The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
At least, that’s what my Welsh Grannie used to say. She didn’t add that the same road is also the one that leads to failure, guilt, stress, anxiety attacks and self-loathing. Or, depending on your personality,loathing others who you are sure stood in the way of your achieving success with your good intentions.
Any excuse will do! But eventually you have to own your own failure, and it hurts.
This is really the time of year when we should take this lesson to heart. For ‘good intentions’ read ‘resolutions’. I’m not even going to tell you the percentage of people who actually make something of their resolutions, it would just depress you.
(If you’re really riddled with the need to know, I saw an estimate in an article by Mindy McHorse on the American Writers & Artists Inc newsletter that said only 8 per cent of people follow through on their New Year’s Resolutions http://www.awaionline.com/ or sign up here for their newsletter http://www.awaionline.com/signup/the-writers-life/ )
So, instead of resolutions, let’s sit down and consider what we really want to achieve, check out the possibilities, set the goal, then break it down into baby steps and maybe, just maybe, we can make some real progress this year.
For example, you need a proper goal. “I want to write a book” or “I want to lose weight” are not proper goals. They’re ideas, thoughts, dreams.
A goal is concrete. “I am going to write a book about my experiences as a relief worker in the Sudan” or “I am going to write a mystery novel based on (insert your story idea here)……” OR – “I am going to join Weightwatchers and stick with it until I have lost 25 pounds before the summer” – these are goals. See that difference? The first is airy fairy, the second is a concrete idea with actions already defined..
So, next step, get your diary and a fresh notebook. At the top of the pages in the notebook, write the goal/goals, in big capital letters using separate pages. Stick in pictures that remind you of your goal, articles you may have read that inspire you, etc.
Use coloured pens if you’re feeling artistic. You can also start a journal on your computer and do the same thing, but it’s not as easy to flip through, paste pictures in, or carry around with you. There’s something about a notebook, with those lovely clean pages just waiting to be filled, that lifts the spirit.
Okay, so maybe I'm a bit of a dinosaur there – my kids do this sort of thing on the tiny screens of their smart phones….
Next, break the goal down into baby steps. What is the first thing you need to do? Take a creative writing class? Make notes, dig out your diary from that Sudanese experience? Write an outline?
Contact weightwatchers or a similar organization in your area, and sign up? Choose a diet plan that will suit your lifestyle? Put an unflattering photo of yourself highlighting those extra pounds on the door of the refrigerator to act as a snacking deterrent?
Don’t forget to make allowances for the unavoidable but predictable obstacles that may come up - including attempts by your nearest & dearest to undermine your plans for their own insecure reasons…Have a plan in place to deal with these before they happen. We can easily become prisoners of our own psyches.
Now, the diary: You know the steps you need to take (and you’ve left space in your notebook for extra notes/steps that you may discover you need to add as you go along) so now you set a timetable. How many weeks do you have to carry out this plan? Warning: set a reasonable amount of time – if you finish earlier, wow! If you fall behind, you’ll get depressed and trip over one of those good intentions on that road to You Know Where….
So, instead of scribbling down your resolutions for 2014, make concrete, defined goals. Write each step and when it should be done in your diary, like making a date with yourself so things are not forgotten.
And a note of warning: I have worked with clients who started out by setting so many lofty goals that they set themselves up for failure. They start out all gung-ho – and in very little time sink into depression and quit, saying that it’s just too hard.We use that excuse to turn chicken…
That’s why we use baby steps, concrete goals, and a plan.
So, wishing you all a Happy, Healthy & Productive New Year! See you again in 2014