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On Being an Overachiever and Accepting Failure

reach for the sky

I can be rather idealistic at times. This means I have a tendency to overestimate how much I’m able to accomplish in a certain amount of time.

I knew this about myself when I set my goals for the first quarter of 2015. I knew some of the goals I listed might have been a bit far-fetched – but I also knew a number of them were completely attainable. I wanted to achieve a balance here, to ensure I would be challenging myself but also setting myself up for success.

So I took a different approach than I had in the past. I decided to map out my goals by quarter, tracking my progress along the way. Still, some of them were rather lofty in size – such as writing the first draft to my first novel before my birthday in April, for example. I needed a game plan. I knew it was a little extreme to set a goal like this while I was also starting my own business, and running a magazine. This is why I broke the big goal into smaller steps, aiming to write 1,000 words a day for 100 days.

Everything was going according to plan for the first two weeks of the challenge.

Then week three hit, and the exhaustion started to kick in. My business was growing faster than I expected at this point (which is the best kind of surprise), and I found I was struggling to hit my writing challenge goals each day.

I reached out to a writing friend of mine who had given me the idea for the challenge in the first place:

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She responded:

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“No pressure, no expectations.” I felt immediate relief after reading those words. I was being too hard on myself. I was being an overachiever.

I decided to aim for something more realistic – I’d write 700 words a day instead of 1,000. This still left me with 70,000 words after 100 days.

The process started to go smoothly again. I was hitting my word count on a daily basis, and I was feeling good about it. This lasted for about another two weeks. Then, I had another setback.

My calendar was becoming full with work commitments, and I was struggling to set aside the time I wanted to write. Up until this point, I had been working on my business during the day and writing my novel in the evenings. It made for an extra long workday. But I was writing, I was hitting my goal, and I was happy. Every now and then I’d take a day off, and make up for it by writing a bit extra the rest of the week.

Then I missed three days in a row.

I suddenly felt discouraged, unsure how I would make up for the lost words. I started to feel the doubt creeping up again. What was I thinking, trying to write a novel in three months, let alone while also launching my own business? Was this even what I wanted anymore? Was it worth the stress? What am I even writing this for?

I had to take a step back to re-assess my priorities.

Although the idea of writing my first draft to my first novel before my birthday is certainly appealing to me, it’s not as important as my goals for my freelance writing business. It’s also not as high on my list as The Reply. And these are only work obligations I mention, I have a number of priorities outside of this area that are equally, if not more, significant than my book right now.

In a sense, I guess I have already failed my initial goal. I’m not afraid to admit that. Failure is often a necessary step to success. I may be an overachiever, but I still understand the importance of giving yourself space to fail, and being able to pick up the pieces and move forward.

So I’m going to change my mindset again. I’m going to take a lesson from my writing friend, and let go of my initial expectations and all of the pressures associated. I will continue to write something everyday – even if it is only one sentence. I have a foundation of 25,000 words to build on. It’s not where I wanted to be, but it’s progress. And when there is less stress and pressure involved, maybe the words will start to flow a little more freely. Maybe the end result will be even better than imagined (even if it takes me another 100 days to get there).

Are you having to make any adjustments to the goals you set out for 2015? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

Author:

Charlotte is a writer, blogger and amateur photographer based out of Toronto with interests in positivity, creative muse, generational differences and the future of work. She has written for Zoomer Magazine, The Globe and Mail, The Huffington Post Canada and other Canadian publications. She currently blogs for a range of small and medium-sized businesses.

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