It is that time of year when we look back, count up victories, suck up disappointments, and gaze forward with renewed resolve that this is the year to finally achieve that goal.
This time last year as my 60th birthday loomed, I tried to fathom how an age that sounded so old could possibly apply to me. Still in denial a year later, I continue to think of myself as 40-something—just with more experience than other people “my age.”
Turns out, my 60th birthday opened a domino of new doors. Door number one was eligibility for early retirement, leading to a new part-time job, giving me more time for writing, allowing me to realize a goal I have chased for many years—publishing my novel, Peace by Piece.
Sure working less helped, but it took more than just the gift of newfound time. Here are some of the deliberate steps that put my long time goal within reach.
Step 1: Be specific. To get where you want to go, be specific about your destination.
From the time I was twenty-something, I fantasized about writing a book. Finally, 15 years ago, I joined a creative writing group. When asked at the first meeting, why I was there, I announced, “I want to write a book.” My goal was specific from the start.
Step 2: Chunk it down. To achieve a goal, especially a lofty goal, it helps to break it down into the concrete nuts and bolts that will get it done.
I learned to write creatively and wrote a novel one action at a time: regularly attending writing workshops, seeking critiques, reading books on the craft of writing, earning an MFA, editing and rewriting draft after draft.
Step 3 – Have a plan. Research says planning doubles your chance to attain your goal. Good intentions account for 20-30% of goal attainment. That means 70-80% of the time intentions do not do it! You need a plan.
I will write every week is an intention not a plan. My plan included specific commitments: to write at least five hours every Saturday, two hours on Sunday, and always have a draft new chapter ready for critique at my weekly writing group.
Step 4 – Include the power of If/Then in your plan. If/then planning means deciding in advance what you’ll do when something derails your plan.
Life is unpredictable. Although I considered my writing time sacred and non-negotiable, stuff happened. My if/then plan included things like, if we have company for the weekend, then, I will get up an hour early all week to write in the early morning.
Without my if/then plan, I might have felt resentful or powerless about missing my writing time.
Word by word, sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter, you might say Piece by Peace (pun intended) these steps helped me write an entire book.
How about you? What’s your life goal? And what will you do to make 2013 the year you hold your dream in your hands?