Your Goals Need a Path

Posted: June 18, 2011 in Psychology
Tags: , , ,

Your Goals Need a Path

I’m going against my usual article style and talking about my own goals in this one. I think some concrete examples are called for.

Ten years ago, I received an old 386 PC as compensation for some bookkeeping I had done for a small business. At the time, I was using an Atari 2200 computer, so this was an interesting change. The Atari had a GUI but the 386 did not. It came with all of it’s original manuals. I read them all and tried everything. It amazed me how much more I could do with this black and white text-only machine. I saw a lot of potential there and had an idea.

1. I will study the basics of all areas of computers.
2. I will study programming and become a programmer.

These became my new goals, ahead of my writing aspirations. I was working in a french fry plant at the time. A month later, I bought a PC running Windows and moved to a bigger city. A year later, I was a tester in a multinational software company. Eight years later, I quit my software testing job. It was making me depressed. What went wrong?

Steve Pavlina would say it was because it was a job (10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job). He makes a lot of good points in that article, yet all of those problems didn’t matter while I was successfully completing the first of those two goals.

1. I will study the basics of all areas of computers.

That was a big goal. I had no idea just how big until I had read a few textbooks. There was no time limit in my plan. When I had learned the basics of all areas of computers, I continued to study. I overdid this goal. I knew more about some areas than people with degrees in the field. There were several projects I proposed, someone with a computer science degree said it couldn’t be done, and then I would do it.

2. I will study programming and become a programmer.

Pride kept me from moving on to the next goal. I wanted to keep getting better at everything to do with computers. Programming was part of my general studies but I failed to move on to the next step. Once I accepted the first goal as my job, most of the problems Steve Pavlina mentions became real. It was only a matter of time before I would leave the software testing job.

Now I needed to modify my life goals by removing computers from my life plan. I’ve added the other major goals here.

1. I will study the basics of all areas of computers.
2. I will study programming and become a programmer.
3. I will build up an investment portfolio so I don’t need a job.
4. When I don’t need a job any more,
I will write novels.
5. I will write nonfiction books.
6. I will write about how to achieve success and happiness.

This certainly shows my real interests. I’ve been writing for over 25 years. I’ve been studying psychology for over 35 years and have a degree in it.

But the new goal set also needs a path. The list above is just three variations of writing. Where are the steps?

I spent the next two years writing like it was my only mission in life. I produced a lot of work but where was it going? Looking at your past is a great way to find your strengths. Fifteen years ago, I wrote a manuscript about our search for meaning and showed how all of the different humanities disciplines were talking about the same thing. It was too academic. I needed real world experience to make it useful.

I set new goals for myself. They were a bit different at first, but here’s how they stand now.

1. Learn to write at least 1000 words every day.
2. Start a free WordPress blog and learn how to blog.
3. Start my own psychology website and increase my article writing.
4. Keeping writing nonfiction books and sell them as ebooks.
5. Keep writing novels and sell them to publishers.
6. Re-evaluate my goals.

How would I keep these large multi-step goals from taking over and becoming my only goal? I didn’t want a repeat of the general computer studies. I set time limits.

I will keep working on each goal for at least a month and no more than a year before moving on to the next goal.

I was already writing over 1000 words a day on any day I chose to write. I had started a free WordPress blog in September of 2009. With my new plan in mind, I began taking my writing blog seriously in November. I experimented with it. I would post more often, less often, go off topic, publish a fiction article, I even brought psychology into some writing posts.

With the one year mark fast approaching, I prepared for the next step. I would start my own psychology website. You’re reading it now. It’s just another free website, but there’s nothing wrong with that. By October of 2011, my goal will become publishing my first nonfiction ebook.

What does all this have to do with you? I’m hoping you won’t make the mistake I made with the first list of goals. The milestones within my first goal kept growing until they became the only thing I was focused on. The simple introduction of a time limit on my major goals was all it took to break that limitation.

I hope this article has been some help. I didn’t mean to reveal so much about my own goals, but the deed is done.

Article text copyright 2011 David Arthur Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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