In the previous posts we've looked at some big questions to ask youself about your future as a writer and as a person, and how to use the zero-based planning approach to help you come up with a powerful picture of how you want each of the parts of your life to be--regardless of how they are right now.
If you haven't yet written a dramatic and motivating description of how you'd like each part of your life to be, go back to the previous post and do that now. I suggested you THINK BIG and gave you some tips on how to do that. If that's still difficult for you, this true story may help:
Six years ago some young guys set out on a two-week road trip on which they wanted to achieve as many items as possible of the 100 on their "bucket list." It turned into a way of life for them, and they pledged that for each one they managed to do they would help someone else attain a goal important to that person.
Among the things they've done is being on the Oprah show, playing ball with President Obama, streaking a stadium, and making a $300,000 donation to charity. Their adventures are recounted in a book called "What Do You Want to Do Before You Die?"
One of the guys, Ben Nemtin, points out that most people aim for a realistic goal. They're afraid of failure, so they don't reach too far. The number of people aiming for the "unrealistic" goals are fewer. "Therefore," he writes, "not only do you statistically have a better chance of achieving what may seem like an unrealistic goal, doing so fuels you. Once you feel the first high of accomplishing something major and seemingly unattainable, you want to go bigger and badder, and you force yourself to fulfill the need all the more. Even better, the technically smaller goals suddenly seem less daunting."
Of course setting the goal is only the first step and wishing won't make it so. You have to take action, and the action also has to be big. A few suggestions:
* Study the behaviour of the people how have actually done whatever it is you want to do, not the people who just write about it. There are loads of self-help books by people telling you how to lose weight, get rich, have better relationships, etc. who haven't actually done it themselves.
* Dare to ask. Most people never even try to get advice or help from those who are successful in their field. They assume those people are too busy or wouldn't be interested in helping someone else. Often that's not the case.
* Be willing to allocate the resources necessary. Sometimes that's money, but often it's commitment to many hours of effort and not giving up when things get tough. This is why it's important to be sure that you want that goal enough. Some of these resources have a high price, not necessarily financially but in other ways. For instance, how deeply will this cut into the amount of time you have free to spend with family and friends? Will you still have time to exercise and get enough sleep?
* Understand that you can have it all, but not all at the same time. Sometimes people set three goals, any one of which would take total dedication. They will cancel each other out because you have only so much time and energy. Pick the one that is the most important to you. Sometimes achieving that one makes it easier to achieve your number two and number three goals.
* Treat failure" as a setback , not a reason to quit. If you think something is going to work and it doesn't, what's the lesson you can learn from it? Did it tell you something about what might work better? Give yourself a day or two to feel disappointed, then get moving on the next thing you'll try.
* Develop a thick skin. There's never any shortage of people who are happy to advise you (whether asked or not) that you're aiming too high, you'll never do it, you're wasting your time, etc. etc. If you're feeling gracious, say "Thank you, I'll keep that in mind." Then, unless there's something constructive in their comments, forget about them.
All of these are easier said than done. One big goal I felt strongly eough about to do all of these steps, was creating a career as a writer. There have also been big goals I've set and failed to reach (although in some cases I came close). The problem was never that they really were unattainable, it was that I didn't want them badly enough to make all the sacrifices required. There's nothing wrong with that, the only thing I regret is that sometimes it took me too long to come to that conclusion.
If you're ready to consider some Big Hairy Audacious changes for the better, congratulations! In the next post we'll see how to choose one goal and get moving on turning it into a reality.
(If your big goal is writing a book or screenplay, you'll find friendly guidance in my books, "Your Writing Coach" and "Your Creative Writing Masterclass," both published by Nicholas Brealey and available from Amazon or your other favorite bookseller.)