Normally, I scoff at goal-setters. (Sorry if you are one of them, don't take it personally!) I'm a live-in-the-moment kind of a girl - always have been and always will be. It is way more fun that way and I tend to avoid all guilt by not thinking too hard about life and the choices I make day to day. I never look back or over-analyze what I've done for the same reasons. Except now I am conceding that sometimes goals and all that come with them might be necessary - at least in some aspects of life.
Why the change? I wrote again last night... only 30 new words but they are 30 more than if I hadn't told myself that - no matter what - I have to write something every day. A daily writing goal, if you will. I figured I would start out small - no word count I had to make, no looming milestone to intimidate. Just write every day. Every. Single. Day.
It felt so good writing again and, although I have come to terms that I must go back to the beginning of my manuscript and totally revise it before I can go on, at least I know what my plans are so I can get busy getting it done. I WILL have the first draft of my first novel complete before November 1st. (What's this? Another goal?) In hindsight I am such a better writer than when I started last year so I would have to revise anyway - I'm merely saving myself some of the work for draft two by doing it now. Kind of like ripping the bandaid off... The best part is that my characters are whispering to me again - or rather I'm listening for them again - which I worried wouldn't happen since I'd been ignoring them for so long.
In many ways, it is my running that taught me this lesson I can now apply to other areas of life... I am following a training program designed for people who have never run a half marathon. It tells me exactly what to do every day. And even though I look at it on paper and think "What the Fuck have I gotten myself into?", when the day comes and it says run 3.5 miles (like today) and I'm still sore from my 5-mile run on Sunday - like I can barely walk down the stairs to get to the gym at work - I still did it and felt great doing it.
If I didn't have a goal to run a specific distance by a specific date, I wouldn't push myself. Having the steps laid out for me on how to get there allows it to happen gradually one step at a time. Without it, I might still be struggling to run for more than 10 minutes at a time instead of being able to run for more than an hour. That last sentence was purely for me - since I have to focus on how far I've come rather than how far I have to go. Easier and more productive to think "wow, I ran 5 miles in an hour and 11 minutes which is an hour longer than I could run at all 3 months ago" than "OMG, it just took me over an hour to run 5 miles, how am I going to run 13.1 in 2 months?!?" which is how I really feel inside when I think about my half marathon.
What will get me to the finish is doing the small steps every day.
So, lesson learned is that sometimes goals are important - not in the Franklin-Covey-plan-every-single-minute-of-your-day-based-around-a-goal-in-every-aspect-of-your-life way but maybe just for the really important things. And that, when measuring progress, sometimes it is better to look back and acknowledge how far you've come rather than fixating on how far you have left to go.