At Chez O’Hara, we’re about to enter a new phase of life. My husband is retiring, leaving his workplace of thirty-five years. Our youngest is about to graduate and will probably receive a job offer in another town, making us empty-nesters. Even if we weren’t halfway through 2019, it would be a natural time to take stock of the year’s goals and rejig them, ensuring room for new adventures.
Perhaps you’d like to join me.
In the past, goal-setting has mostly consisted of me getting excited about all the things I would add to my life in a never-ending quest to do more things with greater efficiency. There’s still part of me that wants to think this way, but both personal experience and science say those are delusional expectations.
The new game in town is what can be banished without sacrifice in order to clear space for true priorities. In other words, mindful curation.
What Must Be Kept
Because of the enormous time and energy that deep goals take and the effort required to “channel switch,” the evidence suggests humans do best when they focus on no more than 2-3 outcome goals at a time. (An outcome goal being the endgame you desire, like completing a novel or running a marathon or having a close, loving relationship with your immediate family.)
Once clear on those, it’s suggested that we set no more than 1-3 daily process goals within each outcome goal. These are tasks that, if routinely accomplished, will get you to the outcome you desire.
For example, let’s say your desired outcome goal is to achieve a normal BMI via healthy means by year’s end. (Given where you are at present, if that isn’t a realistic objective, set an intermediate one. It’s crucial to articulate an exciting outcome that is also achievable!) Your daily process goals might be something like: eat a salad; get in 6,000-10,000 steps; prepare your meals at home; drink a glass of water in the morning, etc.
Or, since this is a website devoted to the craft and business of fiction, let’s say your desired outcome goal is to write a novel this year and have it reach an intended audience, whether that consists of agents, editors, or actual readers. Your daily process goals might include the plan to: write one page, spend 15 minutes building your platform, query 1 agent, or spend 15 minutes in professional development.
Do you have your outcome and process goals in place?
Time to Mindfully Prune Everything Else
This step is particularly important if, like me, you tend to be on the open end of the personality spectrum. i.e. You love to learn and frequently come across information that will help in your writing career. Before you know it, you’ve signed up for X newsletter, joined Y Facebook group, or purchased the Z course.
If you’re truly like me, you’ve done all three. This week. *sad trombone*
It’s also crazily important if you’re on the conscientious end of the personality spectrum, meaning that once a commitment is in your life, you have a hard time skimping on it or letting it go altogether. (For this reason, hyperconscientious people are wise to build in a cooling-off period before taking on new commitments.)