This is an excerpt from my new book Writer on the Side: How to Write Your Book Around Your 9 to 5 Job.The book is meant to help anybody who has been struggling to fit their writing despite having a sometimes brain-crippling full-time job. This excerpt discusses the importance of forming a purpose, which will help your writing goals to shoot through the roof! Check out the links on the right column to purchase it here or at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
From a Goal to a Purpose
When I started setting goals in my own life, it was like a weight had been lifted off my small but capable shoulders. I no longer felt like I had to use will power alone to get things accomplished in my life. Setting tiny goals for my theatre producing and article writing made a world of difference for me.
However, every couple of months, I would slip into similar patterns. The goals I had created started to slip away and I had no idea why. Usually, after another giant burst of will power I was able to set the goals up again, but I wondered why I had to expend so much energy after I’d created these wonderful habits for myself.
There are two reasons that these goals tended to slip through my fingers after a couple of months.
Imagine that you had been an Internet addict for the last three years. You are able to push this addiction off to the side after all that time and create some fantastic writing habits for yourself. Even after you’ve had this habit for three months, those paths in your brain that led to your love of the Internet are still there. For various reasons, you have to spend a lot of time on the Web one week and like that, you feel hooked again.
Addiction occurs because the addicted person gets some sort of boost, usually hormonal like endorphins from doing the activity. When you accidentally get addicted to your negative habits again, you have to recognize the problem and start rebuilding the blocks for your goals again.
This is one of ways a support group or a goal buddy can help. They are the outsiders looking in on your life who can determine when you are falling back into old, negative habits. Having supportive people like this has helped me personally on many occasions.
The second reason is another pillar of support that can improve your goal setting, your overall attitude and your general direction. That pillar of support is having your goals protected by the umbrella of a life purpose.
What would life be like if you had a purpose as strong as Mother Theresa (helping people in need) or Thomas Edison (inventing products that improve the world)? Having a purpose is like having a super goal (a super objective as we call it in the acting biz) that pulls along all of your other goals. It is a fantastic litmus test for ensuring your smaller goals are correct. If you had the life purpose of “entertaining the world through your stories” than taking a new high-paying job in a legal office might not fit under that umbrella. If you are having trouble with a goal, seeing your purpose plastered on the wall, in your wallet or in your heart, can help you push past any procrastination to make it happen for the sake your higher function. Purpose leads to productivity.
How does one find this purpose? There is a simple exercise that I found on the first personal development site I ever visited, which is StevePavlina.com. Pavlina suggests that finding your purpose may not take years or an entire lifetime. It might actually take as little as 20 minutes. Pull out a sheet of paper and a pencil or pen. I suggest a pencil because erasing may occur from time to time during this exercise. Write at the top of the sheet a heading along the lines of “My Purpose.”
Write down a sentence or two about what you think your purpose might be. Just take a shot in the dark with the first thing that comes to mind. Read it out loud. Do you think that it completely fits? How does it make you feel? If it might not be 100% correct and you don’t feel particularly inspired by it, try writing a revision of the previous statement.
Write. Revise. Write. Revise. Write. Revise, until …
You come upon a statement that makes tears well up in your eyes. Keep revising until you come up with a phrase that makes you say to yourself, “If I lived my life by that purpose, I would be happier, healthier and more driven.” This can take a lot longer than 20 minutes and it may still not be perfect by the time you’re through with it, but once you create something that tugs at your heartstrings a little, you are certainly going in the right direction.
Take this purposeful phrase that you have created and insert it into your memory and life using the same goal-memorization methods mentioned above. Write it on a sheet that goes in your wallet or by your bed. Spend some time reading it out loud to yourself. Heck, even write it into a notebook or a computer desktop that you use all of the time.
Having a purpose locked into your brain can really make the goals like writing your first book, flow a lot more smoothly. Though I used to be more of a go with the flow kind of person, I’d much rather be a “go with the creative flow that comes from having a strong purpose” kind of guy.
Side Note: Sprinkle It with Sugar
Creating goals or a purpose is helped by two major personality aspects that are inseparably intertwined. Those two traits are faith and optimism.
By faith, I’m not referring to religious or spiritual faith per say. But I am saying that if you don’t put some amount of trust into the possibility of your goals and purpose working for you, you’re going to be sunk. If you are trained to be a pessimist who says, “I’ll try this but it probably won’t work for me,” then it’s going to be hard for you to trust anything including yourself.
When I started personal development I left myself completely open to new belief systems, because it was obvious that my current one was not working. This allowed me to try out things like training my subconscious with goals and the Law of
Attraction and other things that a stubborn person might choose not to believe in. When it comes down to it, I had a faith that things could be better for me than they already were. Just having that faith pushed me in the right direction.
Optimism is tough for some people. True optimism is trusting that things can be better whether your current circumstances are good or bad. This is a major aspect of what Marci Shimoff refers to as “Happy for No Reason” in her book of the same name. I cannot recommend her book highly enough as it helped me to understand what happiness really was.
Happiness is not about your circumstances. If that were the case, all the rich people who were movie superstars or won the lottery would be happy and all the people who endured horrible accidents and poor life conditions would be miserable. Since that’s not the case, we have to change our assumptions about happiness. According to Marci, happiness comes in part from within and in part from training. Yes, you can actually train yourself to be happy instead of being a grump.
Looking around for the gift in every tough situation, eating healthier foods and exercising, laughing and smiling with positively-minded friends, and believing that you have a little bit of help from upstairs are just a few of the ways that you can become an optimistic person.
Adding a pinch of faith and a dash of optimism to your goals and purpose will improve your chances of becoming an author tremendously.
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