Stretch, Stumble… and Succeed!

The month of November has seen me embark on a challenge of great passion, purpose and perspective – unlike anything I’ve ever committed myself to before.

It was always going to be a wild challenge, and early on it grew a tail as well as threatening teeth & claws! But it has taken all my resources as a coach and a life-long learner to stick with it. The challenge is to write 30,000 words in 30 days – which is quite a stretch from the only other piece of lengthy writing I’ve done (6,000 words over a few months). I started with one month of research, followed by one month of planning, and yet November has still felt under-prepared.

I’d completed a SMARTER (Specific, Measurable, Appealing, Realistic, Timely, Ecological, Resourceful) goal analysis, and broken it down into more manageable chunks by deciding to write 1,000 words a day. But within the first week of the challenge I was already 4,000 words behind!

Where did I stumble?

  • Measuring too much: with the focus on writing 1,000 words each day, I was continually using “word count” as I typed, to measure my progress. This was counter-productive, as it disrupted my flow and was demoralising when the numbers were increasing more slowly than I’d expected.
  • Not acknowledging my success: Paul & I are such fans of back-patting ourselves because it really works. But I was forgetting to do it, because I was focusing on how far behind schedule I was. By the end of week 2, I had caught up with my anticipated progress, and only then remembered to celebrate my achievement.
  • Didn’t plug the experience gap: whilst writing is something I love doing, I have almost never written dialogue, and it hadn’t occurred to me to plug that gap with some practice ahead of time. For every hour I spend typing dialogue, it is probably accompanied by another hour of thinking about what and how it will be “said”.
  • Validation Catch-22: all new ideas or works of creativity are fragile things to begin with. I decided to protect the story from myself and others’ opinions (by not sharing or editing it); but this felt like writing into a void. I needed external validation other than word-count, and eventually chose one person I felt I could entrust the first chapter to. Definitely the right decision, as it has helped confirm that I can translate the magic in my imagination onto ‘paper’ for others to share.

I’m now at over 15,200 words – so how did I turn it around?

  • One word at a time! 1,000 words a day is still a large chunk, so by acknowledging that every word counts and breaking my focus into smaller baby-steps, it has helped me to keep going even when I was struggling. I also stopped using the word-count function so regularly, and forgave myself for having fallen behind!
  • My challenge, MY growth. I knew what this challenge meant to me, and by reminding myself of how I would feel once I’d completed it, helped me to push on when I was sleep-deprived or upset or uncertain how to continue. This is different to my purpose (“why” I was doing it: to save the Scottish Wildcats), but equally important. For me this is about personal integrity and commitment and contribution.
  • Asking for help! There have been a great range of people supporting me through this: with enthusiasm, ideas, promotion, sponsorship donations and encouragement – including the occasional reminder of what I’m achieving! By being able to ask for support when I needed it most, has meant I’ve not been striving alone.
  • Mantras for Momentum. Before I started writing, I was plagued by doubts about what I’d put into motion when I committed to this crazy challenge! So I created three short mantras that serve to balance me: “I give thanks that I am writing what I’m meant to write. I give thanks that the sponsorship donations are increasing daily. I give thanks that we are saving the Scottish Wildcats”.

I am deeply grateful for all the support I’ve received, and feel honoured to be doing something that will make a real and much-needed difference. And thank YOU too, because being part of has taught me so much about myself and how I tackle challenges, that I am sure I wouldn’t be here at this point without the AP team and all our listeners and readers who’ve been with us over the last couple of years!

♥  Sam

Think about an action you’ve been considering: which of the tips above would allow you to avoid some of the early hurdles before they trip you up?”

We all face stumbling-blocks in our daily lives, as well as during times when we step out of our comfort zones; and many of these techniques for success can be applied to any challenge that we set ourselves – large or small.

If you are feeling inspired after reading this, or want to share the details of a challenge you’ve set yourself, then we would love to hear from you. Please rate this post, add a comment and don’t forget to check out our ebook packed with 80 great tips to help you create every day action momentum!