If X Marks the Spot; You Still Need a Map — Goal Setting

I sometimes think that people are like sharks. Not that they have big teeth (though some do), or if they’re carnivorous (also, though some are), but that we need to keep swimming in order to stay alive. By swimming, I mean moving forward. But…moving forward toward what?

That’s a question that folks ask themselves (or at least I do). What am I moving forward toward? It’s important to have goals and things to achieve. Goal setting serves as an inoculation against ennui and stagnation. If you keep moving, you’ll never be bored.

Not that you won’t get frustrated, but that’s why the goals we set matter.

I wear many hats day-to-day. I teach high school english. I teach college english. I am a writer. I have started going to the gym. I am a dual citizen. I’m a human being. And for each of these things, I have goals. Some of them are simple and easily achieved.

There’s a new pizza place down the street from me. My goal is to have dinner there tonight. It might not be earth-shattering, but it’s been a long week and I am going to treat myself.  It’s easily achieved, but that’s okay.

Some are more long-term. I would like to buy a new car in the spring. My current car his 210k miles on it the other day and, though still going well, we’re starting to need to invest money into replacing things that are larger than windshield wipers and tires. In order to do this, I need to get my finances in order. This required calling my student loan companies, my bank, and discussing a lot of things that didn’t come with directions when I became an adult.

When you set a goal–even a medium-or-big goal–it’s best to break it into achievable parts. Yesterday was the day to call my student loan companies. And in achieving that, I get steps closer to getting a new car. Success!

Other goals are professional. I set a goal years ago to join the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). It’s the professional association for speculative fiction writers. To do so, you need to make sales to a particular level of market, being paid a particular wage. It’s a little daunting. I didn’t obsess over it. I just wrote and wrote and submitted and submitted. And, weirdly, I got to a place where I qualified for admission, I applied, and got admitted. Goal accomplished.

As a writer, I have goals. They keep me looking forward when the writing isnt going the way I want it to. When I have a story that isnt working correctly, or I get down because I havent heard back from an agent, or I get a rejection in my in-box. These professional goals are sometimes silly, or specific. For example, I want–badly–to write a story for a Mercedes Lackey anthology of Valdemar stories. If anyone knows anyone…I know a writer who’s in love with telepathic white horses.

And then there’s what I call my Bucket List. It’s things I want to do with my life. I wanted to learn to breath fire. To visit Seattle. Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Visit the Isle of Skye in Scotland. These are the things that move me forward.

By setting goals, I think about where the next step is. Sometimes that’s the next rock in the wall i’m building in my life, or the next breadcrumb in the forest. By planning and making goals, you keep your eye on the prize (and have a prize in the first place).

What are yours?


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