Monday, January 17, 2011

How Tall Do You Want to Grow? Taking Risks toward Reaching Your Goals

I subscribe to an e-newsletter from life coach Cheryl Richardson, author of many books including one of my favorites, Stand Up for Your Life!  Cheryl sends out a weekly inspirational essay with an exercise.  This week was about the choice to take risks--or not.

She shared a story of a woman who took a relationship risk.  After two decades of being reluctant to step forward and start dating, this woman finally approached a man who lived in her building and suggested they go out for coffee.  It turned out well, and now
they are having regular dates.  She feels liberated.  You can read the whole story here.

It got me thinking.  There's always a choice in our creative lives, too.  This week I begin two online classes, "Your Book Starts Here," with forty-one writers from around the world who are making the choice to write their books.  They've taken the risk to move away from what's safe and known, the areas where they feel competent, and test their creative edges by learning something new.  I am watching them face the excitement and the fear of this.  Some of them are new to online classes so there's that overwhelm of how to navigate the classroom, post a profile photo, make the tiny font sizes bigger.  It's very easy to give up and go back to what is familiar.

And I find that usually life conspires to increase the edge when we try something new.  Maybe we've signed up for a new writing class or decided that 2011 is the year we're finally going to get this book done.  Of course, there's a sudden influx of other changes--maybe challenges with job, kids, family, money, health make it seem impossible to have the energy to leave the familiar.   I know.  I've been there.  When outer changes accelerate, it seems insane to envision adding something new.

Here's my two cents, born of many decades of experiencing this.  Sometimes that's just the right moment to take back control, creatively.  To do something you want, rather than react to everyone else's needs.  Move from reactor to creator.

It'll take your life in a new direction.  If you put your creativity first, the joy it brings you can even reduce the other stuff to a manageable size.  

This Week's Writing Exercise
1.  If you'd like to move from mediocre to reaching a dream, you can follow along with my online class, if you want, by using the Reverse Goal-Setting Worksheet below.  It'll help you envision a little of what you'd like to bring into your life in the next three months. 

2.  First, list your Product Goals for the next three months (any tangible goals you have for your writing, such as number of pages or chapters written):

3.  Then, write down your Process Goals (any goals that pertain to your growth as a writer, which you’d like to realize in the next three months):

4. Using the boxes below, follow these steps:  In Week 12’s box, write the goals you noted above under Product and Process.  Then move down to Week 11’s box.  Ask yourself:  What needs to happen in Week 11 for Week 12’s goals to come true?  Consider what smaller steps you might need to have accomplished by Week 11.  Note those goals, both Product and Process, in Week 11’s box.  Continue in your reverse goal-setting for each box until you get to Week 1.  Adjust as needed so your goals are realistic yet exciting to you.

Week 12—by April 10

Week 11—by April 3

Week 10—by March 27

Week 9—by March 20

Week 8—by March 13

Week 7—by March 6

Week 6—by February 27

Week 5—by February 20

Week 4—by February 13

Week 3—by February 6

Week 2—by January 30

Week 1—by January 23

Reverse Goal-Setting Worksheet is excerpted from Your Book Starts Here © 2010 Mary Carroll Moore.  All rights reserved. 


  1. Great advice for goal setting. Working backwards from the goal makes so much sense.

  2. Thanks, Jean. Let me know how it works for you. I've been using it for a lot of years and refining it as I learn more. I use it as a weekly goal setting method, and also as a monthly one. So adapt it to fit your project!

  3. An inspiring post, thanks! As a matter of fact, I am seeking to take control, and pursue some of the actions you mention. I just started a writing course Tuesday, it's the first one I've taken in some time. And I've cleared away some professional responsibilities to work full-time on writing and finally getting that elusive book contract. So this post is perfect timing!

    I'm going to send this out on Twitter, and include it in my blog tomorrow on my Creativity Tweets of the Week.

  4. Thanks so much for spreading the word--I'm always grateful to reach more writers. Good luck with your writing course!

  5. Hi Mary,

    I've never posted anything to any blog before and couldn't figure out the technical side of selecting a profile. So, here's what I wrote before I had to delete it from your website:

    Wow! Mary, you hit the nail on the head for me -- actually, all month. The "stuff" and busyness of life oddly ramped up after the Holidays, rather than cooled off. Yesterday and today I read all of your January posts. They're quite a punch when taken all together.

    I really like the idea of giving something up in order to add in something new and beneficial (like throwing out old clothes before you buy new ones), rather than just trying to cram in more "stuff." Thank you for this insight.

  6. Thank you!! I'm so glad it worked for you!