I wrote a book and it's not perfect, but it is DONE: why we struggle to reach our goals

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Goals

Why we struggle to reach them

As we approach that time of the year for "resolutions" many of us will set goals for 2018. I'm sure at some point in your life you've set a goal before: you want to lose weight, you want to get a promotion, you want to buy a house, or, if you're like me, you want to write a book.  There are different degrees of "wants" in our lives, of course. But the loftier the goal/want, the harder it becomes for us to achieve it. Why? Psychologically, at the start of a journey, we're full of enthusiasm and excitement about our goal. But as we start to work at it, we find just how much work it will take. The honeymoon phase ends quickly, and now all we see is the mountain of tasks in front of us. We get demotivated, and start to make excuses for why we're not reaching our goals. In the next few sections I'll walk you through the struggles I faced when writing a book, and share some tips on how I pushed through to reach my goal.

Struggle #1: Not Feeling Ready

In January of this year, I was at the base of a mountain. I told myself (to make myself feel better), that in 2017, I wanted to spend time learning how to write so I could "one day" write a book. This is the first hurdle you have to overcome: the need to feel qualified to do something. What I didn't realize at the time was that my near-term task of "studying" was really just my fear taking over. I could have studied until the cows came home, but odds are are, I never would have felt ready to write. This is the first trap many of us fall into - feeling unqualified or not-ready.

So how do you overcome this first obstacle? You forget about feeling ready, shut off your over-analyzing brain, and you just start. You'll learn as you go - if you're passionate about reaching your goal, you'll find ways to get there. You're probably not the first person to attempt this thing, and you know that you are intelligent and capable of finding the resources you need. If you struggle with this, maybe all it takes is the encouragement of a friend or family member, or a trusted advisor. That's what worked for me - a push at the right time, by the right people.

I found that as soon as I threw away the safety net of "not being ready", got a push, and shifted my focus to execution, things started moving fast. In June I finally said, forget being ready, I'd just going to start!

Struggle #2: There's just so much I have to do!

But then once you start, you hit struggle #2, task-overload. Writing a book is a long process. Like many lofty goals, I saw a large number of steps and unknowns in front of me, and at first it was overwhelming. "I'll never finish this", I thought. But 3 weeks later the first draft of my book was written. And 2 weeks after that I had my first edited copy. It wasn't so bad, looking back - how silly of me to worry!

But how did I do it? I had zero experience writing books. I got a C+ in english composition. And I hated writing. But as-in step #1, I ignored those things and started, because I had a network, the internet, and I knew how to find people that could help me. Part of that process (and avoiding getting stuck) was consulting with people who had written books before. Forget wasting hours researching on my own - I swallowed my pride and went straight to a reliable source, and had them give me the roadmap for the steps I should take. It was important to me that I write my own book, but not that I figure out how to write it by myself. I had to remind myself that doing this by myself was not my goal. Getting it done was my goal. And my hunger to get it done had to overcome my hunger of doing it myself.

Then, laser focus. I chose to focus on one thing at a time and forget about what came next. Never mind the fact that I still, to this day, with my book being printed a few weeks from now, do not know how to sell my book on Amazon. I'll figure it out when I need to figure it out. The key is this: focus only on what you need to know at the exact place you are on the road to reach your goal. Find out how to push through step 1, then move to step 2. We get overwhelmed and paralyzed at the size of our goals when we think about everything we have to do. But if you take it one step at a time, it's manageable, and soon enough, you'll start to see progress. Then you'll be unstoppable. Think about when you learned to drive a car: when you first got in the driver seat, were you worrying about to merge onto the freeway? How to pay a toll at the turnpike? No, you focused on adjusting your mirrors, then putting the car in drive, then taking your foot off the break -  all one step at a time.

Struggle #3: "But it isn't perfect!"

The final challenge is this: when we get close to accomplishing our goal, we often get paralyzed again. We want it to be "perfect". I nearly fell into this trap when I was preparing my transcript to send to the editor - I thought about going back an re-writing sections...perhaps I'd take some things out.  I wanted it to be perfect...for a moment...but then I remembered: what was my goal with writing the book? I was reminded that the book being perfect was not important - I know I'm not going to be a best selling author or win any awards - I just need to ship it. Having my thoughts out in the world is my goal, so delaying the process by going back and re-writing would actually stop me from reaching it. I pushed through the fear of the imperfection, closed my eyes, and sent the transcript off. As humans, we often struggle to call things "done". We obsess about details. Seth Godin has done excellent work to explain this phenomenon with what he calls our "lizard brains". We hold meeting after meeting, re-read reports, and delay product launches because we're fearful of getting things right. But the truth is, "done" is better than "perfect". It goes against our instinct, but when we're close to reaching a goal, we have to fight and push through and call things done.

Summary

So yes, less than 1 year ago I was paralyzed, as many are, by my own goals. I made excuses for why I hadn't started. But I pushed through hesitations and just did it. It wasn't easy, and I'm still no book-writing expert, but at least I can say I reached my goal.

Seth Godin, the author and marketing guru I mentioned earlier, is considered by many to be a genius. But in one of his talks, Godin shows a slide of all the projects he has "shipped" - books written, businesses started, etc - the majority of which, he says have failed. But a few succeeded - enough to make him the "genius" he is perceived to be today. The reason he was successful is because he just kept shipping, finishing, executing, and moving on, even if it wasn't perfect. Most things he shipped failed, but the few that hit made him what he is today. You just have to keep shipping. 

My book won't be perfect, and I don't care - because it's finished. After all, my real goal was to get a story out into the world. When you think about your goals, think about the goal behind the goal - are you trying to share a story? Are you trying to solve a particular problem? The book was just a tool - and whatever it is you have to reach your goal is the same.

So what do you do to get started?

  1. Identify the goal behind your goal
  2. Just do it! Start!
  3. List out the steps you need to take, then focus on 1 at a time
  4. When you're close to being done - be done!

Happy goal-achieving in 2018! And if you'd like to pre-order my book, you can do so HERE.