A Kind Assessment of Your Year
Writing for Children Blog | time management | writing for children and teens
December 8, 2016
(Not Using Your Past Year to Beat Yourself Up)
For many of us, as the end of the year creeps closer, so does the inevitable assessment.
How did I do at meeting my goals?
Where did I fall short?
And those are perfectly reasonable questions as long as they aren't used to beat ourselves up.
For many of us, the yearly assessment looked good for the first month or so. And then we began to slide farther and farther from the goals we'd intended to meet. And as we slid, so did our morale. For many, goals are completely abandoned by Fall and the self-condemnation begins.
But what does it really mean when we don't meet our goals?
First, it means you are normal. It's actually fairly rare to meet all your goals by the end of the year. For one, we tend to be a little optimistic when we made those goals. Sometimes goal setting is simply unrealistic. When we set unrealistic goals, it's nearly impossible to prevent that slide into failure. So look at those original goals. Were they truly realistic?
Second, it's not unusual to set goals that don't really have anything to do with our efforts. Setting a goal to get published this year or published in a specific publication or published at a certain level all have something in common: they are impossible.
When we set goals that are dependent upon people we cannot control, then the goal isn't really a goal anymore, it's a wish. Goals are things that depend upon our behavior, not the behavior of others. Certainly we can set goals that will make it more likely that we'll be published or published in a specific publication or published at a certain level. My goal can be: set myself up for the best possible chance to be published. That's a goal I control, so a goal that doesn't force failure on me no matter what I do.
Third, goals can be overwhelming if we don't break them down into digestible parts. Setting big goals like "get a novel finished" can be completely do-able, but if we don't go on to break that goal into sub-goals, it becomes far less likely that we'll be able to accomplish it. So choose your big goals, but then break them down into sub-goals so that you have a better chance of success.
Even if your goals were not overwhelming, or outside your control, or overly optimistic, having failed to meet them still doesn't make you a failure. The best way to assess your year is by looking at what your goals allowed you to accomplish, not by looking at ways you fell short. So if you didn't get published in Highlights this year, but you did write three short stories that please you––that's an accomplishment worthy of celebration. If you didn't get your novel done, but you got a much better handle on your main character or your voice and you did get X number of pages written, that's terrific too. Most of us didn't totally fall apart, but we can feel like we did if we ignore our successes and focus on our failures.
So, think back on your year fearlessly, but kindly. Look for your successes. And learn from the places you fell short so you can come up with better goals for 2017.
Jan Fields is a full-time, freelance author and an Institute of Children's Literature Instructor. Would you like to have your own instructor teaching you on a one-on-one basis? Show us a sample of your work here.