I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.– William Faulkner
Last month, I started a blog.
It’s my perfect combination of what I am good at (marketing and social media) with what I obsess about (reading, writing and self improvement). Some call it passion, purpose, a calling. I like to call it my “thing”.
I started my thing and as my first order of business – according to the standard protocol of brand new ventures – I wrote out some goals. I made them specific (5000 email subscribers) and time oriented (by October). I hung them up on my wall. I broke them down into detailed actionable steps and made mini milestones. I had a plan.
But what happened next surprised me. I felt sad. Dejected almost. Here, on day one, with nothing more than an idea and some bullet points, my dream seemed so distant. I started thinking about all the times I had set goals – just like this. Spent half a day planning, just like this. For goals that I never reached. How depressing. Was this going to be another losing endeavor?
No, this was not a good start. This did not look like a solid foundation for success.
What is success anyway? What am I chasing? Is it email subscribers? Traffic? Twitter followers? Interviews? Press mentions? A book deal? They all sound lovely and exciting, but for me, there’s no one thing that represents the end point where I can sit back, admire my work and say to myself “I have arrived.” Why can’t I just forget the goals and enjoy the journey? Why does it have to be about defining where I want to go? This is, after all, the thing that makes me happy and fulfilled, regardless of reward and recognition.
Perhaps, then, the better question is: “What do I need to do to move in that general direction as quickly as possible?”
Here, the answer is simple: I need to build an audience for my blog. And the best way to build an audience (amid the clutter of the many hundreds of wellness blogs out there) is to create remarkable content and promote the heck out of it. Write and promote. Better than everyone else. And to do that well – I must sit down every day to practice writing and promoting. It’s nothing more than a commitment to consistency.
This commitment to consistency is about waking up and doing the same, scheduled tasks, over and over. It’s about taking action (actions that are core to growth) with focus and discipline, where I control my time, and not the other way around. They are my “musts” – my non-negotiables. There are no alternatives, there are no outs. I will not “try to write an article every day”. I will write an article every day. I must write 1000 words every day. It will become a habit. I’m not leaving my work in the hands of willpower. Because when when bad days or weeks pay me a visit, with no structure to fall back on, I’ll find a reason to not show up.
That’s why, to get to quality, you have to produce quantity and you have to do it with consistency.
Today, my writing is decent, but three months from now, I’ll be 90,000 words better at putting sentences together. I might even have a few strokes of genius that others will find valuable and share-worthy. I’ll learn what works and what doesn’t work, and that constant feedback loop will help me tweak, experiment and improve. And that is how my blog will grow.
I don’t think that goals are a bad thing. There are many who are excellent when working towards a specific result. And while goal setting is not for me (for now), I hope to one day be able to manifest other dreams – the specific ones – the time bound ones that fill my head. After all, I am a dreamer and a fantasizer with lots of grand plans for an incredible future.
And you? Are you a goal setter or a process maker? Or even better – both?
Photo by Andreas Øverland
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33 thoughts on “Tossing My Goals Out the Window and Doing One Thing Instead”
Makes sense to me. I am so overwhelmed right now with all the things I “must” do in order to get where I “need to be” that nothing ends up getting done. Well, good luck to you, anyways!
Thank you for this. Do you believe that the message shows up when you need to see it? I also launched a blog last month and this week found myself in despair asking myself exactly the same question. What do I want from it, how will I know if it is successful? Reading your account has been like the tiniest support group in the world, because it is what I needed to know: that it is normal to feel this way after all of the hard work, time, and other investments I made in this thing.
When I finished my crying jag, I stepped back and came to a similar conclusion – just do good work and promote. My answer also included, wait and let time do its work. Or to paraphrase Marianne Williamson, Seek ye first the kingdom of God and the Maserati will get here when it’s supposed to.
Thanks for the accidental pep talk.
