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.