December 31, 2011
I’m a big believer in new year’s resolutions, but I don’t call them that. I just call them “goals,” and I make a list of all the things I want to accomplish during the year. I’ve been making these lists since I was in high school. I’ll make up this year’s list over the next week or so, because it really doesn’t matter if I start January 1 or February 8, just as long as I’m working on the list.
The last couple of years have been kind of weird, because I’ve actually accomplished the big thing that’s been on my long-term goal list since I was a teenager: make a living as a writer. Holy cow, I’m doing it, and all the little daily goals it took to get there — writing, sending stuff out, etc. — are part of my life. I hardly have to write them down as goals anymore.
So what’s the new long-term goal? “Don’t screw it up.” Which isn’t a very satisfying goal, really. It’s a goal based on paranoia and fear rather than accomplishment. I’ve been grappling with how to be in this new place in my life, not as a struggling up-and-coming writer, but as one who’s (gasp) actually Doing It. Because I have to be honest, I still feel like a struggling newbie most days. This feeling will probably never go away. But I still need to think about my goals, and what I need to do to keep on making a living writing.
One of the tricks with successful goal-setting is to make the goals as concrete as possible. “Eat healthier” is a terrible goal because it doesn’t give you steps to take, that you can check off so you know you’ve accomplished it. “I will stop eating Sugar Pops for breakfast” and “I will cook at least one meal from scratch every week” are great goals because you know exactly what you have to do to accomplish them, and you can put a check mark by them when they’re done.
I’ve started turning my goal-setting focus away from writing and more on the rest of my life — what can I do that will keep me happy and healthy so that I can keep writing? Don’t get me wrong, I still have writing goals — write every day, finish two novels a year, etc. But like I said, these have been ongoing goals of mine for years now. I need to not fall into a rut, and it feels like a rut when the goal list doesn’t really change from year to year. I’ve been trying to shake up my goal list by working on other things.
As part of the project of “making life better,” I accomplished quite a lot this year: moved out of the apartment and into a house, got my Advanced Open Water scuba certification. In the new year I want to sew more and read more, get better at saying “no” so I don’t find myself swamped with projects and travel like I have the last couple of years. I want to go to a convention in a non-working capacity, so I can dress up and cut loose. (SteamCon, perhaps???)
The problem I see with new year’s resolutions is that they often seem to say, “I want to change who I am.” People want to change how they eat, the pattern of their days, the things that make them happy or sad. But without concrete steps and a really clear picture in mind of where you’re going, radical fundamental life changes are bound to fail. This is why I like goals: tiny, concrete goals. Little things you can do every day to change patterns, and those patterns will help you get the life you want. Resolutions, goals, whatever you call them, are steps to bigger things, not the things themselves.
Happy New Year, y’all!