The Importance of Setting Goals

"I did some really great writing on Facebook this week," said a student in my creative writing class.

In Buddhism, we believe in the importance of setting goals. We set goals and chant to accomplish them and take action in our daily lives. One by one, we whittle away at reaching the goal. While achieving the goal can be important, it's also important what we discover about life and ourselves along the way. This is how we create works of art and happy lives.

Setting a goal and watching how you follow through shines a bright light. It holds you accountable. A goal is not just something to strive for, it is a pact, a promise, we make to our self.

Recently, I had cold water splashed on my face. I'd created an idea for a book proposal. I'd written the Overview and started a Sample Chapter. But then, I'd quit. That idea came out last week. In someone else's book. Well-reviewed in The New York Times.


Why hadn't I finished my proposal and sent it out? I was busy coaching clients. Okay. People work every day and still write novels. I had done that before. I had a new boyfriend. Writers have boyfriends and still write. I was helping other people practice Buddhism. And going to the gym. And watching a lot of really great television. And talking on the phone with girlfriends, my mom. Reading posts on Facebook. Playing with the cat. Watching a little more television.

I had put my writing last on the list. Why? it's one of my favorite things. So, after I'd cried about the other writer's book (and how pretty she is), I sat down and wrote out real goals to finish my book proposal. First, I tweaked the proposal slightly so that it wasn't the same as the other book already on the market. Then, I wrote a realistic writing schedule. Set my writer hours. And stuck to them. I rolled up my sleeves. I moved past the little voice that said it was a stupid idea. I made friends with the belief that it was a fun idea. That it had traction. I hired an editor. I went back to the next draft. I whittled away a little each day. The book proposal is finished. Now, I am creating a list of publishers and agents to query.

I am grateful that the other writer accomplished her goal. She woke me up.

No one cares whether or not the writer finishes the book, sells the script or makes a living writing. The writer must set goals and work to accomplish them. Small and large. For each project. For his or her career. We must be seriously passionate and doggedly-determined.

Concrete goals. Concrete action. Rigorous honesty.

"Today I will work on the book for thirty minutes."

"This week I will write for two hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday."

"I will complete my first draft of the script by August 31st. Here's how."

"I will query five agents on my lunch hour."

"I will sign up for that class or hire that coach."

Every week, I will reflect back with rigorous honesty on what actions I actually took. I will readjust and begin again. I will show up when I don't want to. I will write instead of worry. I will write instead of wish. I will binge-watch that new show with my boyfriend after I write today. I will stay offline until I finish the scene. I will care as much about my writing career, as I care about other's dreams and goals.

I will keep the promises I have made to my self.

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