Write It Sideways

Set Reachable Goals by Establishing Boundaries

 Today’s article is written by regular contributor Lydia Sharp.

It’s human nature to want a fresh start, or a readjustment, at regular intervals.

Our culture has embraced the habit of declaring resolutions at the beginning of each calendar year. Personally, I set goals for myself in January and revisit them in September to see where I stand. Some of my goals are not always fulfilled by the end of December, which allows me to analyze how to better set my new goals for the following year.

One thing I’ve noticed over time is that the goals I do reach all have something in common, whether they are fitness goals, financial goals, career goals, etc.

Goals tend to be more reachable when they are set within specific boundaries.

But how is it possible to stretch to new horizons by confining yourself? Since this blog is aimed toward writing and publishing, we’ll focus on those types of goals here, but these tips can be applied to any goals you may have.

The Law of Opposites

Everything in the universe has an opposite. There’s good and bad, high and low, left and right, cold and hot, and the list goes on. This law of opposites keeps our world in balance, so it only makes sense that we should apply it to our life pursuits.

For every do, there is a don’t. Understanding this enables you to set realistic boundaries, and you’ll find your goals are not only reachable, but also produce more balanced, satisfying results.

Example 1: The Goal of Writing More

While this is a noteworthy goal for any author, without some sort of boundary it can easily slip out of your grasp. First you must define what “more” means to you. Using the S.M.A.R.T. system for goal-setting, the S stands for “specific.” Once you have determined a specific writing goal, whether it be a certain number of words per day, projects per year, etc., then you can create a boundary by determining your opposite.

The opposite of more is less. In order to do more of something, you must do less of something else. We all have the same amount of time gifted to us each day. It’s how we spend it that defines us as individuals.

What will you do less of, so you can schedule more time for writing?

Example 2: The Goal of Gaining Social Media Followers

This goal may seem self-centered, but as authors we want to connect with readers through our stories. We can’t do that if our audience doesn’t know who we are.

Social media is an effective way to extend your reach, so when you do have a new book to offer, you can more easily create a public awareness of it. This is not a popularity contest, it’s just the way of the world. We live through the Internet now. Engaging in social media is our modern version of letting people know we exist, and that we have something to share with them.

The opposite of gaining is giving. Have you ever heard the expression, “If you want to make friends you must first be a friend”? This should be the law of social media. If you want to gain followers, you must first follow. And I will add to it that you must also be a friend to those you follow. Following people does not automatically earn you the right to have them follow back.

Again, be specific and limit yourself to realism. Focus on one or two venues or you will quickly lose control. Keep the social in social media and you will undoubtedly increase your numbers, your readership, your valuable connections.

Example 3: The Goal of Getting Published/Getting an Agent

This is an unbalanced goal. It is heavily dependent upon the actions and opinions of others. Reachable goals are solely dependent upon you.

The opposite of someone helping your career is for you to help theirs. If you want to be published, you must write something an editor can get excited about. If you want an agent, you must offer them something they can sell. The boundary here is to NOT submit just anything you’ve written–you must give them your absolute best.

And the actual goal should be restated to reflect its dependence upon your own actions, rather than focusing on the end result. The goal is not to get published or to get an agent. The goal is to write the best story you can and then send it to the people most likely to appreciate it.

That is a reachable goal because it is firmly within your control (what happens beyond submission is largely out of your hands). Even if the end result is not an agent or a book deal, you have still completed a specific task by submitting your best work. You can still celebrate your accomplishment.

What boundaries will you establish for your 2013 goals, and how will you apply the law of opposites to help you reach them?