Happy New Year. That sentence sounds so insincere this year, doesn’t it? Because we know this year wasn’t particularly happy, so we are all clinging to the desperate hope that maybe we will do better next year. I won’t be holding my breath, but you never know.
A lot of people might be doing New Year resolutions right about now. I’m not really a fan – if you’re serious about setting a goal and achieving it, then you can set it any time you like. If you waited until New Year’s, you might have already put it off for too long and chances are, you’re heart isn’t truly in it. But if I were to name two resolutions for myself, it’s the same goals I already had anyway; get back to my 1000 words per day, and stick to my writing goals for 2018 that I’ve mentioned earlier.
I have seen so many writing-related blog posts about resolutions going around, but since I am such a devoted fan to the year-round setting and commitment to achievable goals, I didn’t really want to do this. Don’t get me wrong, those posts and videos are great and all the resolutions are great – as long as you are actually committed to them. The thing with New Year’s resolutions is the fact that everyone around you is doing them, and because December is already such a magical season, you can get this infectious urge to push yourself to be better next year, to do things you always wanted to do but it was just never the right time. So you set resolutions for yourself that, let’s be honest, will be lucky if they survive until February. So while I initially didn’t want to write about resolutions at all, I decided I might as well say a little something about how you can make yourself more likely to stick to your goals.
Write it Down
I cannot overstate this. If you have a dream or a goal you seriously want to achieve, telling your friends what your New Year’s resolutions are just isn’t enough. When you write something down, you commit to it. You are committing just by permanently placing the words on paper so they stare back at you like a real, tangible promise.
You can’t hit a target you can’t see, and when your goals aren’t written down they are so easy to forget, to push to the side, to de-prioritize. And I know you don’t want to do that with the goals you truly dream of reaching. Write your goals down on a piece of paper and place it somewhere you will regularly see it. Hang it on your bathroom mirror. Stick it to the dash of your car. Hang it behind your computer screen at work. Somewhere you can see it every day, so that each and every day you get a reminder of what you wanted so badly that you committed to putting them down on paper and look them in the eyes each day. Every time you see it, it will give you a little kick, reignite the fire that was in your heart what you wrote it. It will stop you forgetting why you wanted it enough to write it down.
Include Every Stepping-Stone
Just having your big goal looking at you every day is a good motivator and a reminder to keep yourself going, but there are going to be times where you’ll look at that goal, laugh and go “yeah, not happening”, and get a drink or some sleep instead. Big goals are great, but just having the big picture can make it seem impossible. That’s why it’s so important to also write down the little things. The things you need to do on the way to achieving that one master goal. On your list of goals, include all the little goals you need to reach on your way to the destination. For example, my main goal for Spiralling is to have it self-published by the end of 2019, but written underneath that big number is a long list of goals that include drafts, beta-readers, editing, marketing and all those boxes that I will need to tick along the way.
This way, every box ticked is a goal reached. I can see my progress, see that I all my hard work is paying off because I’m slowly working my way towards that final big one. Having little goals to reach on your way to the big one – and to write all of them down – is such a great way to keep you focused on making your dream come true.
Be Kind – Even When You Fail
You are going to screw up sometimes. That’s just a fact of life. You are going to fall short, need to push a deadline, you’ll make a mistake that will take precious time to fix which will set you back maybe one or two ticked boxes. Life gets in the way, as does mental and physical health, and there will be days where you think those goals you set for yourself was nothing but wishful thinking and that you’ll never be able to make it back after this setback.
It’s in these moments I want you to remember something very important. Trying and failing is terrifying, but if you never try, then you have already failed. Not even making the attempt; that’s what makes someone a failure. Deciding the potential for failure makes it not worth the effort; that’s what makes someone a coward. Just the fact that you sat a goal for yourself and you are trying with all your heart and soul to keep working, even on the days when it literally feels impossible… That is what makes someone brave. It takes courage to keep trying even though the setbacks. It requires an admirable commitment to not quit when quitting is so easy.
I know it’s hard and maybe a bit awkward to call yourself brave, to admit that what you are doing is worth admiring, but you know what? Say it. Say it to yourself in the mirror; say it about yourself in front of your friends when you’re bragging about them. You deserve that same kind of praise, and you shouldn’t have to sit around waiting to get it from other people. Not everyone can see the hard work it takes to stick to your goals on days when you wish they didn’t even exist. Some days, just moving forward and not giving up is as productive as any amount of work you might have done otherwise. As long as you haven’t decided to give up, then you are still trying and you can still reach your goal.
Committing to and reaching your goals is hard. I’ve been obsessed with goals and working towards them for three years now, and even though my heart and soul are in it, there are days – sometimes weeks – where I forget how to keep going. My mind and body forget all the delight I get from working towards my goals and so I just… can’t. Words cannot describe how miserable it makes me not to be writing regularly, and yet that same misery keeps me from getting started again. Remind me to plan for this feeling after NaNoWriMo next year so I don’t set myself up for disappointment again.
Goals for me is a year-round thing, but this New Year’s it feels like there is more at stake because this is the longest period I have gone without writing since early last year when I was going through a very dark time. After I dug myself out of that and got started again, I have been on track. I’ve been doing great with my writing and working towards goals, but after NaNoWriMo I’ve just been having all these realizations of failings that need to be fixed, and that mountain hasn’t looked like one I could climb over.
But by not giving up, by continuing believing in my dreams and my ability to achieve them, that mountain has slowly started to look a little less intimidating. I can do this, I know that. I just need to rip myself out of this impossible state of mind where I just can’t bring myself to do any of the things I should, and want, to do. So let’s hope that infectious hopefulness that goes around New Year’s Eve with the promise of something new, something better… Let’s hope some of that rubs off on me this year.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I… really don’t know what I’ll do right now. But here’s hoping I’ve figured it out by next week.