The Thing About Goals
Google “how to accomplish sumthin awsum” and early in your research you will likely find advice suggesting to create goals. It's good advice because we find it difficult to achieve something when we don't know what the hell we're trying to achieve. Goals add clarity. Selecting our paths is easier when we know where we want to go.
In your research, you likely find advice saying that your goals should be reasonably attainable. Why set yourself up for failure by trying to achieve something impossible? You also likely find advice telling you to write your goals on paper. Typing doesn't count because typing is for the undedicated, the suckas. If you're not willing to pull out pen and paper and risk hand cramp by writing a couple of lines, are you even committed, bro?
Photo courtesy of Isaac Smith on Unsplash.com
Not only did I make sure my goals for the new year were attainable and then write them down on paper, but I also put my goals for 2020 in a blog post for my eight monthly visitors to see. This practice is called holding yourself accountable.
And how's that working out for me?
I'm already reneging on goals.
We're not even through February and I'm bailing on some of my goals. And I'm okay with that.
Goals are great because they get you moving. They foster activity. But sometimes activity shows us that our goals are not right for us and our goals need to be adapted or amended or perhaps even abandoned. All too often we hear that we should never give up, never quit. The advice sounds great, especially when it plays out in some epic success story. But sometimes you need to quit because quitting can be a crucial component to success.
Sometimes success requires you to quit.
In The Dip, Seth Godin makes the case that successful people quit. A lot. Successful people find success because they quit activities and projects that aren't working out and instead focus on activities and projects for which they are better suited. Godin does not make the case that quitting is the best option, only that quitting is an option, one that we're often reluctant to exercise. Godin acknowledges that sometimes you have to grit your teeth and patiently slog your way through the dip—that period when you're not seeing positive results—so that you can work your way back to a positive trend. Figuring out when to quit and when to soldier on is part of the art of being human.
On my 2020 goals post, I said I wanted to publish weekly blog posts on Flirting With Nihilism and monthly fiction on a separate site. I've already abandoned the other site and started integrating my fiction into Flirting With Nihilism. Even though write.as makes maintaining multiple blogs easy, I didn't find the extra effort to be worth it, especially considering that as of right now my focus is on writing, and sticking with one blog makes staying focused easier.
I thought I would take my time to ease back into fiction writing, but instead I find myself with fiction on the brain. And so I still plan on publishing monthly fiction, but I'm no longer concerned with weekly blog posts, since they detract from my fiction.
At least one goal is going well.
In more positive goal-oriented news, I'm almost done with an outline for the novel I hope to start writing no later than January 1, 2021. Not bad since I gave myself all of 2020 to finish an outline.
Sometimes moving toward goals creates new opportunities which change your goals since you now have new options. I recently helped to found an unofficial writers group with a handful of strangers from reddit. I'm excited to see what our group can accomplish and how we can support each other. But this group will require time and effort I hadn't allotted for when I wrote my goals back in December. I have limited bandwidth and so something has to give.
Weekly blog posts, you are the weakest link. Goodbye.
Stay flexible, my friends.
Goals are important, but flexibility with goals can be just as important. Perhaps even moreso. There are few absolutes in life—I hesitate to say there are no absolutes in life because to say such would be to make an absolutist statement. Nearly every life rule we hear people parrot over and over has a legitimate case in which the rule does not apply. But we hear only one side of the advice. We don't consider that the opposite may apply in some situations, and so we experience guilt and shame if we deviate from the parroted advice.
When my son utters the nonsense “LaCazes never quit”—some crap advice he likely adapted from something he heard on Pokémon or something other movie or TV show—I have to grit my teeth, walk into the bathroom, lock the door, look into the mirror, and whisperyell through gritted teeth, “HOW DOES HE NOT KNOW THAT QUITTING IS A LEGITIMATE OPTION? YOU'VE FAILED AS A FATHER!”
In short, sometimes quitting is a great option. Try it sometime.