goals

What are your goals in life? If you’re reading this right now, one of them obviously isn’t to make the absolute most of every possible waking moment, but that’s cool.

Not everyone needs goals. Some people are perfectly content to just go with the flow, and accept whatever life throws at them. The Zen of Apathy. In some respects that’s enviable. It must be nice to be so at peace with your life, and to never feel the need to fight against the current. Unfortunately for me, I’m way too anal focused for that. I seem to need plans, schemes, or at least a rough outline of a goal in order to be happy.

My main goal right now is to become a commercially successful writer. Emphasis on the “commercially successful” part, because writing truly satisfies me in a way that nothing else does, and while I’ll never stop writing no matter what, it would be nice if I could support myself financially by doing what I love.

The key to achieving your goals, I think, is to break them down into smaller, specific, everyday pieces. “I want to be happy” is not a useful goal because it’s too vague and ambiguous. What really makes you happy? What do you need to do to get it? Will what you think will make you happy actually make you happy in reality? Why don’t you love me for who I am?

Wait. Scratch that last one.

In that respect, “I want to be a commercially successful writer” isn’t that useful of a goal either, because it doesn’t give any specifics. How exactly does one become a commercially successful writer? Write, obviously, but if it were as simple as that, all bloggers would be millionaires, and the world would promptly collapse under the weight of their combined pretension.

So yeah, you have to make your overall goal specific and realistic, and you have to break it down into smaller goals that can be accomplished on a more or less daily basis. But how should the overall goal be broken down, and what specific steps should be taken?

Depending on you’re goal, you’re probably going to have to do some research. Fortunately, there’s the internet, where all shopping and porn-related dreams really do come true. And there’s probably a lot of really useful free information as well. But I wouldn’t know, because I never get past that second thing.

But seriously, there is a wealth of knowledge relating to just about any possible goal to be found on the internet. And if you’re willing to sift through all the advertisements and whatnot, a lot of it is free. Because human beings love to give advice.

I recently finished the first draft of my first book, a nonfiction account of my Peace Corps experience tentatively titled The Peace Corpse: Misadventures in Love and Africa. As you can probably guess from the title, the narrative is primarily driven by stupid humor.

It’s hard to get a book published if you’ve never been published before. Hell, it’s often hard to get a book published even if you have gotten one published before. But while it still seems somewhat daunting, my task is at least a little easier because I’ve done the research and I know exactly what I need to do to maximize the chances of finding a publisher. And I’ve solicited my friends and relatives for help with proofreading, editing, and trying to find some contacts within the literary world, no matter how tenuous. I can’t help feeling a little dirty and depraved about this, but that might just be because I chose to describe it as “soliciting”.

I have absolutely no idea if I’ll ever succeed at my ultimate goal of becoming a commercially successful writer, but what I can say for sure is that if I don’t succeed, it won’t be for lack of trying. And if nothing else, the process of moving towards my ultimate goal is enjoyable in and of itself, and even if I don’t succeed in the end, I feel like I’m a better person for having tried. The small accomplishments I’ve made along the way are actually improvements to my character, I think.

According to some random study I found on Google when I was looking for something else, 78% of all people fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions. I actually read the study after I wrote most of this post, but they say pretty much the same thing: If you want to achieve your goals, you should 1) Make them specific b) Research the topic so you have a realistic view of what the process entails, and &) break your ultimate goal down into smaller goals that can be accomplished on a day-to-day basis.

I should also probably add that in general it’s probably best to not start drinking until after you’ve finished whatever it was you were trying to do.

The new year of 2011 is an arbitrary Western thing. The Chinese New Year isn’t for another month. But still, that doesn’t mean we can’t make arbitrary goals for ourselves based on our arbitrary calendar. But if you’re serious about accomplishing your goals, you’re probably more likely to succeed if you follow the steps I’ve outlined. Or ignore my advice entirely. One of those two.

I sent out my first Query Letter for requesting an agent to represent my book today. I expect to send many, many more before I’m done. But that’s ok. I know what the process is, and I know what to expect. I’m just happy to be working towards my goals.

My other goal is to become Vice President of the United States of America.

Seriously.

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About Critical Awesomeness
I'm a 32-year-old American with a PhD in chemistry and a green hat. Only one of these two things is really important.

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