Setting and Keeping Your Goals
Disappointed in Myself
I used to just let life happen. At the end of each year, I discovered I had not done any of the things I had wanted to get done at the beginning of the year. I had wanted to finish and self-publish a couple of children’s books. After 10 years I discovered I was no closer than when I set the first goal. I was so disappointed in myself that I decided to do something about it. I was going to have to be more intentional about it.
I started setting goals for myself using a weekly calendar to map out what I wanted to see done each month, and each week, so that I could be where I wanted to be in 5 years or 10 years. It was the only way that life didn’t just drift by without my noticing.
Here are a few of the things I consciously did to change.
“The greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.”— Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Ronald Dahl
1. Map out the perfect timing for each goal.
I’m a morning person and don’t think or process things well at the end of the day. However, my husband is a night person and just can’t carry on a conversation with me at the moment he wakes up the morning. For him, to schedule Bible readings first thing in the morning would be a waste of time. The first thing is the perfect time for me to schedule my Bible readings, however. Once I tried to schedule my Bible readings for bedtime because I love to read right before bed. This was an awful time for me to try to schedule these readings because I couldn’t focus well and often fell asleep right in the middle of the chapter, which meant I had more chapters to read the following day just to keep to the schedule. I was setting myself up to fail in my goal.
You need to know yourself and set your goals to fit your personality, lifestyle and goal type. Don’t try to schedule exercise for before work if you aren’t a morning person and hate to get up early. You will most certainly fail if you do.
“If you have good thoughts… they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”— Matilda by Ronald Dahl
2. Plan for obstacles and hindrances.
There is nothing wrong with preparing a Plan B for days when you know a pothole will be in your path. I have the worst times on my diet around Thanksgiving so I plan for a piece of pie reward on that day. I plan for some candy on Christmas. To do otherwise would be avoiding the obvious and setting myself up for failure. My best years were the ones where I took into account a busy day or holiday coming up and got ahead in my daily Bible reading or other tasks. Then I could allow myself a day off. Nothing wrong with that.
“It is when we are most lost that we sometimes find our truest friends.”— Snow White by Brothers Grimm
3. Keep track of progress and successes.
It seems like an unnecessary point but if you aren’t conscious of the progress, it is easy to fall back into old habits of complacency and apathy. I had to mark on my calendar at the end of each week the painting I completed and my end weight and put checkmarks after all the Bible readings I completed. It is a good feeling to see the checkmarks add up and the paintings stack up. Even if my goal weight wasn’t achieved, I could see progress. Each year I write on the cover page of my Bible that I completed a year’s reading again. This is an important component of good goal setting: progress!
Part of the conscious effort I was making was to start a journal to track what was happening each day and each week. This made so much sense for me as an artist because it became a creative endeavor as well. I started creating stickers and drawings to add to each page. Each month had a theme and I got in some sketching as well as goal setting.
4. Don’t obsess over failures.
I allowed myself to be less than perfect. This is a hard thing since most artistic types are perfectionists. I could see progress in 6 out of 7 of my goals but the seventh was the one I would invariably obsess over. Be your best friend and allow some leeway in the goals you set. It’s okay to admit you set one goal too far out, one bar too high to reach. There is always next year and more reasonable goals.
“We all can dance when we find music that we love.”— Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
Do you make goals for yourself each year?
5. Be your own best friend.
You have to ask yourself if these goals you set are for you or for someone else. I used to obsess about my weight because I had an ex that was verbally abusive about my bulges. I can still hear his voice in my head telling me I’m ugly, fat and dumpy. That is not a good reason to lose weight. If I’m not doing it for myself, I’m not doing it for the right reason. You can’t achieve a goal if you don’t really believe in yourself and your success to achieve it. You have to want it because it is good for YOU. At the end of the day, you are the only person you absolutely have to live with anyway. Set goals YOU really want for YOU and for no one else. I always tell myself that all I really want is to be a better person than the one I was yesterday. If I can achieve that, I have accomplished plenty day by day.
Perfection vs. Excellence
Artists tend to be perfectionists. We work on our craft and look at it with a critical eye. After all, who can achieve perfection, outside of our Lord? The key is not to try for perfection, but instead to work for excellence. Be the best you can possibly be at your chosen creative pursuit. Learn new things every day; practice constantly and excellence is possible even if perfection is not.
So how long does it take to become a successful artist? I am still working on it so I’m not sure. For something like art, music, literature and any of the creative arts, we work our craft all our lives and may still look back and not be sure when we became successful. Perhaps it was the moment we decided to pursue it; the day we decided that it was something worth pursuing for a lifetime. At any rate, it takes time and none of that time is wasted if it is in pursuit of excellence.
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”— Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rawling
“The moment where you doubt you can fly, you cease forever being able to do it.”— Peter Pan by J.M Barrie
At the end of the last 4 years, I found I had published 27 children’s books.
What do you do to achieve the goals and future that you desire? If you have questions or suggestions I’d love to see them in the comments below.