Overcoming Goal-Shyness

I’ve admitted before that I’m process oriented and that goals often make me nervous.  They seem closely related to plans which have a habit of exploding when I get near them.  But, as the saying goes, “You can’t hit a target you can’t see, and you can’t see a target that isn’t there.”  I think my years as an out-and-out goal denier were actually years spent faking blindness in order to not recognize the goals I did have in mind, to not grant them legitimacy in the face of uncertainty and lack of courage.  Tuning in to my peripheral vision I now suspect that my goals existed but by refusing to see them as such, I denied their hold on me and prevented myself from respecting them or my ability to attain them.

Recent efforts to overcome Goal-Shyness have allowed to me admit the shocking truth – I have goals!  Conventional wisdom these days holds that some of the first steps to attaining goals are to clarify them (be specific), break them down into manageable chunks (that’s what my Small Steps posts are about) write them down (this helps me take them seriously), and to revisit them from time to time (they do change).

The anti-goal mentality only served to further a long ingrained assumption that I can’t accomplish much – simply because I wasn’t clear about what I wanted to accomplish, have not put thought into determining what defines accomplishment for me. This was a recipe for diffusion and discouragement.

Enter, among other activities, the role of this blog: to”put out there” what I want to do with my writing  so that I can be held accountable, so I can live up to my word, which is important incentive to me.  It really does help to know that you, dear reader, are invested in what I’m doing here – even if you only stop by once, I appreciate that you’ve taken the time to consider what I write and the things I’m learning along the way.

I don’t know how common Goal-Shyness is, but I suspect I’m not alone and I hope that evidence of my working away at this project and its challenges can do away with the ridiculous idea that success can only be a result of the effort of flawless, totally-got-it-together, madly-driven individuals.  In all honesty, I’m not living any sort of inspiring story or adventurous life, not consumed with certainty that I’m brilliant and recognition is immanent.  Nonetheless, I have a trusty imagination, a basic skill with language and a love of using words to make worlds.  I want to share that, and that’s the first step to recognizing I have goals and working to make them reality.

So, following up on Kristen Lamb‘s question: When are you going to know you have finally become successful? I figured out what’s going to do it for me.  I have short term goals and long term ones and the first lead into the second. At this point, I’ve not parsed them out into their manageable chunks and small steps, but, here’s an overview of my goals.

  • I want to work consistently on GOTS and finish the first draft, edit it until it shines and find a publication path.
  • I want to write my best possible work (by the line, page, poem, manuscript, book) and support myself by doing so (meaning: pay the bills, put kids through college, save for retirement, and above all, afford to keep writing so I can keep doing the same). I know that’s not all possible off of one WIP, but that WIP is the key to everything.  I need small steps to get to the larger goal and will be charting those steps soon – I imagine this as a process of emergence.

  I know it’s the season for resolutions and goal setting, and though I’m just as sick as anybody of hearing about New Year resolutions and how quickly they get dropped or how awesome they are, isn’t it a good idea to evaluate your goals and aspirations once in a while?  I’m glad to join findingmycreature, Anne Lyle, Cat Gerlach, and Prudence Tremayne in coming up with (gasp!) a plan.  Oh my god, did I just say I was coming up with a plan?!


Posted on January 6, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Awesome post! Those are great goals!

  2. I certainly had, and still have when I’m tired, goal-shyness. Those blasted Sentences felt like putting a straight-jacket on. I just wanted to run the other way and just write my book. I’m beginning to think plans are great – they also need to be flexible (but not to the extent they get tied in knots!)

    Good luck with your plan. Keep on with it and evaluate from time to time and readjust where necessary. You’ll get there. You can do it! Onward!

    • Thanks Prue – glad to hear I’m not the only one 🙂 – there’s just something about not wanting to be pinned down. There’s always the niggling thought at the back of my mind, “but what if that’s not the right decision?” I have to get over the fear of getting what I ask for.

      • Yep, that’s just what I tend to think: what if I’m wrong, what if I’ve made the wrong decision? Perfectitis 🙂
        For me it’s the fear of taking responsibility for my work, I think. I’m quite capable of sitting at my computer and convincing myself I can’t write – then have to remember that actually I can. Whether it’s good or not is a different matter…but I can write! 😀

        And not wanting to be pinned down. That describes it perfectly. It feels as if I’m setting things in tablets of stone rather than on a computer.

  3. I love the idea of defining what exactly success would be, and will need to give it some thought before I answer that question more definitively.
    I would love to say that I want to support myself with writing someday, but since some factors in that goal not in my control (publishing industry, the size of the bills I have to pay…) I don’t know if it will ever be possible to do that.
    Maybe I could define success in terms of the number of people who read my stories? I also think becoming more proficient at the writing itself is a goal for me, but defining where that point might be is a tough question.
    Thank you for this thought-provoking post. I think it’s great that we can hold each other accountable to our goals, whatever they might be, in this way. 🙂

    • Kristen, of course there are so many factors out of all of our control, but to be honest, the alternative, in which my experience lies, of being a secretary for the rest of my life (see, that humanities degree really got me far) is so depressing that in the last six months or so I am realizing that I might really need to amp this up. I’ve resisted putting this kind of “pressure” on my writing in the past, but really, since I love it, wouldn’t it be great to make a living at it? Tally ho!

      …My goodness, who abducted me and replaced me with this woman who says such radical and formerly unimaginable things? 🙂

      • In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, they had better aim at something high.
        ~ Henry David Thoreau

        How did I ever get to be so cynical? I am cheering for you! And rethinking my own goals…

      • Aim high, for sure, but I have to look at my feet the whole time, and make sure they actually move… 🙂

  4. Yay! Go girl! 😀
    Ignore what’s out of your control. What do you actually have control over? That’s what you can change.
    Right. Now I need to go and think about that because having just written it, I’m staring at it as if it came from outer space!
    Thanks 🙂

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