How to Reach a Really Big Goal
You’ve probably read articles with a similar-sounding title. This is written in the vein of “how to break a really daunting project down into manageable chunks.”
We all do this all of the time. At work, when we are made responsible for something new and a little scary. At home, when we move houses or countries. In our family life, when we add a new baby into our dynamic. And in our creative lives when we decide to write a book or put something out into the world.
We all do this but how are we doing it?
Some micro manage. Write big lists. Do mind maps.
Others rely on meditation and that “do the next right thing” practice of not knowing the whole path but just figuring out the next action to take to reach our destination. We’ve seen that quote about not needing to see the whole road to drive across country, but only the next 100 yards that your headlights illuminate. Or, as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it:
You don’t need to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
Here are 7 strategies I find helpful to reaching a big scary goal…
- Teamwork. “One is the loneliest number,” it’s true. This is tricky one for writers because 99% of us aren’t writing collaboratively, but working as a team definitely boosts your productivity and enthusiasm, as long as everyone contributes. It’s difficult to write in a team, but if you have a few close friends or kindred spirits trying to do the same thing then you can encourage each other. This could also be a partner spurring you on. Or even your kids….
- Get happy. If you’re not excited and full of joy about your project who else is going to be? If your serial killer thriller isn’t making your heart sing to sit down and write it, then unfortunately that’s going to come across in the writing. Figure out which creative project gives you maximum warm fuzzies at the mere thought of it and stick with that until it’s done.
- Pen & paper. There’s a reason why Google makes its executives write and brainstorm on paper instead of directly on screens. Try brainstorming your scenes, themes, characters solely on paper–you’ll surprised how old-school and magical it is.
- A soupspoon of research for a teaspoon used. You need to do a ton of reading up before committing to a plan, or giving birth in a foreign country, or whatnot. You will use about 1/10th of the research and that is totally fine. Don’t feel special for doing all that reading. That is how it works. I remember sitting at my desk moaning to my flatmate while writing my master’s thesis that I’d done SO much reading and research and it had dawned on me not all of it was relevant. Thank God it isn’t all relevant or we’d all be creating unedited monologues instead of pithy content.
- Sustained focus then chill. Work hard then stop and do something totally unrelated. Like, laundry. Or cooking. Or washing the dishes. Can you tell I have quite a domestic life? And the “working hard” might be at midnight, but whatever, just go with it.
- Jot down distractions. As a project progresses, stuff comes up and you may second guess your initial decisions, or doubt half of what you’ve achieved. Jot this crap down so it’s captured but doesn’t derail you because we live in an intensely distracted world now and it’s important to make progress forwards not sideways. Then you can assess it another day and see if it’s important enough to make a detour for or do (yet) more research.
- When the road is dark get weird yellow vision enhancers. When we lived in a village outside Paris and I had to start driving a car again, I realised I couldn’t see so well in the dark (long story involving bad myopia and hard contact lenses). I came up with a solution with my optician: yellow driving glasses to wear over my lenses. These boosted my poor vision and helped with the halo-effect of the streetlights so I could see the road–and the curbs. (I know, I know, if I was that carpooling mom driving your kids home in the dark your blood pressure just went through the roof, sorry…). What I mean by this is, sometimes we need something special to reach our big scary goal. That might be some writing software you want (rather than need). Or that treadmill desk so you stay healthy while you write your War and Peace. You know what you need. Do it. Those weird yellow vision enhancers saved me and everyone on the road near me.
So with these strategies it’s actually more than just taking a step, or just seeing as far as your headlights illuminate. You need people, tools, a lucky rabbit’s foot, to work hard… as well as faith that you’ll reach your destination or hit your deadline.
But the working hard should be done with joy. If it’s a horrible slog then something’s outta whack with everything.
As Marie Forleo says, “Everything is figureoutable.” (I love her MarieTV, if you don’t know her, go to marieforleo.com and watch!) All things may be figureoutable, but are they right for you? I’ve been involved in projects that felt a little off from the start but I persevered, thinking, “Oh, I’m just resisting this cos I’m such a procrastinator.”
Sometimes that’s your inner GPS telling you to get out of the minivan. It’s driven by someone with no yellow vision enhancers.