Sunday, December 27, 2009

Resolution Rules

Oh, I know... Boxing Day is barely gone and January is almost a week away. Who wants to think about resolutions? There is a week of parties yet to be had. But the thing is, to do it right takes a little time.

My LAST boss (not the groovy, generous CURRENT boss, but the compact, all-business model) focused on identity and academic success. She was smart and driven (if a little difficult as a human being) and honestly—some of her ideas TOTALLY apply to New Year's Resolutions.

At the beginning of the school year, she would ask (middle school) students “How do you see yourself a year from now” --they were to give their self visions (she called the 'possible selves') and how they'd achieve them and then we had a formula to rate the likelihood of those goals GETTING them anywhere (we tested them against things like GPA, and you know what—our formula worked).

THAT is what a New Years Resolution is, isn't it? So let me let YOU in on the secret.

I will start with my most frequent resolution.

LOSE WEIGHT. I am nearly always trying to lose weight or maintain a recent weight loss. Clearly I am not good at the latter, or the former would not have to keep barking back at me, but since it is the world's most common resolution, I am going to work with it.

If I say my resolution is “To Lose Weight” and leave it at that, I will fail. I guarantee it (you will too—sorry to be the bearer of bad news). Oh, I might lose a few pounds by some vague 'watching it' that I can succeed at for about the first three days in January (Rose Bowl snacks notwithstanding)

If I instead say:

“Beginning January 2 (see—allowing for my Rose Bowl -GO DUCKS!), I am going to follow the Weight Watchers eating plan,” suddenly my chances for success increase dramatically.

Why? Because I have a HOW, and not JUST a how, but a how that prescribes the right kind of eating. But WHEN have I succeeded? Am I ever done? Do I want to lose five pounds? Fifty pounds (I confess it is closer to the latter for me, but this is about YOU). How do you know when you're done? Do I want to lose two pants sizes? (okay, maybe it IS about me) Do I want to fit into my skinny jeans? The ANSWER may be all of the above, but defining the goal in ONE measure gives you a point at which you can succeed.


Beginning January 2nd, I am going to follow the Weight Watchers eating plan (the one I do because I KNOW it and it is healthy and flexible, features I know from experience that I need) until I have lost 2 pant sizes.

See that? Measurable goal and reasonable method. Suddenly this is something that can be achieved.

I'm not done yet, though. For starters, a BIG goal like weight loss ought to have multiple strategies. Not just eating, but EXERCISE (both aerobic and creating those fat burning muscles). Possibly some TROUBLE SHOOTING (if X comes up, Y is how I will get around it), Maybe some thinking about how real life fits.

For instance, my husband is our cook and it is really unreasonable for me to ask HIM to make special food for ME when he has four of us he feeds. But Weight Watchers, with its POINTS allows for WHATEVER he cooks IF my other eating fits.... so maybe I count my meals from dinner to lunch instead of breakfast to dinner, so that in a 24 hour period I can adapt to what has already been served for last night's dinner—if we should have *gasp* pizza, then breakfast and lunch the next day need to be considerably lighter. It isn't strictly what Weight Watchers recommends, but it is an adaptation that over the course of a week balances out, and it is necessary for my personal lifestyle (the refusal to cook one, I mean).

See how it gets more complex? I figure three strategies, each with some detail, is enough to give a person a reasonable shot at achieving said goal IFF you also add some motivation.

Add some measures that are EXTRAS to keep you excited... measure with a tape measure, try on the pants... so the scale is not the only success measure (experience here says sometimes one stops but the others go—it keeps a person motivated). What you want is MANY chances, ways and measures of success, because then you might really succeed. And you want some baby-step success celebrations... maybe for each five pounds you lose, you get to buy yourself a book you want (if you budget is better than mind—though if I go used, I could do that), or you get a night off to do something you enjoy... small rewards along the way.

So the formula:

On X date, I will begin trying to achieve XXX, by

1) strategy 1
2) strategy 2 and
3) strategy 3

After 1 month I will evaluate how well the strategies are working and adjust them if necessary.

