It's hard to believe that not only is another year coming to a close, it's actually the end of a decade. People all over are going to be taking stock of what they've accomplished, what they didn't accomplish, and what they're going to try to do in 2011.
And, usually, by the end of January, all those good intentions have gone by the wayside. I gave up making resolutions long ago (although I occasionally make them for the Hubster—less chance of me breaking them that way). What I've learned, is that if you want to see success, you have to narrow your focus.
These don't work: I resolve to be a best-selling author. I resolve to make $100,000 selling my e-books.
Or what about some less lofty ones? I resolve to have 5000 friends on Facebook. I resolve to have 350 followers to my blog. I resolve to have 500 people 'like' this blog. I resolve to be part of the blogroll of 100 other bloggers. I resolve to increase the number of hits on my website by 10% a month.
Dreams are wonderful. But that's what most resolutions are. Dreams. Dreams are things you'd love to have, but they're also things over which you have no control.
The first group is made up of dreams – there's nothing much I can do about them because they depend on other people.
The second group is more goal-oriented. There are things I CAN do to help me achieve them—if they were actually my goals.
Goals have to be measurable. I learned that way back in college when I was getting my teacher certification. The course was "Behavioral Objectives" and we learned to set ways to measure whether we were getting through to our students. We could set a goal that at least 90% of our students would score at least 80% or better on an exam. This was a measurable outcome. If they didn't, we'd have to go back and figure out why. And, frankly, the usual answer would be "because I didn't teach the material effectively", NOT, "the students were lazy slackers."
Another thing I learned was that you had to take small steps. You had to figure out what skills were required for a student to answer a question on that exam correctly, and then work on practicing those skills. (Not teaching to the test—teaching skills.)
How do you turn those dreams into goals? Break them down into things you can do in small increments, and that you can measure. Being a best-selling author isn't measurable. But writing a good book is—and you have to break that down as well.
Write X words/pages a day/week until you finish the book. That's something you can track. So you take that lofty goal, break it into small pieces, and then figure out what you can do to achieve each piece.
Making $100,000 selling my e-books? A dream if I ever saw one! But as an exercise, how to break it down? Figure out how many books I'd have to sell at what price. Write more books. Market those books. Then break that down. "Market" is vague. What can I actually do? These have to be measurable. Offer sales. Samples. Advertise on X number of sites per month. Do 25 blog guest spots. And even then, it's ultimately not me, it's the buyers, who are responsible for my attaining that goal.
As for the second category—If I was serious about it, I might decide to offer incentives to people who clicked my like button, or followed my Tweets. Frankly, although I'd love to see those 350 blog followers, they're meaningless if the only reason they're following the blog is because they might win a book. Or I could give every follower a free bookmark. But would these followers be helping me in my writing career? Some yes, but I'm of the mindset that it's quality that matters. People who are actually reading, and then telling others about me, my books, my blog. Not those who clicked a button because I promised them a treat. Which is why I'm not setting those as goals. Because a goal has to mean something at the end of the day, and wonderful as it is to see 500 people liking my blog, begging them to do so isn't likely to bring me the people who care about what I'm doing.
(And if any of you have clicked through the tabs on this blog, or gone to my website, you'll know that if you want a bookmark, all you have to do is email me with your address!—And of course, I won't object if you click the "like" button or follow, or tweet, or send all your friends my way.)
Wishing everyone a great 2011. May your goals be measurable and attainable!