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Goal setting: look back before you leap forward

Before I set my goals for 2013, I’ve been looking back on 2012. My mind instantly goes to what I didn’t accomplish, instead of what I did accomplish.

It’s easy to be hard on ourselves—we have all those voices from our past that’ve become part of who we are. We may eventually learn to banish them, or at least the more vocal voices, but at some level they’re always there, always willing to whisper sour-somethings in our ear.

As writers and artists we probably have even more voices in our head—especially if we’re taking time away from family or work in order to pursue our art that isn’t yet earning its keep.

One way to silence those voices is to make a list of what you DID accomplish over the last year. This will also give you a springboard to setting your 2013 goals.

In my partial list below, I included some of the goals I accomplished in other areas of my life and setbacks I overcame. This gives me a frame of reference for the year and helps me focus on what I did accomplish. I also like to think about what I learned from the events.

  • I entered five plus poetry or prose contests per month from January through June. (My goal was to do this 12 months of the year). As a result I won 8th place in the Writer’s Digest Poetry Competition, 1st place for memoir at the Pacific NW Writer’s Conference, Honorable Mention (2nd place) for creative nonfiction at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference and was a finalist or made the short list in several other competitions. Score! I learned that when I set my mind to something, I can accomplish it.
  • I attended two major writers’ conferences and one kick-butt Storymasters workshop with top authors and agents, making some great connections and new friends. I forced myself to go outside my “tower of introvert.”
  • The goal to finish my work-in-progress, a fantasy novel, did not happen—though I’m making good progress. This is forcing me to look at the interruptions in my writing time and how to work around them. I’m also learning about my own self-sabatoge and that of others around me.
  • Find an agent/publisher for my memoir (made some headway but put this project on the back burner until my next book is done—then I can shop around two books at the same time).
  • My goal was to successfully complete NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with 50,000 new words. I did!
  • In August, I started back at the gym after a 2-year hiatus from an ankle injury. Working with a trainer once every six weeks, I lost 12 lbs of fat, gained 12 lbs of muscle. (Not as much as I’d hoped for but thrilled I’m moving in the right direction). I fell in love with swimming in Hawaii and now incorporate it into my fitness routine.
  • I learned to ride a motorcycle and turn corners using the friction zone without dropping the bike. Yay!
  • Major events in our family this year included three deaths, my only son’s wedding to a girl I love, a leaky bathroom pipe that turned into a 3-month remodel, and reorganization of our business. A good chunk of the year was spent learning more about love, life, and the grieving process.

This is just part of my list. Reading it over, I feel proud of what I did accomplish in 2012 despite all the setbacks and interruptions.

My goal for 2013 is to do this looking-back process each month—set my goals for the month and at the end of each month make a list of what I accomplished and what got in my way. I do a mini-version of this on a daily basis with my to-do list but taking a few moments at the end of each month (or each week) is a good way to stay focused on long-term goals.

Make your own list for the previous year. What were the highlights of your year? What setbacks did you overcome or survive? How can this list inform your goal setting for 2013?

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I hope you are giving yourself many pats on the back for these many accomplishments, especially in the shadow of personal sadness. Reviewing the past is definitely an important part of planning. One of my favorite activities!

    January 3, 2013
    • Thanks, Jane. It actually took me writing them down to really feel and acknowledge the accomplishments. Glad I did! Looking forward to a calmer 2013 with continued growth.

      January 3, 2013

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