Disclaimer/Warning: I am a very goal-driven, achievement-oriented, Type-A+ personality. (I can hear all of my friends going, "Well, du-uh!") That said, if what I'm jumping into below isn't the way your brain works...don't burden yourself with it, because it will just tie you up in knots. If my wife tried to do something like this...well, even trying to explain it to her was tricky. Her brain simply doesn't work this way. Moving on...
I've just discovered a new problem with setting goals...what happens when you achieve them?!?
I'm not talking about the little goals: exercise more, finish book #X, turn in a short story before the deadline for the anthology. I'm talking about the big ones. In 2014 I pretty much hammered down a goal. The catch was that it was a goal I set twenty-one years ago:
I want to make my living as a full-time writer.
Now that's a little bit of a cheat, but not much of one. What happened was that, barring any unforeseen problems, I will achieve that goal in 2015. That's with no breakouts, no hitting a bestseller list, none of that. Simply as a mid-list writer, I will achieve a goal I set more than a third of a lifetime ago.
Now what am I supposed to do with that? That simply stated goal had driven me into the writer's chair through: meeting contract deadlines while working eighty-hour a week corporate jobs, while raising a kid, cooking dinner a couple nights a week to give my wife a break, and everything else that went on over the last two decades. Totally exhausted and sleep-deprived, I can tumble into a chair and write a 1,000 words, That's forward progress and it was driven by that simple goal statement.
First! Recognizing the problem. I found that my motivation to work on the next book--despite being excited by the next book project (#3 in my Kate Stark "Dead Chef" thrillers -coming in February)--was a little hard to find. I'd sit down, jump into a scene and thirty seconds later be checking a factoid on the Internet that wasn't even going to end up in the book.
A good friend and I spent a couple hours talking about it and he nailed it down for me, "Hit your goal, didn't ya?" Crap! Since when did I feel bad about achieving a goal? Okay, not "bad" just at a loss.
They always say that identifying the problem is half the problem. Great! Now where the heck is the other half? (Especially since I haven't quite finished the first goal, It's just that I can see that if I continue in a workman-like fashion, I will achieve it.) Hard to get motivated by a phrase such as "workman-like fashion" isn't it?
So, I wander back to two of my favorite references on goals.
First, Napoleon Hill (This is my favorite of his works. It's a series of lectures in his own voice near the end of his life; Think and Grow Rich was a quarter century earlier). He talks of setting goals and resetting goals. He talks about the size of goals and how to set them. No way am I going to try and summarize all of that here, but I've listened to this at least twice a year for the last 20 years, so I'm diving back in now.
Second is Jim Collins and Jerry Porras' plunge into the structure behind successful corporations. A key phrase comes to mind, the BHAG! It was a common theme to the long-term, stable, immensely successful corporations: the Big HAIRY AUDACIOUS Goal!
Hmmm... There's a catch here. I don't know what my BHAG is! But, I know that I need a good goal now to move me forward.
So, I ultimately set a one-year goal with 2 parts:
- Finish out the last year of my "make my living as a full-time writer" goal with ease and success. (That in itself was a BHAG monster when I wrote it down on July 26th, 1993.)
- By January of next year, figure out my Big HAIRY AUDACIOUS Goal!
Stay tuned for more to come as I figure out this thing that I so enjoy doing.
In the meantime, you should feel free to pre-order my March (Night Stalkers, in which Michael finally gets his love story) and April (a Night Stalkers novella for charity along with 7 other amazing authors) releases.
M. L. Buchman has over 30 novels in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the year” and Booklist “Top 10 of the Year.” He has been nominated for the Reviewer’s Choice Award for “Top 10 Romantic Suspense of 2014” by RT Book Reviews. In addition to romance, he also writes thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction.
In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, designed and built two houses, and bicycled solo around the world. He is now making his living as a full-time writer on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife. He is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing by subscribing to his newsletter at www.mlbuchman.com.