What a Blessed year of Achieving Goals and Setting New Ones

23 Nov

This is my favorite time of the year. November begins a time when my brothers and me celebrate three birthdays during November. Halloween actually begins the month, and Thanksgiving and the excitement of the coming Christmas season always end the month. In Arkansas, deer season is anticipated even more than football season, and the college football season is winding down to the anticipated rivalry games. The fall colors have come and gone, duck season opens as the now harvested rice fields are pumped up again and filled with millions of visitors—all types of ducks and geese—making their way south down the Mississippi flyway to winter in a warmer climate.

The past year has been one of great blessings in my life, and the next year promises to yield even more of those blessings. I began the year with no published books. I ended the year with one book published, another to be released in January that is already complete, and a novel under contract. I have appearances scheduled for March, April, May and June of 2014, and I will schedule many more. The publication of the books has allowed me to now apply for tenured creative writing teaching positions, and this fall there were more of those positions open and soliciting applications than at any time I can remember in recent years. I am excited to think of where I may be this time next year.

So during this time of Thanksgiving I want to take time to thank God for all of his many blessings. My life is truly blessed by my wonderful children and their spouses, my family—including my brothers and sisters and mother, and my dear friends.

             Sometimes we do not understand the paths God may lead us down. But returning home a year ago last August was a blessing. I have been able to renew many old friendships, make new friends, and be a part of my children’s lives in a way I have not been able to be in many, many years. I have been able to exorcise a few of my own personal demons while struggling with a few more. But even though the uncertainty of the future can be a bit unnerving, knowing one has done all he can do to make the future a success tends to be a balm against that rash.
It seems to me the future should only be feared when we fail to take control of our futures and apply guidance, principle, dedication, planning, and perhaps most important of all, flexibility. I still believe that to do this it is important to have ten year, five year, and one year goals.

            I find myself in a unique situation as I have this year accomplished several of my five year goals that were benchmarks to my ultimate ten year goals. In the next months I will be forced to sit down and re-evaluate my goals and set new ones. My ten year goals will not change, but I am now closer to achieving those goals, so my five year goals(benchmarks) and one year goals(steps to take to achieve those benchmarks) now must be re-evaluated and re-calibrated to recognize the achievements I have made and the new efforts I must make.

          To some, this may sound daunting. To me, it is as simple as writing a story. I simply sit down and write the story I want my life to follow, and I plot it out, thinking through my scenes and settings. And just like a story I am writing, if I suddenly need to take an unexpected twist in the plot, I do, and I do so while realizing it is the unexpected and unplanned events in life that provide the challenges and truly make any achievement worth accomplishing.

            I made my greatest mistakes when I lost sight of my goals. As a college professor, I have had many students seek my advice on what they should do for their careers. I counseled them on their goals, and always asked what their ten-year goals were. Without exception, they had no ten year goals. I challenged them to sit down, and imagine reasonably where they wanted to be in ten years. Be honest with yourself and set those ten year goals. Then deciding on a chosen path becomes easy. Will this path ultimately take me closer to achieving my ten year goals? If the answer is no, then that certain path should not be chosen. Goals will provide guidance during the best and worst of times. Goals will keep you motivated and moving forward. Goals will give you benchmarks to measure your achievement so you may feel pride in what you have accomplished.

I challenge anyone who reads this blog to skip their New Year’s resolutions and establish a carefully considered set of ten year, five year and one year goals. Your ten year goals should be that ultimate achievement. Your five year goals should be the benchmarks necessary to put you well on-track to achieving the ten year goals. Your one year goals should be the baby steps you must take to get there. These are the little things you must do in order to be successful. For instance, if you want to publish a book in five years, you might set a one year goal of completing a quality manuscript and submitting it to 25 publishers a year. At the end of the year if you do not have a publishing contract, you can look at your one year goals. If you submitted to 25 publishers and got 25 blank rejections, it may be time to revise. But if you submitted to two publishers and got two blank rejections, how can you know where you stand?

Please challenge yourself with your goals. Goals must be attainable, but they must challenge you to do so, and therein lies the need for a sincere honesty with yourself and your situation.  But most of all, I wish you success as you struggle to meet those goals!

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