It’s that time of year when most of us are thinking about how we’ll make 2020 awesome. Maybe this is the year you’ll finally finish that first novel, or query until you finally snag an agent, or push that publish button on your first (or fiftieth) indie book.
But maybe this year, you want to be smart about the goals you make because you’re sick of not reaching them. I’ve got some suggestions for you that’ll help you break the whole grand scheme down into baby steps that you an actually succeed at—and those baby steps are designed to take you where you want to go.
You’re probably eager to get right on those goals for 2020, but let’s slow it down a bit, first.
I love visuals, so let’s make a little pyramid out of this.
At the top, is your Reason Why—that thing that gets you out of bed in the morning, that gets you motivated to do the hard things when you could be watching TV. Your Why can’t be measured in days, weeks or years; it’s measured over a lifetime.
Beneath that are the goals you need to reach in order to obtain your satisfy your Why.
Lifetime Goals, measured in five-year increments, are the pieces that need to be in place in order for your Why to matter. For instance, if your Why is to earn enough money that your spouse can quit his-or-her job, then you need to consistently earn a specific amount of money each year.
Long-term Goals, measured over a year, are the rungs in the ladder of your success.
Short-term Goals, measured over a month, are the support posts in your ladder—they’re extremely important, but aren’t exactly weight-bearing.
And Baby Steps are those weekly goals you make on which all the others rely.
When you look at goal setting this way, you can see that we need to view our goals from the top-down, not from the bottom-up.
So what is your Reason Why? What’s that special thing that gets you up in the morning? That makes your heart go pitter-patter when you think of achieving it someday? WHY do you write?
Yeah, not so easy, is it? Maybe you just like to tell stories. Maybe you just like to write for the fun of it.
And that’s totally okay.
However, maybe you long to touch the hearts of your readers. Maybe you want to make a difference in their lives, or in the world. How will you do that? What kind of difference will you make? What are you about?
And how can you figure it all out?
Be prepared to take a couple days to think about this, if necessary. Take the time to think—both purposefully and not.
Let’s do the purposeful thinking first.
- Imagine you have everything you want. Write down what it looks like—where do you live? What kind of home do you have? How do you spend your days? What is it, specifically, that makes that perfect future so perfectly perfect?
- The more detailed you paint this picture, the better for you to begin to see beyond the surface and discover just what about this perfect future makes it so.
- Is it money? Does money let you do more, be more than you could without it?
- Is it influence? How have you earned it? What do you do with it?
Now that you have you an image of your future, take some time to let that sit with you. Live with it, and know that it’s true—it’s a version of you that exists in the future. From here, move on to the intuitive part of the exercise:
- Find a time and a place where you can be quiet and still and connect with your spirit.
- What are the top three reasons you write? Is it to earn money? Is it to help people believe in themselves? Is it to help others not feel alone? Is it to provide a legacy for your family? Really, the reasons why are endless and oh so very personal. No one reason is better than another—for instance, if your reason for writing is to earn money so that you can take your family on amazing vacations, that’s a perfect reason for writing. And if your reason is to uplift and inspire—that’s a perfect reason for writing. In all you do, be true to you. This is not the time (is there ever a time?) to manufacture a truth because it makes you look good. This is the time to, well, tell the truth.
- Write down your top three reasons.
- Let those reasons sink down into your soul.
- Open your eyes, and draw a line through one of the reasons. You know it’s not the reason, so let it go.
- Maybe, at this point, you already know the one that’s true, but if you don’t, that’s okay. As you live with the remaining two reasons, one will rise.
- Draw a line through one of the reasons because you know it’s not the one, either.
- Your Why is the one remaining reason on your list. That’s your truth.
Write this reason on a couple post-it notes and put them where they’ll have the greatest impact. I have two—one on my bathroom mirror where I see it every night and every morning—and one on my monitor. Even before I did these exercises, I was writing my truth into my stories and didn’t even see it. Now that I know what to look for, I can see it in all that I do—chances are good, you’ll experience the same thing.
Using this blank pyramid, write your Reason Why in the top space.
My husband thinks I should use an inverted pyramid because your Reason Why overshadows all you do, and the Baby Steps are practically inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. But the inverted pyramid kinda messes with my mind, so just imagine that the Reason Why is the biggest and most important piece to this puzzle.
