Goal-Setting (and Revising)

I’m an inveterate goal-setter. From way back.

I started setting yearly goals at the age of 19, maybe before. I remember that set of goals because that was the first time I formulated a “lifetime goal” to write a book. One book. I figured, how many people manage to write a whole book in their lifetime? I thought it’d be cool, whether or not I ever published.

Within a few years, I revised that goal. I made “write a book” a five-year goal (my broad categories were—and remain—one-year, three-year, five-year, and lifetime goals), and “publish a book” a lifetime goal.

I missed the five-year goal by a year or two, but I eventually met both. Along the way, of course, I revised and updated many goals (eventually adding another broad category of “pipe dreams,” to at least acknowledge my most unlikely aspirations, since I know God is always listening).

For many years now, I’ve conducted a mid-year review of my goals, to reward myself for the goals I’ve already achieved (or made great progress on), remind myself of areas where I need to redouble my efforts, and revise any goals that need to be adjusted. (Notice the alliteration of those tasks: reward, remind, revise? Yeah, buddy, that does an old preacher’s heart good). I’m not as thorough or careful as some folks who actually review their goals on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis; that may be the only area in life where I’m less OCD than others.

So, rather than bore you with the first two areas of review, let me just mention a few 2020 goals that I’ve decided to revise:

  • the weight loss I planned to achieve by May 1 will be updated to Dec. 31; I blame the COVID-19 house arrest and my wife’s cooking for the change. (Anyone buying that?)
  • I deferred another of my physical goals, reducing the number of hikes and visits to area national and state parks, a change directly related to the “COVID lockdown.”
  • I deleted one financial/household goal relating to a purchase I had planned; it’s become unnecessary.
  • The rest of my 2020 goals—in six areas: spiritual health, physical health, mental/intellectual health, marriage and family, financial and household, and professional—are still achievable.

Happily, I’m on course or ahead of schedule on my writing goals (though I canceled one project because several others presented themselves) and on my goals as a literary agent.

So, do you set goals? If not, should you? If so, are there goals that are ready for rewarding, reminding, or revising? Do tell, in the comments.


21 Responses to Goal-Setting (and Revising)

  1. Avatar
    Shirlee Abbott June 24, 2020 at 4:58 am #

    I share the need to revise the weight-loss timeline, and, yes, it connects to COVID. In my case, as a part-time classroom aide, the virus flipped my work day from walking around to sitting in front of a screen. Those hikes you didn’t take, Bob, would have burned some extra calories.

    I set goals, but I don’t tie them to end-of-year markers. I’m working on a book proposal to be completed by October. Now that school’s out, I want to lose 1/2 pound a week. I do like the concept of lifetime goals–oh, wait! That would be a bucket list, and I don’t do bucket lists.

  2. Avatar
    Stefanie August June 24, 2020 at 5:08 am #

    My goals are set each day and I strive to achieve them in my writing and personal life. Due to goal setting I am gaining lots of writing work and living as God intends for me – authentically and with the purpose of serving others through my writing and other service efforts.

  3. Avatar
    Lila Diller June 24, 2020 at 5:54 am #

    I set yearly goals and then narrow them down to monthly goals. I’ve had to revise already because of the virus, also. I thought it would be easier to record my audiobook, but my neighbors all decided to make the lockdown a time to do loud yard work. 😉 I also expected to have revisions from my beta readers by the end of February. I didn’t get them until April, which pushed off querying agents until after that. And of course, the trip to the family reunion in May was canceled. Other than that, I’m still working toward my goals. At least for me, deadlines are flexible, so if something takes me longer than I expected, it’s not the end of the world to extend the deadline a bit. My goals are just to keep me focused on my main projects and tell me where to spend my time during the week.

  4. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser June 24, 2020 at 6:16 am #

    Yes, I have a goal today,
    and it’s one you’re free to borrow;
    I have to find and build a way
    to make life worth tomorrow.
    The nights are getting deadly now,
    Barb’s scared I won’t awaken,
    though it’s not the worst way how
    a person might be taken.
    But come the dawn I have to seek
    the path that leads me on;
    although the lifeboat’s got a leak,
    there’s still time for a song:
    “Row, row, row your boat,
    and be glad you’re still afloat!”

    • Avatar
      Lois Freeman Easley June 24, 2020 at 8:08 am #

      Thanks for the poem, Andrew Budek-Schmeisser. I concur!

      • Avatar
        Andrew Budek-Schmeisser June 24, 2020 at 4:18 pm #

        Lois, thank YOU.

        • Avatar
          Susan Sage June 26, 2020 at 11:28 am #

          Thank you, Andrew. I figured you’d leave an inspiring, thought-provoking answer. And I concur. God bless, my internet/writer friend.

  5. Avatar
    Jaime June 24, 2020 at 6:40 am #

    I like that you mentioned pipe dreams. I do set goals, but I can’t tell you how many pipe dreams (that I’ve only ever whispered to God) have miraculously come true. He truly loves to show His kids He loves us, and He really can do anything. I just have to make sure I’m faithful to work at the goals that are my responsibility.

    • Avatar
      Lois Freeman Easley June 24, 2020 at 8:11 am #

      Yes, Jaime, I have also seen God surprise my low expectations–or, sometimes accommodate big ones!!

      He loves faith.

      I love Him!

  6. Avatar
    Lewis H. Seaton III June 24, 2020 at 6:49 am #

    I have a terrible problem with procrastination. I tend to look at something big as something I can’t take on today; I simply don’t have a big enough block of time to deal with it. Too, I do my best creative work unhampered by time constraints. But I know that I should do like you and take small bites of the elephant. I almost made some progress last month, though. I was going to get some counseling, but something came up, and I had to put it off.

