I'm not so great at New Year's Resolutions.
Don't get me wrong - I'm fantastic at making them. I think long and hard and come up with really great SMART goals. I write them down in my planner where I think I'll revisit them regularly.
But I'm not great at keeping them. If you were to ask me in March of last year what my resolutions were, I probably couldn't tell you. And if you think I remember them now, a year later, you've got another think coming.
So if you're debating whether you should make an impossible resolution this year like to stop eating so many cheese curls or to climb Mount Whitney (every not-Whitney in the world wishes they had a mountain for a namesake), my challenge to you is to make the resolution regardless of your ability to achieve it. Here's why (based on my experience. Results may or may not be typical. It probably depends on the amount of coffee you drink. And the number of cheese curls you eat):
Better for the striving
We all are better for the striving (even if it only lasts a few months).
Any progress you make toward your goal is just that: progress. If you've been dying to mountain climb your namesake mountain but you're scared of failing - or falling, that would be my biggest fear - you'll never get off your couch.
Take my resolutions last year, for instance. I may not have achieved all of my 2016 goals (or even remembered what they were) but because of the striving, my business is better off than it was a year ago - I have great clients, a strong marketing strategy, and am constantly learning how to reach new prospects.
Because of the striving, my writing is better off than it was a year ago. In the past year, I spent several hundred hours writing, rewriting, editing, rewriting some more, and then for a little change of pace rewriting even more. I'm a firm believer in the 10,000 rule (Malcolm Gladwell's principle that anyone who practices a skill for 10,000 becomes an expert), so the sheer number of hours I spent writing in 2016 helped me become a better writer.
Because of the striving, I've read more books, spent more time writing, and learned more things like how to boost productivity, how to meet new prospects, and how to create a better website (mostly it's about hiring someone who knows what they're doing ;)).
Because of the striving, I also probably drank too much coffee. Or maybe that was motherhood. Either way, I was on a year-long caffeine high.
Goals can change
Let's say your name is Everest and you made a goal on January 1 to climb Mount Whitney. But in a few weeks you learn that there's actually a cooler mountain called Mount Everest so you decide to climb that instead. Do you need to feel guilty for changing your goal? Um, hardly. Because from what I hear, anyone who climbs Mount Everest achieves immediate mountain climber guru status.
My aims weren't quite that high in 2016, but something that just sort of happened last year - I didn't actively try to do this - was that I was constantly adjusting my goals. And that is totally okay.
Because 2016 was my first year freelancing full-time, I was on a very big learning curve. I had been a moonlight-and-lunch-break freelancer for several years, but that was nothing like doing this thing as my one and only job. What I knew at the beginning of the year as opposed to what I knew in, say, October, was vastly different. The goals I set January 1, 2016 gradually changed over time to become better or more feasible goals.
For instance, at the beginning of 2016, my only marketing strategy was social media and maybe some email. I spent much of the year reading books and taking online courses about how to be a better freelancer. After participating in a freelance writer's bootcamp on marketing, I learned some new principles to apply to reach new prospects. My goal at the beginning of 2016 was to write blog posts and then share them on social platforms and hope someone read them and maybe hired me. Pitiful, I know. After learning from some older, wiser writers, my goal in the middle of 2016 changed to a more targeted approach to reach prospects who really needed a writer instead of just those who happened to follow me on Twitter.
I hope when we look back on 2017 even if we didn't climb some ridiculously tall mountain or stop eating cheese curls, we'll be able to say we learned new things and made even better goals based on that new knowledge.
Onward and forward
Here's to you as you learn, grow, fail, and learn and grow some more in 2017. We're in this together. And here's to a second fantastic year of full-time freelancing. When I feel like whining about certain parts of this job (bookkeeping, anyone?!), I stop and remember that not everyone gets to live this dream life. Or drink this much coffee. Cheers.