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 ActionPodcast.com 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!
“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!