About a year and a half ago, I came up with what I felt was a genius concept to write a book on the beneficial aspects of the sorority experience. I started conceptualizing and outlining and writing. I took breaks, lots of breaks. Work got crazy, I needed sleep more than I needed to write, I prioritized the blog over the book, I was sick, my husband and I got married, life was happening!
But I’ve kept coming back to this goal, to write this book to help the nearly one million sorority women who are in college or within five years of graduation develop their sorority experience into a great career.
I’ve been inspired by this topic, one that I hope will help others. While twelve year old me was hopeful I would someday write the next great American novel, thirty year old me was hopeful to change lives and the perception of the impact of sorority life. These are certainly different outcomes of writing! But, I want to make myself proud. Maybe twelve year old Mary Kate would be disappointed that I never wrote the great American novel (though not an impossibility, it is an improbability). But today, when I look at the word count in Docs and my scribblings between the printed text, I’m amazed at myself.
Whatever it is you are working on, your version of a book, maybe your own book, be proud of you. Be proud of progress and action and that you are working to make your own dreams come true. Keep the efforts going. Congratulate yourself. Allow yourself an indulgent smile. Hug a loved one with the excitement of support from others in response to what you are doing. Celebrate each and every step.
And keep going. The power of action is important, but what is a book if it is unpublished and unread? Not all books can be best sellers, though we all have the highest of hopes. But there is no chance to attempt best seller status if you never press whatever version of “publish” exists for you and your goals.
I may be using the example of the book for me, right now, but this applies to everything in life. Growing up, cleaning the family bathroom was a task that rotated amongst the children. As beautiful as the mirror and shower and floors might look, if we neglected the dust on the light fixture that managed to gather since last week or to re-load a three roll supply of toilet paper, the job was not done. We were beholden to keep going. And finish.
It is important to define that finish line both at the beginning and also along the way. Sometimes you may even need to re-define what that finish line is to take reality into account. The Olympic stage is for a select few; at some point in your life you need to realize that no matter your level of effort, you may never get there. For me, my career in sports ended when I stopped growing at 5’-4” and was clearly not the fastest in my class. It didn’t stop my hustle or hard work or the love of whatever I was playing, I just knew my sports career would be limited and not lucrative.
Changing the finish line can help erase the self doubt. I could have felt like a failure for not being able to follow my dreams in sports. In moments of reflection I certainly felt the disappointment. But I reset the finish lines and refocused on what I could do, like being healthy and a good teammate and focusing more on school and volunteering and leadership. This was a realistic reset that has helped me be a happier person.
Here is my current approach to going after what I want to accomplish. Do you see similarities to you and your approach? Maybe below is an asepct you hadn’t considered before. Maybe you can leave an aspect I hadn’t considered in the comments.
- Set a goal. Every book I read promotes a different strategy and quotes a different academic study for the “BEST goal setting method”. The only thing I know is true is that you must find a way to set goals that works for you. Looking back on when you’ve been successful, what kind of goals were you setting? Remember to reflect on failures and partial achievements to think about what was missing from previous efforts. Maybe you use SMART and maybe you use stretch goals, a combination, or none of the above. But set something that you want badly to achieve. Set a finish line. Dream.
- Make a plan. Even if John Steinbeck wrote that “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” it is best to go into your goal efforts with a plan in place. Do you drive or walk somewhere new without first consulting GPS for directions? Same concept. Give yourself some direction in your plan to meet the goal. Without this, you are a fish flopping on the deck of a boat.
- Schedule into your day. I find this is often forgotten with making the plan. You have to make room in your life for goals! If you don’t make time for them, are they really that important to have? Think about your priorities. Maybe you need to adjust a timeline for your goal. I hoped that I would write a book in a few months, but it will take almost two years by the time I publish.
- Find support. My husband is amazing. My friends are amazing. My parents are amazing. Sometimes when my husband tells ME that I am amazing, it is all I need to keep going. I do know I am capable of amazing. Sometimes we all need reminders when the going gets tough. On occasion we need to be our own support. This is when I consult Pinterest for “positive motivation success” for a few moments as a break and then jump right back in.
- TAKE ACTION! Seriously, Nike has it right when they say to just do it. Think about your goal. Let it inspire you. And then, take that first step or jump or leap of faith or sign up.
- Use support as needed. Sometimes I will be typing away in the kitchen with unintentional poor posture, hunched over my computer. Just the other night, my husband walks in, smiles, and says, “you go, lady!” and walks out. That makes me smile and gives some extra energy and motivation to do a few more minutes or pages. Sometimes, I use Pinterest. That takes extra time and i have to sort through the pins that aren’t congruent with my approach to life. But in the end, there usually are one or two that provide the extra motivation I need. Sometimes I go to step 7 and text a friend.
- Take a break as needed. Sleep. Seriously, sleep can be wonderful. Not writing for a few days can be wonderful. A walk or workout can be wonderful. Breaks are ok, because we are humans. Hell, even machines need down time for maintenance and repairs.
- Repeat steps 5-7 until you reach your finish line. Just. Keep. Going. Drive to that finish line. Reset if you need. Break as often as you need to, change support methods if you need to. Keep the push going!
- Once you reach the finish, ship it. It may not involve putting something in an envelope with a stamp, but getting the finished product out into the world.
- Celebrate. Reflect. Give thanks. You made it!
I’m not quite at step 10. But I’m on my way there, continuing on step 8. I can’t wait until step 9. Actually, today is ship day for the draft of my book to a set of almost twenty five gracious readers who are willing to give me feedback! I am so thankful for the support of friends old and new who renew my faith in friendship and an myself. I’m proud of how far I’ve come and how close to the finish line I am getting. I know I will get there.
What are the goals you are working on? Do you find yourself resetting the finish line, and how does that make you feel? What was your first “ship it” moment like?