Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I Intend to Smack 2010 Around

It’s that time of year again. The time of year where I start making my New Years Resolutions and then inflict a goals/ resolutions post upon everyone. (Yes, this is a habit.[])

The truth is, me and resolutions are tight. I get righteously angry when I hear folks badmouthing New Years Resolutions. I grow pitifully sad when I hear people don’t have any goals for themselves. And then I get snarkily sniffy when I hear someone make an unwinnable goal without realizing it.

Here’s the thing about goals (and if you have already read 8,000 of my goal blog posts or heard me say this out loud before now, you can skip to the photos). A goal is like a bus. Let’s say you always wanted to get to Cleveland, for some reason. And suddenly a bus shows up outside your door. You say “whoo! buses go places!” and jump on. But you never say out loud that you want to go to Cleveland. You never tell the driver. You never really tell yourself. You just have this vague desire to see Cleveland.

Well, I tell you what. I can guarantee you that you will get someplace. And there’s a chance you might like that place. But I can also pretty much guarantee you it won’t be Cleveland. Seems obvious, doesn't it? but . . .

This is a life without goals. You might still enjoy yourself, but you might have ended up somewhere better and actually gotten your dreams if you’d made it a goal. And actually told someone else, so you became accountable.

Basically that’s what resolutions are: goals that become real because you wrote ‘em down. And they have an expiration date. One year later, they kick the bucket. They are at the time the most ordinary and magical thing in the world. Ordinary because a resolution, really, has no power. It’s just something you said. Something you wrote. You could break it if you want to. It won’t make things happen just because you happened to write it down. But they’re magical too because when I write my resolutions, I shape how my next year looks. I am literally crafting my own future, because for me, writing them down is a decision to pursue them. I change my life in the few hours it takes me to choose my goals for the year. Writing them down makes them concrete and a challenge. It tells me the person I’m going to be in 2010 -- the person I want to be.

That’s magical.

Now, that said, there’s good resolutions and bad ones. A good resolution is one that is

- largely in your control
- quantifiable

I’d also add, for me, that I like mine
- slightly out of my reach

I like the challenge of having to stretch to reach a goal. I also like to have a mix of easy and hard goals, because I like to have crossed off about half of them by June. Maggie likes the crossing off. With a big fat Sharpie. But if you make your goals too easy, you are defeating the purpose of them. Goals and resolutions are supposed to change who you are. If they're too easy, yes, you'll always hit the mark -- but you probably would've anyway. Shoot big and you'll win big.

Bad resolutions?

- mostly out of your control
- nebulous
- open-ended
- too ambitious
too far ahead of the game (not the same as too ambitious)

Examples of bad goals are: “get healthier in 2010.” What does that mean? When can you ever cross that off the list? How will you know when you’ve actually achieved that? It’s nebulous and open-ended. A better version of those would be: “get a gym membership” or “learn to cook ten different kinds of stir-fry” or “find a place to buy free-range, grain-fed beef” or “establish a 30 minute home exercise regimen.”


Too ambitious are things like: “take over North America.” Too far ahead of the game is “take over United States.” Unless you’ve already started steps to take over the world, a better goal is: “win favor of local Congressman and infiltrate Virginia cheese shops.” First step to world takeover. Baby steps. Baby steps.

And goals that are out of your control aren’t great either, because you might still achieve them, but you can’t take credit. And more appropriately, if you can’t cross them off, it’s not because of you. They really belong on someone else’s list. That includes things like “debut on the NYT Bestseller List” “make husband take clown lessons” and “get made Employee of the Month” (unless employee of the month has certain steps you can take to get there).

There are some goals that sort of skirt the line, like “do sit ups for 15 minutes every day” -- it’s open-ended, so you can’t cross it off til the end of the year, but it is totally doable. I usually have one or two of those on my list, but a whole list of those would drive me batty.

Here are my resolutions for 2009, written last year.

