How to Set Realistic Goals

I’m an artist. I create using my mind and body, instilling form into the beautiful matter created by God.  I’m also a fighter. As with all professions dealing with goodness and truth and beauty, I have a daily battle with myself and the lie of inadequacy:

I’m not creative enough. I’m not producing enough. I’m not being responsible enough with my resources.

“Enough.” It’s a wicked word that weighs more than you can, and should have to, bear. How to combat this invisible sniper to your dreams? Set realistic goals. The things you do will be “enough” when you give yourself a deadline or a project that both stretches and affirms your abilities.

Here is a process I recommend for putting on the armor of truth. In the words of a fellow warrior peer, “Do what you gotta do.”

1. Dedicate your work to someone or something. God is THE creator, after all, and knows what you need to accomplish your task. Be it personality traits, financial resources, or time, you have a lack of something that threatens your creation. Identify this, and dedicate the project to Someone who has infinite assets. Consider this prayer to the Holy Spirit: “Come Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore you. Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me, control me. Tell me what I should do; give me your orders. I promise to submit myself to all that you desire of me, and to accept anything you permit to happen to me. Let me only know your will.”  If you’re not religious, pick a person or cause that motivates you, and pledge loyalty.

2. Be brutally honest. This is second in difficulty only to the practice of discipline. You have faults and limitations. Admit them, or pride WILL eat you alive. At the same time, confess to your positive attributes and claim them as if you were the ONLY person in the world to possess them.  Humility means presenting yourself in truth, unashamed. If you need help, ask. If you can do it yourself, stop waiting for someone else to tell you to begin.

3. Dust off that discipline. Accountability partners are real, dude. Put your alarm clock on the other side of the room, get a small notebook to write down your ideas as they come, get a friend or beloved to ask you, “How’s that [project] coming?”  Try this adage for motivation: Yesterday is gone, tomorrow may never come; all you have is today.

4. Make small goals.  Note: This is not a silly or immature step. I am the first person to tackle a big project, mostly because it’s more rewarding to finish. I conveniently forget that bigger projects usually take more work. The more relevant the task to my passion, the more natural motivation I have. And yet I am pathetically susceptible to being overwhelmed by my own zeal. Keep the goals small.

5. Predict Time Honestly.  If you can’t get to the appointment in 10 minutes, don’t say “I’ll be there in 10.” If the article is going to take more than 3 hours to write, make that clear. It saves you from self-bondage and unnecessary guilt. Being straightforward also enhances your character and reputation.