A lot of people are using the start of the new year to set goals for themselves. Many are publishing these goals on their blogs.

This is fine and good. Stating a goal publicly gives you a real incentive to finish.

But there’s a worrying trend I’ve noticed in a lot of these goals. I’ll throw a couple of common examples at you.

Goal for 2010: Get an agent.
Goal for 2010: Get a radio commission.

The problem with these goals is this: They are not under your control.

You could be a bloody brilliant writer, with a fantastic script: but if the agent’s books are full that year, or if Radio 4 has already commissioned a play on the same subject matter, you’re going to be shit out of luck. And you’ll spend the year striving and striving, and next year you’ll be sad when you haven’t achieved a goal the success or failure of which had not a damn thing to do with you.

Instead, if you’re setting goals for yourself, choose something that is in your power to make happen or not. F’rexample…

Goal for 2010: Write three scripts this year.
Goal for 2010: Direct a short film.
Goal for 2010: Go on a writing course.
Goal for 2010: Trade notes with other writers to get better.

Or for the two goals we started with, rephrase them so that the thing you promise to do in 2010 is in your control, not someone else’s.

Goal for 2010: Send every script I finish this year to at least ten agents.
Goal for 2010: Pitch potential radio plays to at least ten producers before each offers round.

Because those actions are exactly what you’d need to do in order to get an agent or get a commission anyway.

The difference is this: You’re in control of whether or not you achieve them.

There’s no-one to blame or praise but yourself. And there’s no way, at the end of the year, that your sense of achievement will be dependent on whether or not someone else has a bad day.

And maybe you will get that commission, or that agent. That’d be a nice bonus. But that’s what it is: a bonus.

If you’re setting goals, make them something that you have control over.

Don’t put your happiness in the hands of someone you don’t know.

6 responses to “Resolute”

  1. Incredibly smart advice. I fell into the trap last year of setting a goal to “get an agent”. This year I am much more focused on my work and like you said, what I can achieve.

  2. I hear you, Piers, and feel the same way. I debated over saying “pitch at least twice for a radio play commission” or “get a radio play commission”. I think I stuck with the second because I thought it would motivate me more. I’ve written many of the others in the way you say because of that very reason. Deffo know there so much stuff beyond my control, though. If I’ve learnt anything from 2009 it’s that!!

  3. Good advice, mister. Telling yourself ‘this is the year I get an agent’ also suggests that once you have one exciting stuff ill automatically come your way, when the reality is you still have to hustle, send work out on spec etc.
    The only thing really in your control is building up a body of work and sending it out there. If it’s good enough, sooner or later you will get a positive response.

  4. Smart advice Mr B. And I can vouch for it. It took me a number of years but I just kept on plugging at the stuff I could control … and I got that agent and deal. I cannot agree with your sage wisdom enough.

    Happy New Year!

  5. THANK YOU. So many people give that advice, especially in the “industry,” music, film, modeling, etc.. They’re the ones whose heads are in the clouds, methinks. Guh!

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