    • Avatar
      Lois Freeman Easley June 24, 2020 at 8:15 am #

      Here, here, Lewis H. Seaton III! Can totally relate.

      Have felt a strong urge about the goal thing today–I think the Lord is inviting us into a more pro-active place about our writing. We have had our 3+ month season of shutdown–and, although USA public health still HUGE ISSUE, so is the writing invite for each one of us, no?

      So, I’m leaving this (very helpful) discussion and writing out some goals!

  7. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D. June 24, 2020 at 7:25 am #

    Bob, I couldn’t put off responding to your posting. Yes, I have daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. It my be a part of my A+++ personality, but it also meant that I wrote my 400-page dissertation on House, M.D. in 12 months. My colleagues took between 2 and 3 years to write theirs, but my discipline in writing two hours a day every day for 12 months made it possible. Yes, I did skip a couple of days in there, but I made a point of catching up later in the week.

    I will confess that my writing did take a back seat there for a couple of months recently as we had major projects at work, but I even set goals for getting that work done, so that I could chill out and then get back to writing. The COVID virus did change some goals, just like it did yours, but I’m busy getting back on track.

    Thanks for your blog posting. As always, it was awesome.

  8. Avatar
    Kathy Carlton Willis June 24, 2020 at 7:48 am #

    Bob, I love your alliterated Reward/Remind/Revise! (I’m going to share this blog post with my WordGirls members. A great mid-year check up.) You asked if we set goals. I started setting goals while still in high school. I love lists! And I’ve done them differently, over the years, to make the goal setting fit the intentions. I take time between my December birthday and the New Year to evaluate and set goals. In my book, “The Ultimate Speaker’s Guide” I share what I call D.R.E.A.M. Goals.
    D: Does it make a DIFFERENCE in your community? (Impact and Significance)
    R: Can you REACH it? (Attainable and Realistic)
    E: Does it ENERGIZE you? (Passion and Giftedness)
    A: Can you ANALYZE it? (Track Results)
    M: Does it fit your MISSION? (Purpose and Calling)

    • Avatar
      Deena Adams June 25, 2020 at 5:12 am #

      Love the DREAM acrostic! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Avatar
    Roberta Sarver June 24, 2020 at 7:56 am #

    Bob, my goals had to take a back seat while I recovered from a concussion. (Running with my dog, fell on the street, knocked myself out, got a concussion.) I have cut way back on trackable writing for a time, until the headache and black eye have healed. But yes, it’s been a lifetime goal to write a book. Meanwhile I’ve done smaller things, like having a regular newspaper column and a blog.

  10. Avatar
    Lois Freeman Easley June 24, 2020 at 8:19 am #

    Have used your very-helpful structured approach from an earlier blog-post:

    1. Define your objective—what you want to accomplish (e.g., complete an article or a book, write a book proposal, book a writers conference, etc.).

    2. Break it down into the incremental steps it will take to achieve the objective.

    3. Set a specific, realistic, measurable goal.

    4. Give it a deadline, a time frame by which you’ll accomplish your goal.

    5. Build in triggers—rewards or adjustments, like my all-nighter trigger.

    6. Re-evaluate along the way if you get sidetracked.

    7. Start again at #1.

  11. Avatar
    Gabriel June 24, 2020 at 8:34 am #

    Good stuff! I need goals. Otherwise I’m confused and unproductive. Being a big picture person, I have four whiteboards (each 2’ x 3’) on the walls of my study. I write all my projects with target dates On those boards The size of the boards allows me to write next steps under each project heading and see them well from anywhere in the room. I sometimes stop what I’m doing just to review, rethink, or update one of the boards. I like to be able to see it as big as life. Somehow, that helps me. I use a planner for my daily goals. That helps keep me organized in the details. Thanks for the post on this topic!

  12. Avatar
    Jeanetta Chrystie June 24, 2020 at 9:00 am #

    Great content, and so many good additions in comments, thanks to everyone.
    I recently began using the Full Focus Planner by Michael Hyatt and am finding it very useful to set realistic goals in several areas of life and track my progress.

  13. Avatar
    Megan Gerig June 24, 2020 at 11:19 am #

    I don’t know that I could function without goals. My physical goals have kind of dropped off the face of the earth (thanks, covid), but my writing goals are being met each month so far, so that’s something.

  14. Avatar
    Debra L. Butterfield June 24, 2020 at 3:04 pm #

    Bob, thanks for this reminder about goals. For some reason, I didn’t get in my usual yearly review (done in Oct/Nov) or set new goals for 2020. It’s never too late. I like the idea of 1, 3, 5 and lifetime goals. Something I’ve never done. Maybe being over 60 has something to do with that. It’s time to see what I can put together for the rest of 2020.

  15. Avatar
    Deena Adams June 25, 2020 at 5:10 am #

    I’ve always been a driven person with the discipline to work toward whatever I set my mind to so I have rarely set specific goals.

    That said, when I embarked on writing a book at age 55, almost two years ago, I naively stated I wanted to be published by age 60. I’ve kept the goal in place and am working hard toward achieving it and have two completed manuscripts so far with several writer conferences and lots of training behind me. I’ll keep the goal and if I don’t meet it, I’ll revise.

    Perhaps I should set some more specific goals with my writing and other aspects of my life. Thanks for giving me food for thought, Bob.

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