Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Motivating change, creating goals

Well its a few days before the new year, hopefully everyone is thinking about, writing down, and or actually getting a jump start on their 2012 goals :).

Studies have shown that the more concrete the goal, the more likely the person is to complete it. So saying, “I want to lose weight”, “I want to get published”, aren’t valid goals. Well, they might be valid, however, they have two things wrong with them 1) too vague, 2) the goal is not directly controllable for the person.

Define the goals:

Work backwards. Where do you want to be in a year from now?
If I want to lose 30 pounds, and I break it up into nice little x-pounds per month chunks- I could still be messing things up because my body may not lose weight at that ratio. There are many different variables that make up weight loss- such as our body type, our fitness level, genetics, age, etc. So to say, “X-pounds per month” is setting things up for a big disappointment. Then you get depressed, give up, and go eat a pint of rocky road. The trick is to make as your goal something you CAN control. For weight loss this could be “I will work out for 30 minutes a day 3 days a week, and go for 45 minute walks 6 days a week.” This is something YOU have control over- if you fail, regardless of the reason (no time, things came up, etc) the onus is on YOU to fix it. Plus, in terms of weight loss- when you get enough healthy goals lined up you WILL lose weight ;).

For the goal of getting published- again break things down. For most folks still looking at the traditional model, an agent is a good idea. (Not going into the whole agent thing right now. ;))Now saying, “I’ll get an agent this year.” isn’t a viable goal either. The agent does have a say in things- after all, free will, etc. So the better goal is one in which control comes back to you. Something such as, “I will submit a query to 25 agents this year.” That is in your control completely and hopefully will lead to an agent, which will lead to a sale, which will lead to being published. Making life happy and joyous all around until the anxiety over the next book starts.

Develop control:

The problem for many folks is that they place the “success-o-meter” for their goals in the hands of something other than themselves. Psychologists refer to it has an external locus of control. My happiness, or success, is in the hands of someone else, whether it be fate, luck, some higher power. If a person has an external loci of control, they see that their happiness, sadness, success, etc is out of their hands. "I'm not happy because (outside action, person, event)." Or I’d do that “wonderful thing to change my life” BUT. These could be called the ‘because’ and ‘but’ folks.

It's also true for responsibility of ones life and actions- external locus of control folks are never to blame for their own failures or mistakes. It’s not their fault their life isn’t what they want, or they can’t reach their goals- it’s always the action of something far beyond them.

Folks with a more internal locus of control see themselves as the steering action for their lives. If they succeed at something- it’s through their own hard work. They fail at something? It’s them who dropped the ball. And it's up to their to get back on course.

Now guess which group has more control in changing their behavior?

Like all personality and social behaviors, people range from one end of the spectrum to the other- probably no one is at the extreme end for either side. But as people who want to gain control of our lives, one of the first things we need to do is take responsibility. Develop your internal locus of control ;).

Future Time Perspective:

This is a psychological theory about people’s ability to delay gratification now, in order to achieve a goal or desire in the future. Aka, how much are you willing to suffer now to reap future rewards. Like locus of control, people range on this scale. Some folks are close to zero. They’re the 'I want it now, I don’t want to set aside time to advance my goals, I want to watch tv because it gives me immediate enjoyment' bunch. Those folks have a hard time making the reality of those future goals concrete in their heads (and most are going to be on the external locus of control end of the game too- if you can’t control your future, why should you give up current pleasure for it?).

People with a strong sense of future time perspective have trained themselves to see what they want (define their goals), adjust those goals as needed, and can connect their current actions with those future goals. They adjust to dealing with getting up at 5am, to watching less tv, playing less with social media, giving up some time with friends (not too much, social contact is vital for mental health ;))-because their future goal is real to them and they see they have control over it.

Notice I said train themselves. Through upbringing people may be at one end or the other on both of these scales. BUT they can train themselves to be better. To realize they have control over their lives (both good and bad events), that sacrifice now is important for success later on.

Now this was a very long blog for me-LOL- but hopefully it gave some folks stuff to think about, just as it did for myself while writing it.

Succeeding at our goals is far more than just making wishes. We need to define them, we need to realize that we have control over them, and we need to connect our current actions (or restrictions of actions) with that future success. And I forgot to add flexibility- which is also important. Your goals should never be carved in stone. As you move and grow throughout the coming year- your goals might change too. You need to be willing and able to adjust them as many times as needed.
Hope everyone has an amazing 2012!


  1. Excellent post, Marie! I've seen bazillions of resolution posts this past week, and I think a lot of people will be disappointed if they don't apply the principles in your post.

    Goals that are quantifiable, controllable, and specific have a much higher chance of being reached. "I want an agent by the end of the year" is not a goal, but a wish. To get the wish, you have to set the actual goals (the steps to help you get your wish).

    LOL, I don't mind long posts. I think all my comments are getting to be novella-length. Can I include these toward my daily word count???

  2. Well said,Marie. Well thought out and it's okay that it's a long post .. you covered a lot of valuable information.
    Write On.

  3. Thanks Angela and Lynne :). LOL- ummm- sorry Angela, the comments don't count towards daily word counts-HEH! Hey, if I can't count that dang blog, you can't either ;).

    Thank you both for coming by!

  4. Love your tips, Marie. I really connected with everything you wrote. As you well know, for awhile I was letting outside forces control my happiness-meter. It took a lot of mental retraining to swing the control back to myself. Still, it's an ongoing process. But what a wonderfully human thing, to have the ability to reflect on ourselves and strive to keep being happier/better/nicer/more successful versions of ourselves.


  5. Hmmm. HI Marie. I want to write five books (including novellas)in this new year, without too much stress.

    It's a lofty goal, I know. But I have the contract for two Nocturnes.... and I'll also have a novella out for an ALL Romance E books Valentine's special event - And I have a couple of editors looking over a gothic historical...

    So I'm thinking ahead, and getting ready to fling myself into 2012 with hands on the keyboard. YAY !!!!
    Thanks for the blog.

  6. Thanks Melissa and Linda :). Melissa- you are kicking butt and taking names! I think 2012 is going to be fun, wild, and intense for you :).

    Linda...WOW- five books ROCKS!! I know you will do it and probably more- you are definately a force of nature!

    Thanks for coming by ladies!

  7. Oh and I should add my short goals for 2012 are:
    1) work out/walk at least 30 min everyday
    2)write 5,000 words a week
    3)Submit to at least 40 agents/editors

    There's more- but that's the start ;)

  8. Great post Marie!!! :)

    I'm with you on the walk or exercise 30 mins a day... So hard for me, but we're worth it, right?

    I also would be thrilled with 5,000 words a week!

    Here's to an amazing 2012!! :)


  9. Thanks for coming by Lisa! Hopefully we rock 2012!

  10. You're right, Marie. Fun, wild, and intense are definitely three words to describe the way I'm expecting 2012 to turn out. Loving this rollercoaster ride!

  11. LOL! You are going to have a wild ride Melissa- and I'm just gonna sit back and cheer you on!