When Melanie asked me to be a part of this New Year’s goals guest post series, I was thrilled. Not only did it give me a great subject to write about, but it prompted me to go ahead and begin thinking about my 2016 goals and aspirations before the date of January 1st actually rolled around.
So I began thinking.
What were my 2016 goals?
Well, I had a very ambitious self-publishing schedule for half of 2016 already written down in a notebook, and a business plan half-written as well for the independent publishing company I helped create in 2015, because 2016 was going to be the year it really found its feet.
I have also been watching a whole lot of webinars over the past few months on self-publishing success by a few very successful indie authors, and had taken lots and lots of notes on their expert advice.
It seemed my 2016 goals were obvious: self-publish a crap load of books, continue to build my email list, get Wordwraith Books LLC off the ground. And oh yeah, finish editing that 144k-word science fiction novel so I could finally send something off to a traditional publisher, too.
But there was something else: a constant cloud of anxiety followed me around everywhere, lending a very naggy voice in the back of my head whenever I’d do anything that didn’t contribute to meeting that list of goals. The list of goals was king. It controlled my life, and made sure I felt guilty if I wasn’t always doing something toward meeting those goals.
Then came an email from one of the indie authors I follow and have been listening to: Jeff Goins. And in this email, Jeff admitted that he’d accomplished all of his 2015 goals … and yet felt dissatisfied. And that’s when it hit me: the same exact thing would happen to me. I began reflecting on the massive progress (related to my writing career) I had made over the course of 2015, progress that already felt insignificant and not enough. I began thinking about the incredible progress I’ve made since 2012, when I first started serious work on becoming a published author. My writing alone has grown by leaps and bounds since 2012, to the point I hardly recognize what I’d written back then, and it’s only been 3 years!
I have already made incredible progress … and all of that progress had been forgotten nearly as quickly as it was made.
Because like most human beings, I thrive on the challenge of meeting a goal, not on achieving the goal itself. And when I read this email from Jeff, it took the wind right out of my sails. It made me sit back and re-evaluate everything I thought I wanted out of my writing career. I had been driving so single-mindedly toward my goals, I didn’t take the time to enjoy getting to those goals. And because of that, my impatience and determination to get to the next goal only increased each time. And increased. And increased. Until I was making myself unhappy in the pursuit of goals I knew would make me happy.
And thus is the story of most human beings, I think. We know that if we can just get to point X in our lives, we’ll be happy. We’ll have “made it”. But for most of us, that actually isn’t true, and will never be true. And that’s what I realized about myself just recently.
I will never reach a point where I am completely satisfied.
No matter what I accomplish, there will always be something more I’d like to do. Something else on the horizon that must be caught.
That constant desire is what has carried our species through all the centuries up until this point. It’s what has carried us across the sea and into space. Without that constant yearning and searching, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
And yet … if you aren’t an explorer or a rocket scientist … it can also be a depressing thought, I suppose. You think, “Won’t I ever be content?”
But you know what? I found this realization to be absolutely freeing. The anxiety that had settled over me like a shroud faded away.
I became calm. Relaxed. Hyper-focused.
Still as determined as ever to accomplish my immediate and long-term goals, but with an entirely different mindset. My mindset is no longer “If I can just get to X, Y and Z, I’ll be happy.” My mindset is now, “Getting to X, Y and Z is what makes me happy.”
Feeling like I had to accomplish a certain goal (or 5 or 100) to be happy caused anxiety because it essentially put pressure on me to achieve those goals as quickly as possible. Realizing that reaching those goals wouldn’t be the thing that will make me happy has made getting there infinitely more enjoyable, and a lot less stressful. There is no longer a race. I still plan to attack the goals in a methodical, relentless manner of course (that’s just who I am – no lollygagging here!), but there is no longer that background anxiety. I am now free to take pleasure in all the little steps it takes to reach those bigger goals, because it is the purpose of those goals that truly brings me happiness … I just didn’t recognize that until now.
This part of Jeff’s post particularly resonated with me, and cemented the fact I’m now on the right track for a fulfilling and satisfying writing career (http://goinswriter.com/better-work/):
“The work of Viktor Frankl illustrates this in his best-selling book Man’s Search for Meaning in which he shares that what human beings need more than pleasure is meaning. But how do we go about this? Find a project, Frankl says, something to work on. It doesn’t have to be your passion, just something that requires your dedication and is a challenge you must overcome.
Having some kind of ability to meet the challenge is important, but it can’t be too easy. When we embrace this tension between competency and challenge we find ourselves in what’s called a state of “flow”, which, according to another notable psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is the secret to happiness.”
So what are my real goals for 2016?
It turns out I only have one.
One very important, all-compassing goal, and that is to
To enjoy every little part of working toward those other goals. Don’t take anything for granted, because this kind of growth and experience will never happen again. You hear over and over again that “the journey is the destination”, but the true meaning of that phrase has just never sunk in for me.
Not until now.
What is your journey? Are you racing toward the finish and missing the gorgeous scenery along the way?
I certainly was. But now, you know what, I think I’ll go over and smell that rose …
J. R. Frontera lives in rural Missouri with her husband, son, and a random assortment of four-legged friends. She writes mostly speculative fiction with a side of love story, but dabbles in a bit of everything else, from children’s stories and poetry to erotica. She has been telling stories in some form or another since she could hold a crayon and draw. She co-founded the writing group known as The Wordwraiths (http://www.wordwraiths.com) and also writes for Doctor Who Watch (http://www.doctorwhowatch.com). Come say hello on her blog — she’d love to meet you!