1) finish LINGER on time

2) write RE: MYSELF (this is a secretive, uncontracted project)

3) *secret writing career goal that I can’t reveal at the moment*

4) *other secret writing career goal that I can’t reveal at the moment*

5) Talk to 1000 aspiring writers (well over)

Move house (just did)

7) Write/ record theme for SHIVER (two of them! you can hear them here!)

8) travel somewhere new on vacation (Savannah! whooo!)

become conversational with my spoken German

travel to the UK if I sell my UK rights before March (UK book tour! whooo!)

I did all of these but two, one of which I crossed out halfway through the year and changed to another (I switched “become conversational with my spoken German” to “become better friends with my guitar”)(see, one of those open-ended ones) and the other was write RE: MYSELF, which I thought would be my next in line to be published. Instead, I have another secretive project (man, too many of these) that’s coming next, and that’s the one I worked on. So I’m pretty cheery -- I feel like I really kept to the spirit of my resolutions.

Would I have done these things if I hadn’t written them down? Some of them. The easy ones. But all ten? Not. a. chance. They gave me purpose, direction, and drive. They gave me that bus to Cleveland. It’s especially important, I think, when you’re doing something creative with your life or when you’re not doing your writing, art, music, etc., for your living. It’s far too easy to say that you’ll work on your latest creative endeavor when the muse strikes you or that it’s not a priority because it’s not making you money. Believe me, doing something because you’re being paid for it is the least important reason of all to do anything. ANYTHING.

So I’m going to be working on ten new resolutions this month; I’ll have ‘em done by Christmas. Once again, it will completely define what I do with my year. I fully intend to smack 2010 around and generally make it succumb to my will.

How about you guys?



Rebecca Knight said...

What a great post :). I've never actually thought about New Year's Resolutions in terms of S.M.A.R.T. goals before. I'm going to jump on the bandwagon this year.

Thanks, Maggie!

Donna Gambale said...

Love this post -- and the pictures! Too funny. I generally don't make official New Year's Resolutions, but I'm freakishly goal-oriented. I've had a Things To Do In Life list since I was about 12 (too young to call it a Bucket List).

Since I turned 18, I decided to cross one or two things off the list each year. So far, so good! This year I traveled to Jamaica, finished my novel, and went whitewater rafting.

Next year my goal is to get an agent and buy my first home. I'd like to travel somewhere new, but don't know how the budget will work for that. And start writing a new novel. (I know the agent one isn't all the way in my control, but it's in my control enough that I'm keeping it!)

And Cary Elwes' career definitely peaked in The Princess Bride. Although I must admit, I'm a fan of The Crush. :)

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Aaaah Maggie the pictures are too funny! And I love the way you approach goals. I like obsessively write them down but I never really give myself a time frame for them. I think I'm going to do just what you did, figure which of my many goals are actually in my control or realistically in my control for 2010 and write those down somewhere special so I can bend 2010 to my own will.

Love it! Great post as usual:-)

Suzanne said...

Like a bus to Cleveland... brilliant. As were the pictures. Poor Boba Fett. Crappy goals and look where it got him... eaten by a big 'ol sand monster.

I'm working on my resolutions as we speak. Or at least I was, until I started clicking around reading blogs instead. One of my open-ended goals is to obtain a longer attention span.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Donnna, why am I not surprised at your 12 year old bucket list?

Oddly enough, Rebecca, someone told me about SMART goals last year and I was like "well, duh, isn't that what a goal is supposed to be?" It felt like someone telling me that cats ought to have four legs to work properly. Well, yeah. ;p

And yep, Suzanne, poor Boba Fett. Also, he should've scheduled some personal free time in there. Not much kicking back in the Fett household.

Hope 2010 falls to your influence, Frankie!

Larissa said...

'Kay - I finally posted mine on my blog:

thanks for the kick-in-the-pants! :)

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Good LUCK, Larissa!

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