Sunday, January 3, 2010

On Resolutions, Goals, and Reso-Goals

I have never been big on New Year’s resolutions. They smack of being too lofty and often not very achievable. Some people consider the shift in the calendar a rather arbitrary time to make changes (especially those who may live on an academic calendar), but Uncle Sam asks us to report on our income and expenses for the calendar year, so for me, in cleaning out my records (a tale for another blog), it’s always a good reckoning point. However, if the old-fashioned resolution isn’t satisfactory, what’s the best approach?

According to the New Oxford American Dictionary a resolution is a “firm decision to do or not do something.” We all know how that goes. Exercise more, eat healthier, be nicer to my family, get organized, live a greener life, do my part to promote world peace. How do you know if you’ve arrived?

Some people prefer goals instead. Goal. “The object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim with desired results.”

The resolution is more of a change in behavior without a purpose attached, while the goal focuses on the end point. Do the ends justify any means? In this day and age of terrorists and greed, we’ve seen a little too much focus on the ends. Shouldn’t there be a meeting point where sensible means produce the desired results?

Years ago, as mentioned in an earlier blog entry, I taught time management. There I introduced the concept of the SMART goal, which I notice has not gone out of vogue, probably because it still makes a lot of sense. (I’m not claiming I invented it, but I was rather fond of it.) Specific (see the remaining four characteristics), measurable (how do you know when you’ve arrived?), achievable, realistic (these last two seem similar--not too grandiose given your circumstances), and set within a timeframe.

But even the SMART goal doesn’t talk about the means. So I am going to create a new concept—the reso-goal, which considers both means and ends.

Reso-goal—a firm decision to change behavior in a way that is considered desirable and ongoing that leads to a desired result. Both the behavior and the result should be measurable, achievable, realistic, and set within a timeframe.

I’ll throw in another characteristic—accountability. We all know that by announcing our intentions, we tend to be more honest.

In that spirit, I commit myself to the following reso-goals related to writing for 2010.

1. Complete revisions of my novel on the travails of two women in their middle years (by March 1), obtain further critique from three trusted reviewers (by April 15), make final revisions, prepare manuscript to send out to agents by June 1.
2. Write short synopsis and query letter to be reviewed by six people each.
3. Research appropriate agents and send to 5 a month once manuscript is ready, for a total of 30, if needed by end of year.
4. Write on average two blog entries a month (can cheat and make at least four of these primarily photographic in nature).
5. Write six new short stories for Maine collection (average length-4000 words), or approximately one every two months.
6. Read on average one good novel a month (slow reader…)—already in my possession, used, or borrowed. Only buy new if attending a book signing.
7. Spend at least 20 days in Maine to get inspired for #5.
8. Skim through all magazines, reading only what really interests me (vague, I know—sometimes you have to go with your gut), and complete by end of month in which they arrive, in order to make time for 1-7.

You’ve heard it here. I’ll report about it in January 2011. What are your reso-goals?

Oh, I promise to focus on world peace once the novel gets published or when I no longer have to earn a living, whichever comes first.

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