A lot of people including myself have whined about having a lot of goals but never seeing them manifest. I completed a 365 writing challenge last year and I happily wrote every single day of it. I consider it an achievement because I stumbled quite a few times.
I went through a major breakup last year and felt my life would come to a standstill. Instead, writing everyday only lifted my spirits and kept me going every single day. It was one of the few things I looked forward to when I didn’t even feel like getting myself out of bed to face the day.
Even though I am much healthier now emotionally as well as mentally, I am grateful for that passion project for being there to motivate me, keep me occupied and allowing me to vent and articulate all my raw and ugly emotions on a blank screen. I hit ‘publish’ on several of those stories, including this one that subsequently got picked by Thought Catalog.
I’m far far away from some of my long term goals. But I haven’t stopped trying. This 365 day project was one thing off my bucket list and this post is simply an attempt to sum up my learnings about how one can indeed achieve one’s goals.
Get off your ass and do something
I used to be a whiner. Hell, we’re all whiners! Some more than others. You know who aren’t whiners? Doers. So quit whining, and start somewhere! I was pursuing a course in Chartered Accountancy for almost 5 years until I realised that Communications was where I wanted to be. It is 6 years to the day I decided to pursue another career. I haven’t regretted that decision till date. That phase triggered terrible fights between my parents and myself. We still have a strained equation because that phase spilled over to other things too.
But I don’t regret it. I feel much happier and less stifled now, even though I know that in the long run, I will want to do something that doesn’t involve a regular 9 to 5 job.
I know I’m not yet where I want to be 10 years from now. But by actually getting off my ass instead of whining about it, I moved somewhere. It doesn’t matter if you move ahead or sideways as long as you do something about your situation and move somewhere. By shifting my focus from the ‘have not’s’ in my space, my focus automatically shifted to what I can potentially have by taking a step toward getting there.
I believe it happened with a great support system — my best friend! But it also happened because I chose to go at it with passion. I signed up for a post graduate course in advertising; my parents funded it, even if grudgingly. I aced my class. I won a trophy for coming first in class (something I’d never done before). And you know who cradled it like a baby when they first saw it? My father!
I would have been a successful (yeah, I was good) Chartered Accountant if I had stayed on course. But even with, what some believe is a lesser paying avenue (I disagree because I’m actually better paid than some of them), I’m quite happy about where I am in my life. It feels like an adventure now which may never have happened if I hadn’t made that choice to shift from where I was.
It only takes a shift in consciousness.
Keep going at it consistently
Many years ago, someone I knew, an acquaintance, a fine writer but not one who wanted to make money off it, started a daily writing project. She kept going for a while, but I presume other stuff such as work and lack of time got in the way. The one thing I noticed while she was writing was that she got so much better with time.
I noticed something similar play out over the last year when I wrote every day for 365 days. I wrote for the sake of it on half of those days. Part of the other half wasn’t as good. But some days, at least once in ten days, I wrote beautifully. I got some incredible feedback for it. I made some great friends online, whose diverse perspectives I enjoyed reading immensely. It was very heady. I wish I could have kept going after, but I fell back because of work and other constraints. I made excuses. And my writing suffered immensely because of it. But the only reason why I could churn out good pieces of writing was because I kept going — consistently, daily, intentionally.
If you want to build a house, you need to intend on building it. You have to hit the hammer on the head of the nail. You have to place the building blocks, build a strong foundation and work on strengthening it further. You have to intend all of those things before you actually begin. Castles in the air are easy — walking the walk is incredibly difficult and must be done to go all the way. There are only a few people that are born with opportunity, and most of the time, even they waste it. Only a few manage to harness a potential opportunity and build something for themselves. Very few out of those manage to make that sustainable.
Stay consistently hungry
Hunger is good because it teaches you to forage. It teaches you to save for a rainy day. J K Rowling was rejected when she pitched her first novel as Robert Galbraith. It might be very comforting to rest on past laurels but all it gives you is complacence, which can never be a good thing.
In advancing five steps, you became better than you were when you began, walk another ten to become even better, and so on… Progress is always incremental. You can never get to the top in one sweep. Remember Groundhog Day? I always think of Bill Murray’s character as someone who made the most of being stuck in a time loop. Imagine learning to play the piano as well as he did in the movie. It would take a normal person 10 years. That’s presumably how long he was stuck for in a timeline he never thought he would get out of.
Never let success go to your head. It’s temporary. It’s heady, but the high rarely ever lasts. You just can’t afford to sit back. The hunger has to keep you going to get better. Because one day, that consistent effort will get you somewhere. When you’re there, you’ll know better than to sit back and rest.
Evaluate. Tweak. Repeat.
As you get better, you will intuitively figure out what is going right and what isn’t quite on track. Take a step back to evaluate what you can do better. Then do it. You might go wrong, but chances are you’ll be right more often. You’ll get increasingly better at doing what works for you, the more consistently you put in the effort. It’s like Matt Damon put it in The Martian —
“You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”
Home, here, could be your next big breakthrough.
Share your goal with others to the point of embarrassment
We tend to be modest about our passion projects because we believe it is too small to make a dent in the Universe.
We also strongly believe that we are likely to fail. That’s what stops us. But the more you tell people about your passions, the more you are likely to give more to see those efforts come to fruition. The more you put yourself out there, the more you open yourself to criticism and scrutiny, which makes you want to do better. I got incredibly competitive about churning out good writing when I was at the peak of my writing project. It was incredibly addictive and gratifying in equal measure.
The other thing that sharing your goals and passions with other people does for you is give you a reality check. I share my writing because I get valuable perspective and feedback which I then use to better my writing. At times, I am also told to junk lazy writing because it comes off as too lofty.
Selling your dreams to other people will only make you want to work harder. Do it for yourself. Do it because you will want to do better after telling people about it.
Do all of these things — daily, consistently, unfailingly and see the changes manifest themselves.
Finally, be grateful for everything the Universe sends your way. Most of us live privileged lives and while one mustn’t feel apologetic for it, we must feel grateful for the good things that come our way. I truly believe that gratitude for today’s blessings paves the way for more good to come our way in the future.