written every day, or every week. Maybe the trick is to set aside certain hours on days when we can focus on just writing—even if it’s only in a journal.Whatever you do, make sure you're exercising your writing muscles.

None of us has any control over whether or not an agent or editor will accept what we send them, but we can decide to how many and which ones we submit. It’s important to make goals over which we actually have control, rather than goals which depend on the tastes, timing, and whims of others.

As you’re getting ready to make your goals for 2010, remember to make goals you can reach along with your highest hopes. Sometimes, it’s the small steps that remind us we’re moving forward.

Good luck with setting your personal and writing goals.

Happy New Year, and write on.



Rebecca Talley said...

The goal I set every year and wonder if I'll ever achieve it, is being more charitable.

And, you're right, we have no control over whether or not a publisher will accept our manuscript, but we can control whether or not we write each day (most of the time anyway).

Nichole Giles said...

Yes, Rebecca, being more charitable is definitely something I should work on, too.

Good luck with your goals for 2010.