It’s the most wonderful time of year, so the song goes, but you’re not feeling it lately because another year is about to come to an end and you haven’t accomplished the goals you set out to complete at the start of 2014. I know that feeling. I’m going through it myself. After setting some aggressive goals as a writer for the last quarter of this year and meeting less than half of them, I’ve come to that familiar point in the road where I know I’m not going to make it. The things I wanted to do will inevitably be pushed back. It’s a dreadful feeling and we often beat ourselves up about it, calling ourselves “failures” for not meeting our goals. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. I once heard a quote from a pastor that has helped me overcome the temptation to label myself as a failure: “Failure is an event, not a person.” Just because we don’t finish every goal we planned out to do by a set time, doesn’t mean we’ve failed. If you’ve started working on your goals, that in itself is a victory. Countless people dream and talk about setting goals, but for whatever reason they do not take the important first step: starting. To start a goal and make some progress toward completion is a commendable feat. So why do we get frustrated when the goal is not completed by a timeline we’ve set? I think it’s because we like to be in control.
In my case, the goal I wanted to complete–finishing a book by the close of 2014–was going to be a challenge. I have a full-time job and a family, so writing is relegated to whatever free time is left. So to complete my goal I cut out watching TV, lunch breaks spent surfing the web, and anything else feeding into procrastination. The illusion of control was in place, but then unexpected life events happened. I landed a second job doing something I love–teaching a college course. My family and I ran into some unexpected personal and financial setbacks. And the list goes on.
Sometimes the unexpected occurs and shifts our focus away from our goals. We come to realize we aren’t in control like we originally thought and that’s okay. Really, it is. As much as we desire to complete our goals and make our dreams come true, we cannot do so at the expense of our priorities in life. For me those priorities are God, family, friends, and then writing. Whenever my priorities become misaligned because I’m trying to wrestle control of my creative destiny, things go south pretty quickly. Don’t let this happen to you. Yes, goals are important and you should strive to complete them, but don’t become anxiety-ridden because it’s taking longer than you wanted. If you’ve started and you’re making progress, take joy in that. I wanted to finish NaNoWriMo with a completed novel, but I won’t. Rather than focus on a perceived failure on my part, I choose to see it as a win, because I pushed myself to write double what I normally would have. Instead of finishing November with 10,000 words, I came out with 20,000!
I’ll bet you can find a similar silver lining in your own work too. So today, on a day of thanksgiving, I encourage you to focus on the positive. What goals have you started and are you progressing on? Be thankful that you’ve gotten as far as you have and believe in time that you will finish what you started.