The first month of 2018 has left us, passing from our lives like a call-back from our youth: that age-old SBD. January can pretty much be summed up as a Silent But Deadly: that fetid, acrid, malodorous tench-coat wearing cloud, bending into the wind that threatens it with its own dissolution. Having forgotten its larynx at home, it screams soundlessly as its scent of feculence explodes, chasing all from its path.
That pretty much sums up my January.
The year is 1/12th of the way over. I’ll blink again, and I’ll be 44, blink again and it’s Christmas.
Here’s hoping that 2019 enters our lives with the moxie, mirth, and manners of a drag queen. High heels, eyelashes the lengths of football fields, and saucy smiles, promising bawdy humor, inclusion, and a imprint of a kiss upon our waiting cheek.
With no cover and a one drink minimum.
But 2018 has yet to discover itself, shape an identity, and throw off the training wheels as it flies over the moon. Sure, we made it through shitty January, but February is still fresh. Cold and wet, sure, but still oh-so-new.
The first book I read of 2018 was Michael Hyatt’s Your Best Year Ever: A Five Step Plan for Achieving your Most Important Goals. In it, he lists ten categories and suggests that you make seven to ten goals for the year.
Holy hell, I thought, when I first read that. I’m lucky if I accomplish the one goal of making it to work. If I manage to pull off the second one: making it THROUGH work, I consider myself damned lucky.
Just how does one accomplish seven to ten goals a year? Especially if they are big ones? Apparently, it’s by not starting or ending them at the same time. He breaks the year into quarters, and suggests a definite beginning and end point for goals, spread across all four quarters. He also categorizes goals into two groups: Achievement Goals and Habit Goals.
For me, I have far better success when I don’t focus on the accomplishment but rather the habit. The accomplishment IS in creating the habit. The results–whether it’s losing weight, having less debt–are just the icing, as they say.
“…we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.”
Although it’s often attributed to Aristotle, it was actually written by Will Durant’s summation of Aristotle in The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers. (Thanks, Frank Herron!)
I’m still working on setting all of my goals; I’m struggling with determining what is urgent versus important. (An idea I believe I learned in The Four Hour Work Week. It’s been a while, so all apologies to the actual source are offered in advance.)
When everything must be done now, how do you measure what is truly important? Or make time for it?
January, for all its pooh-poohing of well, just about everything, brought with it the foundation of a new habit: writing. Every. Single. Day.
If I were a country, procrastination would be my national sport. There would be a league with teams, but my players would show up late to the stadium and sit around drinking Gatorade and eating pizza until the two minute warning.
Thanks to Jeff Goins’ 30 day writing challenge, a challenge I stumbled upon again after having had accepted it (and miserably failed at it) a couple of years ago. Maybe the stars were aligned just so, perhaps it was the influence of the upcoming blue / blood / super moon. Perhaps I had just decided 183 days ago that I wanted to do *something* with writing. I did want—and still want—to be a writer.
183 days ago, I told my boss I wanted to go part time. I was going to write on the side. I kept count of the days, but only wrote sporadically, when the muse came to visit.
But I do want to hone my craft. I do want to make a living writing. I don’t know what that looks like yet, but I know what I want. I just don’t know how to get there.
But I knew that starting a practice of writing every day was a damned good starting point.
So I did. I wrote every day, finishing the 30 days with a total of 26,000 words. On the nose.
Most of them are crap. Super crap. Total and utter crap.
But I wrote them, and they are mine. I showed up at the page (more accurately, the computer) every single day.
Most days I wrote them—or most of them—before work. At four and five a.m., punching out words as I locked myself in my office (figuratively, not literally. I don’t think anyone else gets up at four and five in the morning, much less someone who would knock my door down. But the dog has tried mightily.) and just wrote. Some nights I didn’t finish them until past my normal bedtime.
But I did it.
And a fantastic thing happened: the more I wrote, inspiration or not, the more I wanted to write–the more I *did* write. Sometimes inspiration wanted a long weekend, out and about relaxing by the pool and drinking beverages topped with little umbrellas. Finding words was like searching for treasure on a beach without a metal detector. Most treasures I found were actually driftwood, but I collected them anyway. On others, however, I wrote and kept writing—long after I should have been getting ready for (or, you know, showing up for) work.
As I enter my second month of the writing challenge, I want to find another area of my life, set a goal, and create another habit. A small one, something that isn’t all that difficult except in the commitment for it. Something that has room to grow, stretch its legs, and feel free to move about the cabin.
I absolutely believe that small habits, over time, lead to large results.
Twenty-six thousand words while working full time or more than full time (it’s complicated) and attempting to have some semblance of order in the house.
Not too shabby for a little time and a whole lot of commitment.
I think our lives are made up mostly of habits, and while it’s not easy as it appears to pare down what the specific habits we want to create (again, when everything needs help, how do you choose?), but Hyatt’s book is an incredible resource to begin that process and to set a plan to get specific goals accomplished by creating the habit to see them through.
If you already know what you want to accomplish, this book is a phenomenal tool to aid in making those goals come true. If you’re like me, and the pile of goals are really, really difficult to choose just a couple, it’s incredibly helpful in beginning that process, and doubly so if you know of at least one you want to try.
Accomplishment comes with the building of habits, this book is the means to accomplishment.
I can’t recommend it highly enough.
If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear from you. How did it work for you? What habits are you building for yourself?