A rant about goals

Here’s the thing. People are different. Very different. What works for one person doesn’t work for another.

Today I saw, for the fourth time in a week, someone saying to someone else, “You shouldn’t make a goal of getting published. You should only make goals that are in your control. So, you can make a goal of ‘I will finish my novel,’ or ‘I will submit this for publication,’ but you can’t make a goal that you will get published.”

Excuse me while I put on my cranky pants.

Why not? True, if you make goals that are outside of your control, you might be disappointed, and that’s too bad. But what the heck is the point of a goal? If the point of having goals is to be motivated, you need to know how you work. If you are the kind of person who gives up (or who is set back) when you face disappointment, then yes, make rational goals so you can cheer yourself on.

Me, I’m not. If I fail to make my goals, I shrug, because I know they contain an aspirational element. But my goals are there to motivate me, and let me tell you, back before I was published, I was not motivated by the prospect of sending fifteen queries to agents. That would have been a sucky goal for me, because it meant nothing to me. I didn’t want something I could check off a box so I could feel like I was making forward progress. I wanted something I could strive for. It wasn’t the prospect of submitting my book to a publisher that made me stay up until 3 AM some of those mornings, polishing scenes.

My goal was that I wanted to be published (in fact, my goal was more irrational than mere publication). Was this a goal that was in my control? No. But I worked like hell for it, and for a damned good reason. That’s how I work. That’s how I motivate myself. For me, setting piddly little goals that are in my control feels like… an office job. “Today, I will send five letters.” This does not motivate me.

Pfft. Today, I will do everything I can do to make my dreams come true, not chase down some arbitrary predetermined thing that I know I can do. (True confession: I see little point in making a goal of doing things that I already know I can do. I realize people differ, which is why I’m good with people who make rational goals–I just don’t want them telling me, and people like me, that what they’re doing is crazy. Of course it is crazy–but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.)

I have goals for the future that are insane–I know I will never get them. I have goals for the future that are somewhat possible. I can’t think of a single thing that I call a “goal” that is readily doable.

So, seriously. Don’t edit other people’s goals by telling them they aren’t good goals. And if someone is editing your goals, and it feels weird, just tell them to get out of your hair. I’m not saying that you have to write your goals all irrational-like, like me, but for heaven’s sake, if your goal is to get published, and someone tells you that’s not a good goal, the proper response is: “Why not? It’s what I want.” And don’t let them push you around. You know you better than they do.

Rant over. For now.

10 thoughts on “A rant about goals

  1. Thank you! People are all about managing expectations these days. Don’t get your hopes up. But what is life without hope?

  2. Well said! I like to make a lot of small goals because I’m a list-checker but I also like the big goal so I’m right there with you on all of this.

  3. “just tell them to get out of your hair.”

    You crack me up. And amen. I think some people want to be told they’ll fail. Drives me nuts. Believe in yourself, in your abilities, and then get to work!

  4. Absolutely true post. Thanks so much for it. If I don’t have dreams/goals, what the hell am I working so hard for? :)

  5. Thank you so much for this post – it’s true in so many ways, and I agree with it wholeheartedly. It also made my day. :)

  6. Well said Courtney…I could not have said it better…I am proud of you..Dream,Believe and Achieve is the motto I grew up on.

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