Yes, I believe in messages and am always on the lookout for signs. I frequently return to Steven Pressfield’s War of Art when I’m struggling. He talks about writing until he gets tired, not caring about whether or not the writing is any good. The point is – he overcame the “resistance”.
Congratulations on starting your blog as well!
PS That is a great quote!
I always made really grand plans, but never really acted on them. Like many others, I guess. But I was inspired by the post here by Stephen Guise on ‘mini habits’.
I’ve made a list of habits, made them ridiculously simple to do (say ‘write 50 words a day’) so that I’ll have no excuse not to do it. Its been 3 days and I’ve written more than 200 words every day!
One of my ‘habit’ is to check my progress for the day– based on the tasks I’ve completed, I assign a score (giving weights to habits that are of high priority).
I guess it’s important to understand ‘what immediate small step is to be done next’ and just do it.
Thanks for the post!
Thanks so much! Do you use any app to track all of your habits?
No, I haven’t found a suitable app yet. What I do is quickly calculate the score (by multiplying weights and expressing it as a percentage) and enter it in a spreadsheet. Not the best solution, but it works.
Your article was quite interesting. You sure gave a few strokes that I found valuable and share-worthy! They are: TO GET TO QUALITY, YOU HAVE TO PRODUCE QUANTITY AND YOU HAVE TO DO IT WITH CONSISTENCY. God bless you. Nice week.
Very good article, I feel.like this all the time
Rosanna – I agree with you completely. I find that if I make things into a habit I’m much more likely to follow through – simply because it’s easier to follow through then rock the boat to not follow through. Routines are my mantra with both of my businesses, and my family. With routines there is room to grow – without them, mindless drifting from one thing to another.
And I’ve created the perfect way for me (a business coach focusing on productivity) to stay in touch with my tribe. Instead of a long blog post once a week, which was feeling like a weight on my shoulders and I found no one was taking the time to read – now I send out a 3 sentence Sanity Saving Suggestion once a week. But you’ve definitely got to do what feels right for you and your tribe- and it sounds like you are on the right path! Love reading your stuff as you flaunt your “thing”!
Thanks Evelyn. You’re right. If it’s routine, it won’t drain as much of my creative energy and willpower! I really enjoy the long form posts and am starting to find my groove (while listening to my few readers, of course).
I will definitely be checking out your sanity saving tips!
Really, really good post. I get caught up in the end result to easily. I get swayed by all the “tricks & trades” out there to grow my blog, etc.
Needed this reminder.
Sounds like a temporary motivation. What exactly is your goal? Seems you did not even figure it out. So how comes you’ve set a goal to write 1000 words a day? What for?
Aren’t you just driving towards money…
Thank you Dave!
Lauris – you’re right. The end goal is to be able to earn money from my platform and it is temporary motivation. But I’m not setting anything concrete right now because I first have to overcome my challenge of staying disciplined. I’ll be the first to talk myself out of doing the work (and I make awesome excuses), so the idea of sitting down to write my 1000 words rain or shine has made a world of a difference. (I picked it because it’s a length that works for me, it’s just a step beyond my comfort zone). When I write without attachment, I find myself more productive and more creative. The habit is what I want to form first, because without it, I’ll never get anything done. Then, perhaps, I will revisit the goals.
An enjoyable post which demonstrates how finding the right approach reaps results. By focusing on the process and ensuring consistency. You are creating daily habits; a key principle of success. Your productivity is a result of your commitment to take action. Whether or not you identify, or write down the goal your consistent action is moving you forward and achieving a desired outcome. I am motivated to apply this, I hope I can be disciplined enough to get started. Thank you for an interesting post.
Karen – exactly. I’m not quite at the “goal setting” point yet. I need to get the discipline part down first, and then grow from there!
This article is amazing Rose! I really admire how you process discouragement and change it into a positive perspective. Quantity through consistency to get to quality!
Looking forward to those 90,000 words!
Thanks Angela. We have to do what we can right?
