Momservation: A year from now you’ll wish you started today. ~Karen Lamb
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I teach a memoir writing class where the average age of my students is 76—proof that you are never too old to decide now is a good place to start. Everyone has a story to tell and many of the women and men in my class are there because there is a sense of urgency to tell their story before it’s too late.
In that first class I don’t sugar-coat it and tell them it will be easy to write their memoirs, but I do start with hope by giving them a quick exercise: freewrite for 5 minutes and see what comes out. When the frantic scratch of pencils on paper stops or the popcorn pops of keystrokes silences, I announce:
“Congratulations! The journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step. And you just took that first step.”
It is exciting. It is empowering. There are faces lighting up with delight—here we go! I’m really doing this!
That is the first secret of how to tackle a goal and make it stick:
- Every accomplishment begins with the decision to try.
Whether you are working up the courage to try something new, eager to make a difference but don’t know where to start, or hoping the New Year will equal new beginnings and fresh starts, you have to start somewhere. Anywhere. You pick. Your first accomplishment toward your goal is simply trying. Quit talking yourself out of it waiting for the perfect opportunity, the stars to align or conditions to be just right. My students may have a sense of urgency because they have more days behind them than ahead of them, but we all agree: tomorrow is not promised for any of us, so you better get going today.
Which leads us the second secret of how to tackle a goal and make it stick:
- Whether you can or you can’t, you’re right either way.
If it’s your choice, why not choose CAN? As in, I can do this! It doesn’t need to be perfect. You don’t have to get it right the first time. The achievement is in pushing forward no matter the outcome. Will all my students end up publishing their memoirs? No. But will all of them have some sort of collection of stories to leave their families; a wonderful, priceless treasure trove of memories in print? Absolutely. And to a person, they will tell you it feels amazing and makes them want to keep going. Success leads to success.
Which is our third secret of how to tackle a goal and make it stick:
- Celebrate any progress. Don’t wait to get it perfect.
Fun fact—perfection is overrated. That’s why we call everything that is first written in memoir class our “sloppy copy.” We are just getting thoughts and memories on paper before they are lost. First tries at achievement shouldn’t be perfect. These stories can be polished up later but if not, it’s okay. The path forward is always under construction. But if you are not moving forward, if you have nothing to work with, if you aren’t producing something toward your goal…
Then it’s time for the fourth secret of how to tackle a goal and make it stick:
- A goal without a plan is just a wish.
That’s how people end up in my class. They’ve always wanted to tell their story, or dreamed of being a writer, or have decided to try something out of their comfort zone to see if they could do it. They are there because they recognized they needed a plan to achieve their goal. So every class we do an exercise to take away doubt: Where do I start? resulting in achievable objectives. I also provide solutions for challenges based on my experiences: Removing the Roadblocks. Because you can’t achieve a goal without a plan.
But even with a plan, inevitably in your 1,000-mile journey toward your goal you will get tired, feel overwhelmed or unsuccessful. And sometimes life just gets in the way. What’s your plan then?
That’s when you need to remember the fifth secret of how to tackle a goal and make it stick:
- When you feel like stopping, think about why you started.
For most of my students it’s for their kids, grandkids and even great-grandkids. They want to leave something for them. Proof they were a kid once too, or evidence of their successes and failures overcome, or maybe a legacy for others to build upon. So when that 1,000-mile journey just seems too far, I remind them why they felt the powerful urge to tell their stories. Like the track athletes I used to motivate to continue, I point out how far they’ve come already, coaching: Never quit in sight of the finish line. Why undo all you’ve accomplished by stopping now, so close to your achievement? Then we go back to breaking their goal up into manageable pieces and just focusing on the next step in front of them.
And I tell them the sixth and final secret of how to tackle a goal and make it stick:
- Don’t stop until you’re proud.
That is the true destination of your 1,000-mile journey. This is The Emerald City. Once you make the decision to try—don’t stop until you’re proud. Be right about what you can do. It doesn’t have to be a perfect execution, find joy in your progress. Make a plan to achieve success in moving forward toward your goal and when you feel like giving up, just remember why you started.
Whether it’s a New Year, a new you, a new beginning, or time for a change—great things never happen in comfort zones. See you at the finish line of your success. With a secret:
I knew you could do it.
Kelli Wheeler is an author, family columnist, writing instructor and recent Empty Nester. For more information on taking her virtual memoir writing class, visit momservations.com.