Before we start on the other levels, the way you can tell the difference between your Reason Why and your Goals, is that your Why is something you feel, and your Goals are something you can count. Sometimes it can be easy to confuse things as you get carried away setting goals—but if you remember that if you can count it, it’s a goal, but if you can feel it, then it’s a “why.”
Lifetime Goals are the big picture goals, the things that need to be in place before you can hope to live your Why. If you want to help girls around the world fight their way out of poverty and make something more of themselves, then you probably better be a worldwide seller.
Think about your Why, then ask “how?” How can you live your Why? What things need to be in place for that to happen? Are you a worldwide bestseller? Do you need to be a guest on the Ellen Show in order to reach your audience?
Write down anything and everything that comes to mind that would help you live your Why. After a bit of editing, (maybe you don’t actually need to meet the Queen of England), you’ll have your lifetime goals. Plan to revisit these goals every three-five years—your needs for them might change, and it’s good to know where on the path you are. Write in two-three goals in the space beneath your Reason Why.
Now let’s have a look at your Long-Term Goals. These are the goals that look and feel a lot more like those New Year Resolutions we like to make. They might include writing more books, or having a YouTube channel, or a newsletter with more than 5,000 subscribers.
Your goals are going to change and change and change. Sometimes because you need to reevaluate how you’re going to live your Why, and sometimes because you fail to reach a goal. How often you reevaluate depends on you and your goals, but yearly is a good rule of thumb. Thank goodness for January 1st! So long as you don’t lose sight of your Why, and you’re daily employing the tactics you’ve devised to reach your goals, you’ll stay on track.
Write a few of your Long-term goals in the space below your Lifetime Goals.
Your Short-term Goals and Baby Steps might take a bit of research before you can really get crackin’ with them. It’s easy to say you need three-thousand more Twitter followers, but how the heck do you get them? That’s where the research comes in.
Once you figure out what actions are needed, you can write them in the Short-term Goals section. These might include, join BookFunnel, do newsletter swaps, or start a blog.
Write a few of your short-term goals in the provided space.
And now here we are at the Baby Steps. I love calling these Baby Steps because those words remind to 1) take it easy and 2) they’re just steps on a very long path. Baby steps move you forward, but they aren’t meant to win any races.
Your baby steps are the day-to-day things that need done to help you reach your short-term goals.
For instance, if your long-term goal is to build your newsletter list, a short-term goal might be to join BookFunnel so you can participate in newsletter builders. In this case, your Baby Steps would be to sign up for BookFunnel, create your profile, decide which books to upload and upload them, search for promotions that would suit you and your books, and apply for those promotions. Since joining BookFunnel is a short- and not long-term goal, you have all month to complete those baby step tasks. Pick a few baby steps to complete each week for each of your short-term goals and you won’t be overwhelmed by “all that needs to be done” in the long term.
You’re probably not going to fit all your baby steps into your pyramid, but you can (and should) write them down somewhere. How you do this is entirely up to you. Maybe you use a digital to-do app. Maybe you use a bullet journal. Maybe you use sticky notes. However you do it, keep track. You’ll feel so much better and have the proof your brain needs to prove that you are working toward your goals, even if right now it might seem like you’re just doing busy work.
Make a copy of your pyramid and put it somewhere you can see often. It’ll help you keep your focus when those Baby Steps feel pointless.
Don’t get overly excited and set all your goals at once. It’s much better if you set fewer goals and reach them, than if you set a bunch and only reach a few. Even if, in the end, you reach the same amount of goals, your brain won’t see it that way. Your brain will happily (or, rather, not-so-happily) point out all the things you failed at, rather than acknowledging all that you achieved. So make it easy on yourself and plan just a few things. Think of it as editing your goals or to-do list. Stephen King says if you can’t fit your daily to-do’s on a post-it note, then you’re planning too many things and you won’t succeed. There just isn’t enough time in a day to do ev-ery-thing. Set yourself up for success and plan only the most needful things.
We’ll discuss more about that when we talk about Productivity in a future lesson.
I hope you found this goal-setting tutorial helpful! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll address them in my Live session on Thursday.