Alas, the end of the year has arrived. As I write this there are exactly 9 hours and 50 minutes left in 2010. Each new year brings many changes and, as many of you know, this is particularly true in my case. Tomorrow I will be loading my bags in the truck and returning to college, where my writing and blogging time will be lost somewhere in the rush of essays, homework, parties, sleeping, pranking, and other crucial (but time consuming) activities. As a result, this blog will be going on hiatus until August 2011.
So it's on the eve of this great change that I sit here, consuming way too many holiday goodies and writing my blog season finale. With the biggest goal-setting day of the year only hours away, I thought I'd share the most powerful tool I have in my author's toolbox. Don't be fooled though! This bad boy is not just for writers. I've put it to work and seen success in nearly every aspect of my life. So whether your New Year's resolution is to write a novel or build a garage, I present (*cheesy dramatic music*) "Michelle Kleih's Secret Weapon for Goal Success."*
Please complete the following steps to engage the secret weapon:
1. Set Your Goal
Yes, this one seems rather obvious, but it's a little deeper (and a lot more important) than you may realize. The trick is to be specific. Many people set resolutions like "Write More" or "Lose Weight." I find that I'm most motivated by goals that focus more on the day-to-day part of the goal, rather than the end result. For example, instead of the two goals listed above, I would write something like "Write 1,000 words a day" or "Exercise for 30 minutes daily." Both of these will get me the goals I mentioned above, but it's much easier to visualize how exactly I'm going to accomplish that.
Now, write it down. Seriously... yes, you, WRITE IT DOWN. It doesn't have to be in calligraphy and framed on the wall, the paper napkin right next to you will work fine (that is, if it's clean... you are going to want to hang on to it for a while O.o). Then, once you've got it written, think hard about your goal. Is that REALLY something you want to do? Are you willing and able to sit down at your computer and type 1,000 words or climb on the treadmill for 30 minutes every time the sun rises? If not, tinker with the goal until you find something that you're sure you can accomplish, then write that goal down. There should be no doubts in your mind about whether you can do this or not. Not that you shouldn't stretch yourself, just make sure that it's a plausible stretch.
2. Set Your Schedule
Now figure out your schedule. Writing this down also helps greatly. When, exactly, will you start your resolution? How and when, exactly, are you going to do this? Are you going to try to have reached specific goals by certain times? If it wasn't already specified in your goal setting step, make sure to decide on a frequency here. How often do you need to do something for it to become a habit? Personally, I find that I form a habit best if I do it every single day, if only for a few minutes. If it's something I can't or shouldn't do every day (scuba diving, for example), I buy some books on the topic and spend a few minutes reading about it every day. This keeps me in the habit and is educational too. Just be sure that you don't start reading about your resolution when you could be actually doing it!
3. Get Psyched
This is my favorite step. Preferably before the starting date of your resolution, get excited about your goal! Subscribe to a magazine on the topic, join the local club, read discussion forums, watch YouTube videos, whatever gets you motivated! If you do this step well, you'll hardly be able to wait for your starting date to get going!
4. Stick To It
I won't sugarcoat this: After a couple of days on the trail of your new goal, it will get hard. That's the way it is with any worthy endeavor. The novelty wears off, the habit isn't quite established yet, and actually pursuing your goal turns out to be a whole lot harder than just dreaming about it! This is the hard part, just see it through. Eventually there will come a point when you don't even have to think about it or, even better, you look forward to it! Right now, you just have to pull yourself through that schedule you created until it becomes easy. Tip: Remember the tools you used to get yourself psyched in Step 3? Use and abuse them in every way you can to keep yourself motivated!
5. Be Progressive
This last step is a bit tricky and very much depends on your personal tendencies. We tend to have two sorts of problems when it comes to progression: 1. We're too progress oriented and get discouraged by the tiny steps that are part of normal goal achievement ("I've dieted all week and only lost 1 pound?!"). 2. We're not progressive enough and fail to push ourselves once some initial success is achieved ("I can now run a mile in 10 minutes, but going for 9 seems like too much work.").
Every person is different and has to find their own way of pushing through this, but I'll share with you my method. Every day, when I finish running/writing/riding/whatever, I stop and look at the progress I've made. Sometimes it's obvious and motivating, sometimes I just have to say "One day closer to achieving my goal!" and have faith that progress will come. Either way, I try to find an optimistic way of looking at it, and then figure out what exactly the plan will be for tomorrow and how I'm going to be better. I find it's so much easier to get myself off Facebook when I already have a clear picture of what I'm going to do. If I don't, the mere act of creating a plan seems like too much work to even contemplate.
So, there you have it, my goal setting techniques. If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, or stories, I'd love to hear them!
I hope you enjoyed the Michelle Kleih Blog this fall and I'll see you again in August! Wishing you all a wonderful new year and the best of success in your endeavors.
*Please note that very little/none of this was discovered by me. This is merely the collection of bits and pieces of advice I've gathered. :)