The holidays are a time for slowing down and reflecting on the past year. They're also a time for thinking about the year to come. Whether or not you set resolutions, no doubt you've got ideas about what you'd like to accomplish in 2017 and the bad habits you want to leave behind in 2016.
If you're like me, you probably never check off quite as many things as you'd like on your to-do list for the year, and you never quite integrate those new habits you know you should. And so you approach the New Year cautiously hopeful, knowing you're not going to miraculously be a new person but promising yourself you're going to try to keep heading in the right direction anyway.
But what if this year could be different? What if you could make bigger strides than ever before? What if you could quit breaking those promises to yourself, and keep your motivation up long enough to finally bring your dreams within reach?
KNOW YOUR "WHY"
In the many years I've been writing and working toward my goals, there's one productivity tactic that has made all the difference between the years I've made great progress and the ones I haven't, and that tactic has been to continually improve my self-awareness. The more I understand what motivates me, what I feel my purpose is, and what I want to offer the world, the more effective I am on a day-to-day basis. Because true productivity doesn't start on the outside, with scheduling habits and motivating blog posts--though those things can help from time to time--it starts from deep within you, where your fire resides. It starts from that pull that makes you want to write and publish in the first place.
Have you taken the time lately to ask yourself why you're writing, why you're striving for publication, or why you're setting these goals for yourself? Now is the perfect time to do it. Sometime over these next couple of weeks, sneak away with a journal and a cup of coffee, and before you set any more goals or resolutions that may slip through your fingers yet again, ask yourself that telling question. And don't settle for the first answer. Just like when we are seeking our characters' motivation, we must ask ourselves why over and over again, until you feel a stirring inside you--that "aha" moment that we all live for when we're writing fiction.
You need those in your real life too.
That's your fire.
STAY CONNECTED TO YOUR MOTIVATION
The reason most people struggle with making real changes, and real progress each year is because they quickly lose connection to that fire. Daily routines can sap your energy, the curve balls life throws at you can knock you off track, and your own insecurities can make you forget your "why." Even when you are working toward your goals, you can get overly focused on the "what" and pretty soon, when things aren't going the way you'd hope, you fall into despair, wondering why you ever wanted to follow this path in the first place.
But the power of remembering your 'why' - of remembering that fire, is in harnessing it. If you wait until you're discouraged to remember your purpose, you may get back on track, but it's only in staying connected to that fire when times are good that you get ahead.
Once you know your "why", find a way to keep it in the forefront of your mind. Post it in your work space, written down, or as a quote or picture. Journal about it frequently, especially when you feel your motivation start to wane. Schedule frequent dates with yourself to re-examine your goals and make sure they are still in line with your "why."
FLAME IT - PROGRESS BEGETS PROGRESS
Even though I don't follow the "write every day" rule (I write Monday through Friday, which is enough for me), there's a good reason it's touted all over the writing community. If you understand the intention behind it, you can see that the real goal behind this tactic is to keep up the momentum. You've probably felt the effects yourself, when you've had particularly productive streaks. Progress begets progress, and it's this momentum that fans your flame.
If you allow your dream to fall dormant, even for a little while, the flame starts to weaken, and if you fall off your resolutions by the end of January, as many people tend to do, it becomes mere embers. Yes, it's always there, ready for you to fuel it again, but if you want this year to be different, keep it roaring. Keep working. Take small steps when you have to, but always keep moving in the direction of your dreams.
(If having visual proof of your progress inspires you, check out my 2017 Writing & Revision Tracker here.)
As we sidle into another year, it can be easy to come into it jaded and negative. What's really going to change? Here's the thing, though: you can. You can grow a little bit more every year. You can get closer to your goals every single day. And being intimately connected with the reason behind your goals makes the journey a little easier, because instead of having to push yourself toward your dream for another year, you can be pulled by that inner fire, that inner purpose, which requires a lot less effort.
So what lights a fire under you? What is your "why?"
Jamie Raintree is an author and a writing business teacher. She is also a mother of two girls, a wife, a businesswoman, a nature-lover, and a wannabe yogi. Her debut novel, PERFECTLY UNDONE, will be released on October 3, 2017 by Graydon House. Subscribe to her newsletter for more writing tips, workshops, and book news. To find out more, visit her website.