When will it end?
You know what I’m talking about. This feeling that somehow this year will be different. That something will change, either the world or you, and 2014 will be the year that everything becomes right with the world.
We start each year with every intention of being better people. We show our list of resolutions to the man at the gate of the year, saying “look, this is what I plan to do.”
Then we get completely drunk and wake up in the morning with a hangover and a beer-soaked piece of paper with all the words smeared off and vague recollections of … what was it again?
For years, I boycotted New Year’s resolutions. They didn’t accomplish anything. I realized recently the trouble was these weren’t actually resolutions, they were dreams: “I wish I had a better body. I wish I had more time to spend with my family. Wouldn’t it be nice if I finished that novel I always wanted to write.”
Oh, sure, we’ll take and couch them in what seem like action statements: I resolve to write my novel; I promise not to get falling down drunk more than once a week this year. But really, we’re just restating our dreams, our wishes.
And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.
The trouble is the gap.
The gap between there and here. “This year I promise to write that novel I want to.” That’s a great dream. That’s even a fine goal, but you’re standing at the start of the year and that’s all you’ve got. Chances are you’ll hit the end of the year still clutching onto that dream: “Next year I’ll write that novel…”
The trouble is, there’s no plan of action, other than a vague sense of wanting to accomplish something. What we need to do, if we want this year to be different, is to take and create a road map of how we are going to achieve the goal.
Let’s stick with our novel writing theme. What separates the you you are now from the you that has written a novel? About 100,000 words, more or less.
That’s a lot of words. So far I’ve only written 380 of them in this editorial. But that’s 380 more that I had before.
Lets break down that goal into steps. If I want to write 100,000 words between now and December 31, I only need to write 274 words a day. Already, I have exceeded my goal, and I didn’t even try.
That’s just one way to start subdividing my goal. Another is to start defining characters, setting, themes, plot. The novel needs to be about something. Rather than holding a vague sense of what it’s about in my head, let’s get it down on paper (metaphorically speaking). That clears up space in my head for the next idea. It also allows me to question the idea. To ask why? How? Who? What? When? Where? And by asking (and answering) these questions, we come ever closer to our goal.
This is just an example, but it should get you thinking, if you are serious about doing something, how do we make that dream into a reality? What specific, actionable and achievable steps can I take today that will bring me one step closer to my goal?
One last thing: turn off the internal naysayer. As a writer, I have an internal editor looking over my shoulder telling me that what I am doing is not good enough. The trick to writing well is to shut him up, get the words down, and edit after the fact. Your internal naysayer might tell you that you’ll never achieve your goal. Don’t listen to him/her/it.
So good luck as you move into 2014, and here’s hoping you have the drive to turn those dreams into goals, those goals into steps and the courage to take those steps. If you want to share your goals for 2014 and how you plan on achieving them, let us know, at email@example.com.