Setting Goals and Keeping Them

One of the most important steps to getting stuff done is setting goals. How can you work towards something of you don’t even have a clear vision of what you’re working towards?

Set your goals beyond your reach so you always have something to live for.

Ted Turner

To be honest, I strongly disagree with this quote. It’s far too optimistic. Not that I think optimism is a bad thing. But as someone who has set goals I can’t reach, I know that not reaching your doesn’t exactly motivate you to keep going. Maybe for some people it does, but for me it’s discouraging. What’s the point of striving for the impossible?

I far prefer this quote:

You have to set goals that are almost out of reach. If you set a goal that is attainable without much work or thought, you are stuck with something below your true talent and potential.

Steve Garvey

Every time you reach a goal, you should be just a bit better, more capable and skilled. I’m still trying to set writing goals that I can attain. Let me tell you, the school years messes up goals like nothing else. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to reassess my goals.

But there’s nothing wrong with that. Reassessing you goals means you’ve become more aware of your limits. Again, not a bad thing. Goals need to be attainable, and they need to be measurable.

If you set a goal that says, “I want to have improved my writing style by this date,” you won’t be able to be sure you reached it. How can you measure writing style? Yeah, you can see if you’ve made less errors, but you can’t measure style. However, if you say, “I want to have written 10,000 words by this day,” you can easily tell when you’ve accomplished that goal.

The key to setting goals is being totally honest about your skills, your limits, and your time. Don’t burn yourself out trying to reach a ridiculous goal.

But once I set a goal, how do I keep it? That’s a great question. Most people can’t just meet goals by their own force of will. Those of you who can are amazing people.

Get some outside accountability. If you’re still living at home, ask you parents to help you keep your goal. Ask a reliable friend or two to keep tabs on your progress and remind and encourage you.

I typically don’t motivate myself by getting something at the very end of a project. I have no money to do things like that. So I do little rewards after each step. The kind of motivation I usually run on is snackivation. “When I finish this lesson, I can get a new cup of tea,” “Every three math problems I get a goldfish cracker.” We don’t get snaky food often. But if goldfish aren’t manna from Heaven to you, you can always try, “If I finish writing this chapter by 5:00, I get to watch an episode of Supernatural.”

But no matter what rewards you have in place, or how much outside accountability you have, in the end it comes down to you. You have to be willing to work.

Without labor, nothing prospers.


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