For each success of XX kind, I get one trip to the dungeon to make my boys dance like I like.

Now Let's Apply it to One I Haven't Done in Detail Before


Let's see... If I understand this process, what I need to have is a GREAT BOOK, and an AGENT and a PUBLISHER. Great book supersedes all else and I've learned enough to know my FIRST step is to speed up my first couple chapters. I need to suck in the reader faster than I do, so strategy #1 is rewrite chapters 1-3.

I also need to finish polishing the 2nd half, but that doesn't need to happen before I start shopping for an agent, as once a person has requested the WHOLE THING, they will see that I know how to do this. And the timing of getting a request for the WHOLE will probably come AFTER requests for earlier pages. So the next strategy is QUERY.

This is a classic 'give it details and make it measurable' goal writing. Something like: I will send twenty queries in January, and every time I have gotten back five responses, I will send five more out. That is a high enough number to wash out the 'never responders' and theoretically, by a month, should get enough feedback (or non-feedback) to give an idea whether the tools are working or need to be adjusted.

Possibly I can reduce the number once I start getting some nibbles.

Oi! But what if there are no nibbles?! Well, then either I've failed at the rewrite of early chapters, or my query has a big giant fail. So maybe I need to add a strategy of going through Query Shark if the Query seems to fail completely after round one...  It's also possible I should think about approaching some publishers instead (I have a friend exploring a Border's connection--that will more likely lead to publishers than agents--can't drop that!)

[Do you see how complicated this can get?]

I swear though, that having behaviors you can check off gives you a sense of control and keep you engaged, corrections that can be made if something doesn't work improves your chance of success, and multiple strategies means SOMETHING might work.

So it's a good idea to give yourself a few days on those resolutions... I wish you luck!


Unknown said...

I effing hate queries-- let's form a support group! !!! I got a great new little book from Amazon with nothing but successful query letters I can share with you once I'm done.
Let's Make 2010 the Year of Publication (or in my case, the Year I open A Brewery/double my beer sales so I can pay myself/and get published)yikes--I think I'll go back to bed now. . .

as for the weight loss I can personally recommend Bikram Yoga. once I committed to this for at least 3 times a week and simultaneously put less food in my mouth I lost nearly 30 pounds this year.

THANKS for all your help and support this last quarter THJ. I'm glad our girls are working out their friendship again and that you and I have connected. You've been great for my ego, my hubris and my hard reality quotient. I hope I can do the same for you!
I have some concerete feedback for you but am having trouble carving out time to share it with you but promise to do so soon.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I love the way you've organized this! Much easier to successfully tackle a step toward the goal than some huge monster of a resolution.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Hart Johnson said...

ET-I'd suggest we start an 'I effing hate queries' group but all those tuned in agents would peg us as trouble makers! (US!? As if!?) But I can get on board with the 2010 publishing year bit!

That is SO GREAT about your weight loss success-I knew you had, as a certain teenager was talking about 'how hot Grace's mom looked'. (and you do! I just always thought you did)

I'm going to need to keep track of this 'being accused of being a reality check' thing. It's my first such accusation!

Elizabeth-Thank you so much! it really IS easier if it is measurable baby steps. I'm actually not to bad at the resolutions until my conferences start in Spring, then it all goes out the window...

Jan Morrison said...

resolve - look at that word. Re - do again Solve - fix problem. No wonder resolutions don't work - it is the AGAIN thing! I like your steps to success. You will do fine. I'm getting published this year too. I've decided. My query letters seems to work somewhat but then perhaps my stuff doesn't quite match their excellence so I need to have BETTER writing. And I think I won't send to those places that don't give me a fighting chance - don't publish what I like to read or write, want such a small slice that you know they don't really want any, or focus on signs of success that aren't meaningful to me. I'm going to try wanting those who will want me! What a concept. Took me long enough in my love life so I will just remember that in the end it works. Like self, like others, try and connect.
good luck my tartlett! or rather good pluck!