If the goals you set for the new year fail, this could be why

December 29th, 2015

I am excited about setting some creative goals for the new year. In previous years, a lot of my big plans carried over, but this year, I feel a sense of division and newness and freedom to think about new ideas and plans. What should I focus on? As I have dreamed, I have realized there’s one mistake I need to avoid making, so I thought I’d share it with you too. 

The reason most goals don’t work is not that they’re too big. It’s that they’re too vague. 

Say you want to write a book. You could write down a goal,

I will write a book.

That’s great, a big worthy goal, but when you say that, what does it mean? For most people such a goal is abstract to the point of being worthless. I have written books, yet I have never defined “write a book” as a goal. On the other hand, I have made this, related task a goal:

In 2016 I want to write a book proposal.

That’s specific, and something I know how to do.

Or say you want to write a book, but you aren’t familiar with book proposals, and aren’t sure where to start. Perhaps until I wrote this you didn’t even know that a proposal is a step in the book-writing process. So you could write as a 2016 goal,

I want to learn how to write a book proposal.

Or even more basic,

I want to learn the steps involved in getting a book published.

Depending on your familiarity with your goal, you might be able to name specific steps.

If you know exactly what your goal takes, write down every step in the process to achieve the goal. For each, decide a reasonable plan – time involved, resources needed, people needed, etc.

Writing down every step may reveal gaps in your knowledge.

You may realize that you’re missing some steps to be able to execute your plan. Likely, this will be the case — if your goal is big enough, you’re likely not going to know exactly what it takes.

If you don’t have a clear path in your head for how to get from where you are to where you want to be, your dreams and goals aren’t going to work.

On the other hand, don’t limit yourself by your familiarity. If you only do the things you’re familiar with, you won’t grow much. Rather, recognize that learning is a big part of any creative process. 

Here are a few takeaways:

  • Identify your big goal(s) for the year. 
  • Ask yourself, do I know every major step involved in reaching this goal? 
  • What learning do I need to do in order to know the major steps?

Len Wilson is the author of Think Like a 5 Year Old: Reclaim Your Wonder & Create Great Things from Abingdon Press. He blogs at LenWilson.us.

comments powered by Disqus