Is impatience the real enemy of reaching your goals?

If you are like most writers, the excitement of writing a book can very nearly be everything you need to finish and publish, to reach your goal. In many ways, this is true of all goal-setting behavior. I was lamenting the other day that I really wanted to be done with Sixth Prime (seriously, click and give it a read) because I think it will resonate with readers. Even though there is still another draft to go before several rounds of edits, and then design, I wanted it now.

Why is that I wonder?

The impatience paradox. I talk a lot about starting goals and setting goals, but very little about completing a goal when you have stalled in the middle. I like to call this the impatience paradox. This is the overwhelming feeling that creeps in mid-goal, which is usually accompanied by fatigue with the process and a burning, irrational desire that people should already be supportive of the finished product (or goal). For writers, this is often the moment when you think this book could be “the one,” and you really just want everyone to be sharing and reading and writing and freaking out over it. As normal as that sounds (impatience happens to everyone in pursuit of a goal, especially if that goal is within reach), it can be a productivity and discipline killer. It can make you switch your focus or collapse beneath the weight of wanting it to be done. So what can you do?

Overcoming impatience. Don’t let impatience keep you from reaching your goals. In order to get past impatience, you need to recognize it for what it is: fear. More than likely, you are having anxiety about the outcome of your goal, or how achieving your goal will affect you. Once you publish that book, people will react to it. What if they hate it? What if they love it? What if it doesn’t sell? What if people want more? Regardless of how it makes you feel, you need to remember that you started down this path for a very good reason. You had a goal; don’t give up now.

Reaching your goals. So, how do you get back on track? Simple: remember why you started down this path in the first place. Return to both the long-term goal you set in the beginning and the smaller goals in support of it. Rebuild those behavior-reward dyads once more and trend toward discipline; make the goal more important than the smaller roadblocks you put in your way. Use the simple formula of pairing the behavior that needs to be completed (writing every day) in order to reach your goal (finishing your novel) with a reward you only get when you perform that behavior (writing every day, just in case you forgot).

Being able to embrace that you are impatient, and can still reach your goals, sets you up for success in the future. The real enemy is giving up.

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2 thoughts on “Is impatience the real enemy of reaching your goals?

  1. I hear you Dan. Impatience doesn’t stop me from putting the final pen strokes to my novels but it does make me impatient to finish my project, perhaps too impatient.
    While both of my paranormal thrillers have received mostly five-star reviews for characterization, writing style and plot, the few critical comments of both books are about a chapter or two leading up to the end of the book where both the writing and the details don’t match the quality of the earlier or later chapters.
    I must confess that when I see the finish line, I get pumped and perhaps adrenaline isn’t the best tool for elegant writing.
    I’m exactly at that point in my third novel and I’ve purposely slowed everything down so I can see what may be lacking as all of the threads are brought together for the big twist and blowout ending.
    I’ve discussed this issue with a couple writers who are more seasoned than me and they told me they, too, have the same problem. When they can see daylight, they go for the prize.
    Writers who have solid publishers and editing teams can catch these dips but for a self-published writer without a team if editors, it’s a challenge. I’d be greatly indebted to anyone who can impart some wisdom on how to self-review / self-examine these passages to maintain the voice, flow and quality of the work.

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  2. “remember why you started down this path in the first place” goes for non-fiction authors too. When I feel that dip coming on, sometimes the only thing that charges me back up is the importance of the message I have for others to benefit from. I’ll see a forum post of someone asking the very question I’m writing about at the time, and I’ll reply to their post with a few sentences. Then, I’ll jump right back into the book I’m working on and crank out six hours of content without stopping. Works every time.

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