Creating Goals That Match Your Definition of Success

In light of the upcoming new year, I’ve been talking a lot about success lately. I’ve talked about how to define your success and how to identify the keys to your success. Now that you have an idea of what your success looks like, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to move towards that goal in 2013.

Every writer needs goals. Without goals, you have no idea where you’re going–and no idea what accomplishments to celebrate. But creating your own success–and nobody else is going to do this for you, so it’s crucial you focus on this–doesn’t come from a list of goals chosen at random. It comes from a list that is designed to get you closer to your own definition of success, based on the keys to success that you’ve identified.

For example, if your definition of success is to become a career writer, your keys to success probably include things like selling more articles and publishing books. So your goals in 2013 should help you achieve these things. Make sure, however, that your goals are reasonable and based upon what you can do by yourself. An example of an unreasonable goal is to have your book picked up by a publisher in 2013. This is unreasonable because it relies on other people–instead, your goal should be to submit your novel to at least twelve publishers or agents in 2013. While if you submit the work over and over again your chances of publication go up, you can’t say for sure whether anyone will pick it up by the end of the year–so don’t make your goals reliant on those editors. Focus on what you can do.

That said, if you plan to self publish, a goal of having published one of your novels by the end of the year is probably reasonable. This is because it’s only reliant on you–and the editor and cover designer that you hire, because every writer needs an editor and unless you’re already good at graphic design, creating your own cover means selling yourself short.

Today I’d like you to create a draft of your goals for 2013. First, figure out the steps required to acquire the keys to your success. Then decide which keys to your success are most important right now–what will bring you closest to success in the shortest amount of time? If you’re like me, creating an income stream is probably a big priority right now, so focus on things that will bring the money in sooner.

When creating your list of goals for 2013, it’s also important to think about how much you can reasonably accomplish in a year. Factor in the commitments you already know you’ll have–six hours a day dedicated to school, three hours a week to your writing group–and leave some wiggle room for unexpected crisis and opportunity. You have no idea what’s going to happen next year, so don’t put too much on your list right now. Overloading your list will just make you feel bad when you can’t finish everything–and it’s easy to overestimate yourself. In fact, it’s perfectly natural to overestimate what you can do in a year, because it feels like a long time. That is, it feels like a long time until it’s over, when it suddenly feels as though the year never happened at all.

You’ll notice that I said the goal for today is to create a ‘draft’ of your goals in 2013. This is because, of course, you don’t know the future and everyone has that tendency to overestimate themselves. So don’t treat this as your final list. Instead, think of it as your first draft. Put everything you can think of that you’d like to accomplish on this list. Once you have a list, you can then go through it item by item and decide both how important each thing is and whether or not it’s reasonable to accomplish all those items in a year.

So if your list is three pages long and it already looks overwhelming, don’t despair. You still have time to analyze and edit it or even create an entirely new list before the new year begins. For now, just having a list is the important thing. Spend the next week analyzing your list and thinking about why each goal is there and how long each thing will take to accomplish. Next Friday I’ll share my list with you and explain why each item is on the list and how long I expect it to take.

For now please share your drafted list in the comments below and I’ll help you figure out why each item belongs there and whether or not your list can be reasonably accomplished in a year.