Abstract Goals

It’s that time of year again… now that it’s ten days until Christmas (how did that happen so fast?), I realized that another year is almost at its end. It’s time to reflect on the past year; the places where I have succeeded, the places I have failed, the goals I have accomplished, and the goals that I have not accomplished. And it’s also time to look ahead to the coming year, make new plans and goals, and try to improve myself as a person.

A few days ago, I made a vague list of the goals I’d like to accomplish in 2012, but the list isn’t complete yet. I have a lot of abstract goals on there, like “eat healthy” and “drink more water.” Self-help books and other sources tell you that your goals should be measurable. Thus, a goal like “eat healthy” is too vague. You have to say something like “eat at least one vegetable and one fruit per day” or “drink eight glasses of water.”

It’s useless to say that your goal for the year is to “write a novel” because it’s such an overwhelming goal, especially if you’ve never written anything before. The best thing to do is to say, “I will write x number of words per day (or per week)” and go from there. Breaking goals down into smaller steps and making them measurable seems like cliche advice, but it’s so common for a reason: It works.

Even a goal like “get a job” is too abstract. What kind of job are you looking for? Full-time, part-time, remote, or temporary? How are you going to go about getting a new job? Create a strategy. Maybe you’ll send x number of cover letters and resumes per week. Maybe you’ll start by adding a certain number of people to your network per month.

I think it’s also good to make sure that you don’t put too many goals on your list. Having too many can be overwhelming, especially if they’re all big, time-consuming projects. You don’t want to be angry at yourself for not completing a goal because you have way too much going on in your life. Leave some time for relaxation and fun.

Now back to my goal list… ๐Ÿ™‚

9 thoughts on “Abstract Goals

  1. Any suggestions on how to organize goals efficiently? (on computer? or notebook? something?). Organization is where I slack. I’d like to lay it out so that I feel accomplished and get toward something , but I’d like a framework in whcih to do that (but nothing too complex or hard to figure out). Thanks.


    • I’d say to do whatever works best for you. Some people don’t like organizing goals on paper and some do. It also depends on the type of goal – like if you’re going for a weight-loss goal, I’d do a spreadsheet on the computer. But if it’s a writing goal, it might be more helpful to keep records in your writing notebook. Calendars are helpful, too. Say you want to write 31,000 words by February. If you start in January, you can write “write 1000 words” in each calendar block, so it gives you something to cross off each day.

      It helps to invent your own system, too – because I’ve read a lot of organizational books that have very complex and confusing systems. It should be something that you’re comfortable with using.

      Hope that helped. ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. I think using “write a novel” and “find a job” can be useful shorthand. Agreed, such phrases can be cripplingly vague, but in thinking about ways to accomplish them, the goal-setter must break down the steps to acheive them. Which, for some, is an accomplishment in and of itself. ๐Ÿ˜‰ For my own part, I didn’t just put down “write a novel;” instead, I committed to writing, editing, and submitting a novel for publication. The last act concretizes the rest of it into a definite and accountable form without getting into the specifics of how the novel is written. That part’s irrelevant to the overarching goal.

    I look forward to your list!


  3. I hope you succeed in your goals! I think goals are a good thing and reflection is even more of a good thing. When one reflects on the year they’ve just had, it seems like that helps them become who they really are and set next year’s goals. A lovely post.


  4. For writing goals, I agree that a number of words would be better than “write a novel,” because with the latter you might get to the end of the year with a pretty good draft and be tempted to say it’s done in order to meet the goal, or you might be tempted to scrimp on the all-important let-it-sit-in-a-drawer-for-a-while time in between revisions.

    9h, and I like the fact that you used the phrase “writing notebook” in the other comment. ๐Ÿ™‚


  5. Good post. I don’t set goals for myself when I write and I tend to put it off a lot and get nowhere. i think it’s time I gave that a try and actually get some writing done.


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