Friday, December 6, 2013

Your goals aren't good enough

You're not going to like hearing this.

You're goals...they probably stink.

Sorry about that, but news like this is better served like ripping off a band-aid. Embrace the pain, rub it off and don't pick the scab.

Here's the deal. It's great to have goals. In Good To Great, Jim Collins advocates BHAGs, or Big Hairy Audacious Goals. A BHAG is a point of focus that is motivational in itself, like the 1960s moon mission.

But Collins is quick to point out that not every goal is a good one. "Bad BHAGs are set with bravado; good BHAGs are set with understanding."

And this understanding is probably what your goals are missing. It encompasses two things: Planning and Purpose.

A goal without a plan is a wish made on a fading star. You can say "It's my goal to be on the NYTs top Ten list in fiction." That's a great BHAG, but if you don't have a plan to get there, you're never going to make it. In order to turn that wish into an actionable goal you need to understand what it takes to make it on that list. Maybe you need to take some writing classes to improve your craft, or how about actually finishing and polishing up that manuscript. If you've got the great book, you might need to work on your marketing plan or make some contacts to get your book to the right readers. No matter what your goal, you need a plan of action. And the follow through to work it.

With a plan, it will be pretty clear that it's going to take a lot of hard work to achieve your BHAG. And that's why purpose is so crucial. If you don't know why you're working toward your goal, it will be easy to let your efforts slack when the work starts piling up. Let's stick with the NYTs example. If you just want to be on the list because it sounds fancy, that's unlikely to keep you motivated when you get piles of "no thank you" letter from the big league reviewers.

But let's say you want to be on the list for a bigger purpose. Maybe you have a killer book of your heart that is just too "out there" right now for editors to take a chance on it. But...if you get on the NYTs with your current book, editors will have to at least consider it. With a purpose, you're more likely to keep at it when faced with set-backs and challenges.

Now take a look at your current goals. Do you have a plan and purpose? If not, take a hard look and figure out what it is you really want to accomplish.


  1. I'm looking for ways to revamp my plan as I find what works and what doesn't as far as seeing results. It seems like the plan has to be able to keep changing along the way to the goal.

    1. Yes, we have to be willing to change our plan if it isn't working. Good reminder.

  2. I'm not so great at deadlines, but pretty good at setting goals for myself and eventually reaching them. But you know the worst thing about goals? When you finally get them, they won't necessarily make you happy and they may come with baggage, unpleasant surprise baggage. Sort of like wanting and getting that dream house, but when you move in you find there are termites and the property taxes are about to go up to twice what they were. Not such a dream after all.

    1. This is why the purpose part of goal setting is so important. If you don't know why you're reaching for a goal, it can be a hollow victory when you get there.

  3. How would you frame your goals if you don't have a competitive mindset?

    I feel funny even saying would even want to make an awards list. Cause I don't know how to market it, it would be a little hard to really determine what list it would even be in. Plus a realization I had recently, winning an awards list for a books one wishes to repudiate is a strange experience indeed. Not sure I would enjoy it personally. Plus I'm finding more--even they can't sell--my more current books make me happier.

    So I'm considering planning goals around those.

    I hope that makes sense.:/

    1. Keep in mind that your goals don't have to be massive or even competitive. The great thing about books is that readers don't just buy one. Someone buying my book doesn't stop them from buying yours we aren't in competition against other books. So set a goal that is just for you and make it something that will make you happy. Goals aren't about winning. They are about constantly pushing ourselves toward improvement so we don't become stagnant.


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