What the Potatoes and Carrots of Ecuador Have to Do with Setting Achievable Writing Goals
We just got back from 10 fabulous days in Ecuador. It felt like paradise — the mountains, cloud forests, waterfalls … It’s easy to picture enjoying the writer's life there someday.
One thing that impresses me about Ecuador is its biodiversity. More than just exotic plants and wildlife, there’s a huge variety of fresh, local produce.
I was shocked to learn that over 4,000 types of potatoes grow in those mountains! And carrots?
They come in just about any color — orange, white, purple, black, yellow — and in every size, too.
So what do these vegetables have to do with my success as a writer — and yours?
Your Personal Mountain of Goals
As a writer, setting explicit goals is crucial.
When we reach goals, we’re reminded how much progress we’ve made.
But like potatoes, writing goals come in all shapes and sizes.
If you set only lofty, abstract goals, reaching them can be scary. For example: “I’m going to taste every one of those potatoes.”
Silly, yes, even if you really love potatoes!
And a tall order, too. Even if only half of those 4,000 varieties are edible, you’re looking at 5½ years of eating … if you try a new kind every single day.
Your writing goals are no different.
Finding financial independence, for example, is a big mountain to climb. Especially if you’re just starting out.
The key is to break down a big goal into smaller, more manageable chunks.
Instead of a two- or three-year goal, what specific actions can you commit to over the next three months? Updating your website? Landing a new client? A steady monthly income?
Then break it down even further — what can you complete in 30 days … this week … or just today?
Long-Term Value of Short-Term Rewards
Slicing your goals into bite-sized pieces isn’t always enough. Sometimes we need a little extra incentive — a reward — to keep things moving along. Kind of like dangling a carrot in front of a horse, to make it move forward.
But freelancers don’t have a “boss” to provide us incentives. We have to create our own “carrots.”
Like goals, rewards come in many shapes and sizes. Whatever their shape, size, or color, what’s important is that we have them — and that we reward ourselves when we reach each goal — whatever it is.
This works with even the smallest tasks.
Each night, I make a short list of five or six “must-do” items I can complete the next day. Like finishing up an article … invoicing a client … or following up on a lead.
Small potatoes, maybe, but they move me forward, toward my larger writing goals.
When I finish my list? I get a carrot — a workout, a long walk with the dog, or maybe a nap!
You can substitute whatever you like. Just remember, when you do what you set out to do, treat yourself.
Maybe allow yourself a movie or a night out when you complete your weekly actions. Or, if you hit a 30-day milestone, you go try on that jacket you’ve been eyeing.
And when you hit your yearly target, you might just deserve a nice vacation — maybe Ecuador!
The bigger the goal, the bigger the reward.
Can You Have Too Many Incentives?
All your writing goals — from the smallest daily tasks up to your big “end game” — are targets. Always do your best to hit them.
However, don’t beat yourself up if you miss one. (The one exception: client deadlines!)
And remember your goals change over time. Rewards can change, too, especially the small ones.
But if you do find yourself slipping, dangle another carrot.
It’s important to always set yourself carrots for those bigger goals. After all, we write to have freedom and the means to do whatever we want.
So go ahead! Plan that night out … that vacation … It’s what you’re working for.
Oh, and about living the writer's life in Ecuador?
That’s my shiny “24K” carrot.
True, I have a few more milestones before I get there. But that’s okay — I’ll make sure there are plenty of other carrots along the way.
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