Goal Post

I’m on several author loops and social media groups. Not a week goes by without somebody posting about goals. Writing goals, publication goals, revenue goals… Everything they do is justified because it satisfies some sort of goal.

And goals are a craft unto themselves. They must be SMART, (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound) or better still, FAST (Frequent, Ambitious, Specific, Transparent), unless you’re working with a group, in which case your goals should be CLEAR (Collaborative, Limited, Emotional, Appreciable, and Refinable). But if none of that works (how could it not?) then maybe your goals should be DUMB (Dream-driven, Uplifting, Measurable, and Behavior Driven).

This all leaves me a little baffled. I get up in the morning and write the next scene because I like to write fiction. I also like to polish my prose and educate myself about how to craft better stories. I enjoy interacting with readers (wave to my bloggin’ buddies), so I post blogs and occasionally show up on social media. I know the IRS takes a dim view of tax avoiders, so I tend to my ledgers too.

Compared to many of my writing friends, I sometimes  feel un-ambitious and backward. I don’t have goals. I just write stuff because it’s fun.

Except that’s not quite true. I do have goals–I want to write good stuff that people enjoy, which sells well enough to keep me solvent–but I don’t focus on that goal. I focus on the process for getting there. I focus on, “Get up and write. Don’t post about writing, don’t complain about writing, don’t compare writing productivity with others. Write.” I focus on what I need to be happy and creative–avoid the emotional vampires of social media, read a lot of good books, nom some good writing webinars, be on the look out for creative inspiration.

I was trying to put my finger on my approach to writing when I came across this quote from James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits: “The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to keep playing the game.” He goes on to point out that everybody who competes at the Olympics has a goal of winning a gold medal. Are the silver medalists losers because they failed to reach their goals? Are the gold medalists superfluous to their sports once they stand in the center of the podium?

He stops short of saying that we’ve been hornswoggled by capitalist productivity obsessions to think goals are some sort of panacea, but I do know, setting goals just hasn’t been very important or helpful for me. Focusing on my systems–for writing books, keeping my accounts, getting some exercise–has kept me playing the game of life pretty happily.

Are you a goal setter? Are you more system-oriented, or do you trade off depending on the circumstance? I will add three more names to my Lady Violet ARC list. Book six is back from the first proofreader. Wheee!


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15 comments on “Goal Post

  1. Not a goal setter. I don’t know if it’s because my dad was a Central Florida good old boy (from the county where I currently live) and not terribly ambitious but neither am I, in spite of being the eldest and born on the cusp of Virgo/Libra. He wanted to enjoy his family and his life and consistently turned down officer candidate school while in the Air Force for 20 years because he didn’t want to deal with the stress. I did happily go to college (and graduated in 3 years) and went to grad school almost 20 years later, when I finally decided what I wanted to get a degree in (I’m a generalist and love knowledge so it was hard to pin it down) but that was as ambitious as I got. I, too, turned down managerial/supervisory positions after my initial try confirmed that I work to live, and not the reverse, and having a fancy title didn’t really mean much to me. I wanted to go to work, do the best job I could, but then go home and forget about work until the next workday. I never made the big bucks but I never had to work 80 hours a week either so it was all good. And now I’m retired and that is the best situation of all!

    • I love this. I’m a first born also and my mother was very driven. I set my own goals though, like you. Deciding to be who you are and not what you are expected to be, is a goal. And you achieved that. I work to support my hobbies and pay my bills. I’m counting the days to my retirement (147). Good for you!

  2. I tend to set goals but not always. I can be system orientated but not always. It depends on the situation and whether it’s work related or LIFE related. If I want a clean house, I need to set goals–the 3 bathrooms clean by the end of the week. Towels washed–CHECK. Toilets scrubbed–CHECK. And Bathtub/shower cleaned–CHECK. There is nothing like checking a nasty job off of the list!

    In rehearsals, I do write down what I’d like to accomplish (lesson planning because of several degrees in music ed will do that to ya)but we may not get it all done or we may get MORE done. It’s all good, as long as something is done.

    Because of the Pandemic, some of my systems have failed 🙁 in my work. But things are better and are moving along, perhaps at a slower than usual pace, but moving along.

    Enjoy the beautiful Autumn, Grace!

  3. My thought while reading your post was I hope you enjoy writing the stories as much as I, and your other readers, enjoy reading them. Sometimes dishes, laundry, grocery shopping and other myriad tasks do not win the competition with a book. I stay up past my bedtime or read every second I can. I sometimes set a timer to read 45 minutes and do chores for 15. I know the characters sometimes give you a hard time and that slows you down. But I dearly hope you love your own stories. I think you do and that’s why you keep writing them.

  4. I am not a goal setter at this stage of my life.
    I am a list maker.

    During the week I have work which keeps me busy. There’s a pattern to work and usually the day flows smoothly. I prioritize my work and handle any issues which pop up.I check off my tasks as I go.

    I have a couple of goals for the dogs. Finish Laci’s championship and completed Greg’s obedience title. I have switched trainers to bump Greg and I up. We need to work on a couple of skills- fine tuning. These are goals but, not immediate life changing ones. I have a training list and am making a plan!

    I bought the paperback of A Rogue in Winter and the cover is gorgeous! Am going to read it this afternoon after the football game…that’s my goal for the day!

    Enjoy the nice crisp weather!

  5. I don’t think about goals very often, but now that I do think about it, I am definitely not goal oriented. In my work life I frequently had to meet goals others set for me and that was ok. I was a worker bee and happy to be so. But like some others have mentioned here, I was (and still am) a list maker. It was important to prioritize and comforting when I could cross tasks off the list.

