Thoughts On and Examples Of Goal-Setting


field notes on publishing a book, entry #2

I have spent four or five years feeling like an utter waste of space.

When I was twenty-six years old, I set a very unrealistic goal for myself and then the worst thing happened: I achieved that goal. I had decided that I wanted to travel and work remotely. I got what I wanted fairly easily and spent several subsequent years swaying between ecstatic and overwhelmed. I cuddled my impostor syndrome and then would run away from it, unable to properly aim for or achieve anything in the wake of my one big, success.

my experience with unrealistic goals

During this time period, I wanted to want something. I wanted to find a meaningful project or a promising direction; to have a meaningful project, promising direction or handsome-someone find me so I didn’t have to go to the trouble of looking on my own. I wanted to want something, so I’d pick big, unrealistic things and then get discouraged because they didn’t work out for me like that unrealistic goal I had when I was twenty-six.

With each failed goal, I would cling to my enthusiasm for traveling. I’d soon get overwhelmed by the struggle of balancing the travel and my life, and then start picking fights with my impostor syndrome until I decided just needed another big, unrealistic goal.

It was a cruel cycle.

What I was missing was the calm strategy to supported and work towards achieving my unrealistic goals.

No goal, really, is unrealistic. Give it enough time and thought (and money), and you can probably even engineer a way to make a pig fly. Instead of calling them “unrealistic goals,” I’m going to start calling them The Big Goals.

what are the big goals?

I have currently defined three big goals. One is a big, massive, childhood-dream-sized goal and the other two goals are more medium-sized.

The big massive, childhood-dream-sized goal: Publish my book.

The medium-sized goals are to 1.) sign with a literary agent and 2.) to become a paid, online influencer. (I know; I’m rolling my eyes at myself.) Both of these work to support that first big goal.

Publishing a book, finding a literary agent, becoming an influencer: they all feel too big to wrap my arms around. So I have developed smaller, more easily-achieved goals that will help me inch closer toward achieving them. These are called SMART goals because they are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Bound.

SMART goals for publishing my book:

  • Print and read my first draft start to finish without editing.
  • Send complete drafts to five beta readers.
  • Submit to 10 writing contests.
  • Win a contest / have one of my essays published.

SMART goal for signing with a literary agent: Send five query letters.

SMART goals for becoming a paid, online influencer:

  • Get 1,000 new social media followers.
  • Write 300 book reviews on Goodreads.
  • Be given a book to review.
  • Be a guest on a podcast.

feels about my goals

The cruel cycle of goal-setting, failure and self-loathing feels like it’s over, but stay tuned for possible updates. I feel connected to my Big Goals, and I feel rooted by the SMART goals. The SMART goals are the ones I want to dig into and see the results of my efforts right now; they are easy to talk about with people and for people to understand.

And, hopefully this isn’t putting the cart before the horse, the SMART goals are also goals I anticipate celebrating with gifts to myself or experiences with friends. I’m almost as excited about them as I am about The Big Goals; excited to put in the work, to see the traction and celebrate their completion.

goal setting resources

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