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The Secret to Achieving Your Goals

Let me let you into a little secret about achieving goals before the gleam and gloss of your New Year’s resolutions has worn off…

There’s a very specific ‘trick’ to getting things done which is often overlooked in the grand scheme of ‘setting goals’. It’s this:

When you can name exactly what it is that you are wanting to achieve, it becomes much more likely that you will get it.

For example, for writers out there, a goal that was probably set for 2020 was along the lines of ‘Write more’. You may have been a little more precise — you may have said ‘In 2020, I want to complete my novel’ or ‘In 2020, I want to have more short stories published’. But all of these are much too vague.

You haven’t named the exact product or products you are going for. You will achieve much more if you sketch it out in more detail, like ‘Complete the first draft of my novel by the end of March, edit it into shape over the summer, then submit it to beta readers in the Autumn, with revisions to be done in November and December.’ This will result in enormously increasing your chances of a completed novel by the end of the year.

Writers who name exact steps over time have happier, more productive lives. For example, ‘Edit this draft’ is not nearly as effective as ‘Pick up any inconsistencies in the first half by next Tuesday and then work the manuscript backwards from the ending to ensure that it is stylistically smooth by the end of the month.’

If you push yourself to achieve without precisely naming what you want, you will not only waste time and energy, but the entire goal that you had voiced at the beginning of the year will disappear in a general fog of lack of production by about May.

For example: ‘I have to get some writing done fast!’ produces a lot of panicked actions which result in very little.

Instead, say ‘I need to write 5000 words by the end of this month. That means I need to produce the following . . . .’ then name out the necessary chapters or short stories you need to accomplish. Your chances of getting the 5000 words written will be much greater.

Naming out exact targets and objectives is an important and powerful step you must take if you want to increase your income, have your name rise to the top in your field, find the perfect environment in which to work, pay off your debts, complete your grand novel(s), hire editors and proofreaders, maintain a successful writing career and so on.

Naming specific products allows you to focus on exact actions you need to take, produce, create, accomplish or locate. You can list out your products for the hour, day, week, month, year, decade or longer. These steps may help you:

1. Decide what you need or want.

Surprisingly, many writers skip this step altogether and just drift along with a vague notion of what it is that they are trying to do. I’m not perfect at any of this myself, but many, many years ago I decided exactly where I wanted to live and what precisely I wanted to do. It took a while, but through a series of named objectives, I finally achieved both.

If you don’t do this step, you are like a ship adrift on the ocean without an engine or even a map.

Again, be as detailed and specific as you can. ‘I want to succeed as a writer’ is far too vague: how do you measure success? Where do you want to be based? What will your success be founded upon? What sort of time frame are you looking at? Try ‘I want to succeed as a novelist, based on the success of a series of books which will give me a reputation in a particular genre or genres, over the next ten years, with me living in an apartment in New York’ or something along those lines.

2. Describe this aim, result or objective as specifically as possible. List the qualities in detail.

Expand upon the above. List what your books will be about, who your readers will be, what kind of income you want, what steps you may need to deal with to get there and so on.

3. Include a date when you want to get all this done by, and then get started.

4. As you move forward, review your original description regularly.

5. Constantly revise and update your detailed goal, as you think of new qualities or discover what you truly want — or not want.

It’s a corollary of this that you should list out what you don’t want as well — just as an aside.

6. If you discover your original goal is too unrealistic, revise your description.

Perhaps you were a little too ambitious, or perhaps you didn’t allow enough time. Many writers don’t think in terms of Time at all, and imagine that all they have to do is achieve publication and then sit back and watch everything else roll in around them. There's more to it than that, and it usually involves a longer time scale.

7. Persist until you get it.

Easier said than done? But if you don’t name a specific goal, the chances of persisting are vastly reduced — because you don’t really know where you are heading yourself.

The more specific the goal, the higher the degree of persistence.

Feel free to contact me with any questions about the above. I know that some of you think I have an army of clones working for me to generate the production you see pouring out of Clarendon House, but really the answer lies in the above steps.

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