Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Goal Setting for Dream Getting, Part II

by Mary Allen

If you’re going to arrive on this writing journey you have to stop taking guilt trips.

Are these goals or a list of failures?

“Kids, every night we're going to have devotions.”

“I’m going to lose ten pounds before Memorial Day.”

“I will write every day.”

“This year I’ll be published.”

There isn't a person reading this who hasn't failed to reach a goal they've set. How do you keep from taking a detour of guilt or getting permanently lost when you fall short of the goal?

Unmask the Lone Ranger. Life is more difficult when you try to do it in your own strength. Enlist friends who think you are a genius because you can put words together. Find new friends at ACFW loops and conferences who are also putting their writing lives in order. They can keep goals fun and in focus when accountability or encouragement is needed.

There are people who think everybody is a best friend and others who struggle all their life to connect with even one person. Learn to work with your personality, but stretch yourself. Remember, Jesus formed a network of supporters here on earth and He is that friend who is closer than a brother.

Keep it Simple. If you try to regulate your entire life all at once you are doomed to fail. Even our Heavenly Father doesn’t expect instant perfection from us. After coming into relationship with Him, He gives us His Spirit to guide us and show us bit by bit, step by step where we have to go and what we have to do. Follow His example. Pick one writing goal and work on that.

Try, again. You can’t fail unless you stop trying. I once met a woman who wiped tears from her eyes as she said, “I can’t NOT write poetry. I create while I bathe the kids, work at the factory, or golf with my husband. I HAVE to write poetry.” Part of her creativity came from her emotion but notice how she integrated her desire into her life.

As I said last month, God has placed a dream inside of each of us. He’s created unique gifts and talents and has a special plan for how, where, and when they are to be used in the tapestry of life. Whatever that dream is, it may seem too big to be true, yet you can’t shake the feeling you should do it. Don’t be afraid of the dream. Work toward it by doing today’s part today.

Accept Life. If you fall short of a goal it’s okay to grieve over it—for awhile. Then, pick yourself up and begin again. Recognize the difference between what is your responsibility and what is out of your control. Most insurance companies won’t pay for an act of God or war. Why should you feel liable?

Guilt is an energy-zapper and creativity-killer. If the goal road is barricaded, you can wait or choose another path. Just remember, there are no gold medals for guilt.

What is your worst guilt trip? How did you get back on the right road?


  1. These are all excellent points and things to remember. I am a goal setter but I don't put a time limit on anything. It is something I am going to work toward and improve on. When I don't do so well one day, it is only a step back, or maybe even just tredding water that day, not moving any direction, and I start all over the next day.

  2. Good plan, Amy, to start again each day. That will definitely help get you to your goal. Thanks so much for posting. You seem to have a positive attitude about goal setting.

    Sometimes goals are time sensitive such as the deadline to enter Genesis,knowing that an editor expects to hear from you by a certain date, or even getting the house cleaned before the relatives arrive. Knowing how to work towards these goals incrementally can help eliminate stress and keep a forward movement going.

  3. It's also important to remember that you cannot legitimately set as a goal anything that depends on someone else for its accomplishment: hence, setting a goal of "being published this year" is not only unrealistic but unfair to yourself.

    YOU can't accomplish that by yourself--you have to have the cooperation of editors (or an entire committee), perhaps an agent, perhaps the USPS or an e-mail server, and countless other little "steps" and dependencies in the path. If you succeed in the endeavor, it's because of lots of other things "helping out." If you don't succeed in that endeavor, because one of the other elements wasn't in place or an editor took a pass on you, have you then "failed"?

    Nope. Absolutely not. What you've learned is the folly of setting as a "goal" something that you can only do part of. It happens all the time. I set "being published this year" as a goal back in 1991. It didn't work then, either. :-) But it took me until years later to realize that whether it's "relocating to Papua New Guinea" or "being published," if it requires the cooperation and/or efforts of any other human beings...don't set it as a goal. It's not one. You can set as a goal to do your PART in such a project, but it's a project, and it will require other people to "buy in" to it in order for it to be executed successfully.

    Just a lesson learned along the way, and one I hope will spare some of us a few guilt trips or self-beatings. :-)