    The SMART, CLEAR, AND FAST goals you mention above are important but I think the DUMB goals are what help you develop the characters I’ve come to love so much. I hope you love writing as much as we love reading your work.

  6. I’m more of a short term goal setter…. if I’m planning a party for the weekend, I will carefully set up a daily plan that enables me to get everything done in time without feeling overwhelmed. Around the first of November I start baking my Christmas cookies, shopping for gifts and generally planning a few parties with friends and family. Again I will set up daily plans to distribute all the tasks over the course of weeks so that I’m ready for any of the holiday events. That said, I am not a long term goal setter….I’m mostly retired and my long term life plan is simply to enjoy my husband, my kids, my grandkids, good friends, and good food (in moderation) while trying to be as healthy as I can for as long as I can. The rest will take care of itself. Stay safe. Stay well everyone!

  7. I’m just Beth. Beth just wants to be happy. I don’t see that as a goal. It doesn’t fit into any of those acronyms that goal setters use. If it makes me happy, I do it. If it doesn’t make me happy, to the extent I can choose, I avoid it. Interestingly, what makes me most happy is making other people happy. I’m a problem solver. I don’t need praise or accolades, I am completely filled with my own feelings of success when I am able to help others succeed. I’m not afraid of difficult conversations and I’m not hesitant to make the tough decisions. I can set up plans, directions, procedures all in the hopes of helping others reach their goals, but as for me, I’m just Beth.

  8. If it’s a one focus priority task like I have to be at the doctors in half an hour & my low tire pressure light is on, I’m pure focus, get my pump out NOW & get my pressure up goal driven.

    But most of life is too complex for what I suspect is a boys and their toys cultural relic. I’m seeing the future like a four dimensional decision tree fanning out from the now, so my priorities shift as the variables do. Like another poster here, I make lists to keep me focused & some days, seeing steps taken toward just one thing may be enough.

    Plus I’m old enough to know, life ain’t all about me & I need to factor in the other fella a good chunk of the time. To quote my very smart daddy, “Life isn’t fair & anyone who says it is, is a damned liar. Cast your bread on the water whether you see something’s in it for you or not, and you’ll be amazed the times you’ll find folks coming to your aid when you don’t deserve it. Live by the Good Book, not by a ledger book. None of us get out of here alive, so try to leave the place a little better than you found it.” My dad left a lot of places & people better for his being here, so I reckon that’s a good goal to have.

  9. I am grateful that I am not as busy right now as I have been for the last two months. Work was interesting as so many things failed, and home has been interesting due to 5 new kittens who had many interesting types of intestinal parasites. We are past the 22 doses of medications a day, thank goodness. They really are sweet.

    I do have goals but the hottest fires get taken care of first.

  10. For me it depends on the situation. I do better most of the time working with a sytem oriented view towards getting things done at my own pace. Sometimes I do have goals with specific timelines, but the timeline is usually set by someone/something other than me. For example, housecleaning. The house constantaly needs to be cleaned, odds and ends need to be put away, and so on however I don’t do much on a schedule other than collecting all the trash and a final scoop of the cat boxes on the night before trash day – unless we are having company. If we are entertaining guests, I do have a goal with a deadline. I’ll get the cleaning done, but it is more often a quick clean than a more careful and detailed cleaning. No matter what I do, the cats will still shedd their fur wherever they want — so why stress too much over it?

  11. Argh! Don’t get me started on “capitalist productivity obsessions”! The fact that the human brain isn’t built to be “productive” for the lengths of time business requires… rest should be built in to a work day because workers will be more productive when it is… yet, trying to get a business to buy into that would be incredibly difficult.

    I am far more system-oriented than a goal setter. I will make check-lists for chores, though… it’s easier to remember what needs to be done and, if there’s an order to it, to be able to check off the most important tasks first.

    But a “DUMB” goal?… hmmm… probably not the best acronym! ;p

  12. I am definitely a goal setter. I am a high achieving Type A person. I have difficulty taking down time. I’m an inveterate list maker, and it makes me inordinately happy to be able to cross every single thing off on a day’s list. My problem is there are typically way too many things on my list to possibly complete in a day!

  13. Hm, goals. Thank God I’m retired is my feeling with this. I used to hate having to write up goals for a good half dozen people when I was a manager. We used the SMART system and I thought it was pretty good, although sitting through the meetings when it was explained. Again. Every year. Was not too fun. Finding ways to measure things could be challenging, and would have been impossible without customer surveys. I get that you need to find some way to measure how good someone is, what skills they need for what parts of their jobs, and what percentage of the time they use each of their skills. It’s also a lot better for the employee than not knowing what management wants out of them. There were times though when I wanted desperately to simplify the whole extremely lengthy process.

    But now that I’m happily retired I use a variety of systems. The most important thing is to keep a calendar and write everything down religiously. Then usually I just use the “Oh my god, is that the time???” method for everyday. When I start panicking because I don’t know what to do first and it seems like there’s just millions of things to do I start writing lists and sub-lists out until I calm down. Checking things off the list subsequently is a nice feeling. Then I do some soul searching now and then along the lines of “Do I really think I want to keep this house?” “Do I really want to stay here all winter now that I don’t have anyone depending on me, or should I bail out in late January for a bit when the ice storms start? And could I afford it?” and the ever popular “What do I want to do with the rest of my life anyway, now that the no-green-bananas deadline is about 15 years away?”

    Privately I may still have a few goals among all these things. But in general, if anyone wants to talk about goals I figure I gave at the office.