by Greta Boris
Looking back is essential for setting great future goals.
I love setting goals, life designing, and positive mantras. I’m a sucker for self-help books. I wrote one! I read every article, listen to every podcast, and watch every TED Talk about productivity I can find. I have a homeschool degree in efficiency.
So, believe me when I tell you there are two things every guru of this genre agrees on:
- Successful people learn from their mistakes and their victories
- Successful people are proactive, not reactive
In this post I’m going to focus on how to squeeze the most juice out of the grapes we grew in 2017, whether they were sour or sweet. Next month, we’ll start winemaking – a 2018 vintage.
Step 1: Pull out last year’s goals
No groaning please. I’m doing this with you. Let’s create three columns:
Did Didn’t Exceeded
Take a minute and list the things you’d set out to do that you accomplished, the things you didn’t accomplish, and where you exceeded your original goal.
Step 2: Analyze the “Dids”
This is the fun column, the place where you pat yourself on the back. You said you were going to do it, and you did. Yay you. Yay me. Victory dance over.
Ask yourself: What made that goal a reality?
For instance, in my “Did” column I had: Publish the first two books in the 7 Deadly Sins Series. I was able to accomplish this because I’d already written a version of book one and a third of book two in 2016. When planning next year’s production schedule, I need to take that into consideration. A revision, even a heavy revision, is less time consuming than a first draft.
Ask yourself: Was it worth it?
Did the benefits of accomplishing this goal outweigh the costs?
One of my goals was to do six speaking or teaching gigs. I actually exceeded this goal by three or four. These events were time consuming. A few required travel. Some required hours of prep time. Most weren’t great money makers.
On the plus side, I made some terrific contacts. I built my resume, gained visibility, learned a ton, and helped establish my brand. And, I saved airfare on a trip to visit my dad. It was worth it.
Ask yourself: Will it appear on next year’s goal list?
As a writer, I will always have a production schedule. How many and what is the question. I published two novels this year. Can I write two next year? It could be a push, but it’s something I’d like to go for. Sometimes we need to up the ante.
Step 3: Analyze the “Didn’ts”
Nobody likes to examine their failures, but honestly, you generally learn more from them than you do your successes. And, I’m in it with you. We can hold hands.
First a note on personal responsibility. There’s a lot of belly-aching going on in literary circles. While I’m sympathetic—the industry is in a state of upheaval—seeing yourself as a victim is probably the least productive thing you can do. If you want to make the most of your past for the sake of your future, you have to look at the part you played.
Ask yourself, Why didn’t I make that goal?
My knee-jerk reaction to that question is—I’m a failure. But if I back up and examine what happened, the answer is generally one of these four things:
- It wasn’t a good goal
- I didn’t really want to do it
- I jumped in before I was ready
- I didn’t take the other things in my life into consideration
Last year, Megan and I decided to do four Facebook challenges for the O.C. Writers community. We only did two. Failure, right? Not really. It turned out it wasn’t a good goal. Moving from aspiring to author isn’t like committing to thirty days of pushups. Everybody was in a different place, doing something different. So we dropped it, and wrote a book instead!
Another goal we had was to bring in affiliate income with the O.C. Writers website to defray the costs of running it. We did very little of that. Why? Because we didn’t really want to. Neither Megan nor I made it a priority. We voted with our feet.
Sometimes the reason we don’t accomplish a goal is simply because we’re not ready. Examine your “Didn’t’s” and see if there were some prerequisites to getting that job done you skipped. Maybe put the prereq. on next year’s list.
Other times our seeming failures happen because we have appropriate priorities. When Megan and I took over O.C.Writers we said family came first, our own writing careers second, and O.C. Writers somewhere down the line. You don’t have control over whether your child will get the flu, or the number of edits that come back from your editor. Maybe the solution is to build more margin into next year’s goal list. I’m going to ponder that.
Step 4: Analyze the “Exceededs”
I saved the best for last. In some areas, you’ll find you exceeded the goal you set. This is great, unless it isn’t. There are two primary reasons we exceed our goals:
- We’re passionate
- We didn’t set a high enough goal
The first is lovely, the second, not so much. On the lovely side, I wrote two short stories and had a third published in an anthology this year. I only had one short story on my goal list. The reason I exceeded my goal was because I discovered I love to write short stories. I’m kind of passionate about them. Awesome. I should include a few short stories on my goal list for 2018.
I exceeded the number of speaking and teaching gigs I’d planned as I mentioned earlier, but it wasn’t due to passion. It was because of insecurity. I didn’t ask to be on author panels, or to speak at conferences because I was afraid of rejection. It turned out I shouldn’t have been. Opportunities came to me. Imagine what could have happened if I’d put myself out there? Goal reset.
I hope you’ll take some time after the bustle of the holidays to look back on 2017 with an editor’s eye. Next month, I’ll share a simple method for setting balanced goals.
Greta Boris is the author of the 2017 releases, A Margin of Lust and The Scent of Wrath, the first two books in her 7 Deadly Sins domestic suspense series. Her nonfiction work includes the Amazon Bestseller The Wine and Chocolate Workout – Sip, Savor, and Strengthen for a Healthier Life and Aspiring to Author – A Guide for Your Publishing Career. She’s also the Director of O.C. Writers, a community of over 900 published and aspiring authors in Orange County, California.
You can visit her at http://gretaboris.com. She describes her work (and her life) as an O.C. housewife meets Dante’s Inferno.