I am more of a hybrid~ it is good to have goals to strive for, but, it is the process which pushes me forward. “The important thing is to strive towards a goal which is not immediately visible. That goal is not the concern of the mind, but of the spirit. “~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Flight to Arras, 1942, translated from French by Lewis Galantière
Just follow your heart and keep working on your “thing”. Having a detailed plan is indeed usefull but sometimes it may lead far from what we are really aiming for.
When starting a blog the most important thing should be the desire of sharing one own experiences and knowledge, traffic will come with time. If you focus on getting the “damn traffic” you will soon lose the initial passion and give up the whole project.
So keep writing and good luck!
Hi Enrico – I’ve tried the “pursue traffic” approach before and never quite got where I wanted to go. Thanks for the encouragement!
Cool write up. People starting out with creating their own blog, website, their own new venture – will full identify with this. There’s a lot of vagueness at the start and it solidifies over time – so the point is to keep acting consistently as you go, so you figure it out.
Especially love this question you bring up:
“What do I need to do to move in that general direction as quickly as possible?”
Nice write ups on hackerlla.com – I like the visual text graphics interspersed with you pieces!
Thanks Zeenat. The blog is definitely a work in progress… and a movement in the right direction :-)
Do you think that regular writing leads to better writing? I know that practice of anything is important but I fear that all I do is repeat all my bad writing habits over and over again.
The more I write the more I feel that it is important to also keep reading the same kind of things that I am interested in writing (like your article!). I also think that good writing is time dependent…the more time it takes the better it is, and yes I agree with you that you have to stick to what you enjoy and concentrate on the journey not just the goal.
Alex – I would like to think so! As long as we keep writing, sharing our work and learning from the feedback right?
Agreed on the reading too. I often refer to this quote from Dr. Seuss (a favorite) — “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!”
Thank you for replying Rosanna…”It is not the abilities we have that make us who we are, it is the choices we make.” Professor Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts School.
This article came to me at the right time.
I normally write a list of things that I need to do the night before so that my mind can help me to come up with ideas to complete the task. When I wake up in the morning, I will start to work on it.
However, there are times when I find it very demoralizing when you aim to finish many things throughout the day but only managed to finish a few. I have overcome this issue by putting the most important task at the head of my list so that if I completed it and did not complete the others, I know that I am still making one step towards my goal.
As long as at the end of the day you can be happy with all of the things that you DID accomplish!
As someone in the same boat, with the same goals, I can certainly relate. I am learning that I am doing all the right things, I just need to do it more. I find that it’s still important to have goals, but enjoying the journey and the valuable experience along the way :)
Some great points to live by when trying to accomplish anything. We’re creatures of habit by nature, and we must commit to some kind of regular schedule if we’re going to the most from our efforts.
I totally needed this loving kick in the pants this morning, especially the non-negotiable bit. I back out of certain plans all the times. The ones I don’t back out of are so ingrained in my psyche that they are automatic and like you said non-negotiable. Funny thing, the ones I say I care about the most – building a big ole beautiful blog and community, making art that inspires and sells – are the ones I haven’t attached to a non-negotiable action. I leave it to inspiration hitting before I can write or paint. I know, I know such an amateur move. LOL. Clearly I need to revisit the definition of “priority” align my actions accordingling. I too want to grow my blog and audience and the only way to do that is to show up everyday on the blog with whatever I got come hell or high water. THANKS! **hugs and hi5s**
Best of luck! May we train ourselves to find inspiration every single day!
“Commitment to consistency”; so well put! I have fallen into the “must do, should do, to do” trap as well. I like your approach much better. We must show up, everyday, and as Steve Pressfield says, “do the work.” Thank you for sharing this.
Wonderful article, Rosanna – it’s always nice to see how simplicity and consistency can be as effective as structured plan-making, and I totally agree that we should learn to be satisfied with the journey instead of just the reward