Monday, December 10, 2012

On Goals and Aspirations

I've written a lot about goals lately. Monthly goal wrap-ups, monthly goal declarations, drafts of goals for next year, and on and on.

Well, goal-setting and goal-achievement certainly has been one of the main themes on this blog throughout its existence, so I guess it's not a surprise that I've been talking about them a lot. And here I am, again, talking about goals. Though I plan to mostly talk about things which aren't goals: Aspirations.

An earlier blog post of mine talked about setting "SMART" goals. So, for example, I wouldn't have considered "Qualify for Active SFWA Membership in 2012" to have been a good "goal." Ultimately, whether I did so or not was something I couldn't directly control. I could influence it very heavily by working to improve my writing, submitting diligently, etc. But in the end, it was up to the editors of various markets to determine if that happened or not. (I'm still very excited, by the way, that it did...)

I refer to things like that -- which I would like to see happen but have incomplete influence over -- as "aspirations." I believe that it's very important to not mistake aspirations for goals. Doing so can lead to frustration and disappointment because you are making your satisfaction dependent on something which is outside your ability to control.

So that's why, as much as I'd love to see it happen, I won't create a 2013 goal for myself like "Sell a story to a major print SF publication." That's an aspiration because I can't make it happen. I can try very hard and do all the right things toward that wish, but once I've done that it will either happen or it won't. ("Sell a story to a major print SF publication" would also be a poorly-defined goal because it doesn't define "major." But I digress...)

Goals, for me, are the things by which I measure myself. But aspirations are what I dream about -- they are the things which I hope the goals drive me toward. And while my goals are things I talk about on a regular basis in public, my aspirations are the things I for the most part keep close to me, discussing them with relatively few people.


  1. This is a great post. I love goal-setting, of the variety you talk about here. It makes me a much more productive person. And I really like the word aspirations for everything else -- I've always rambled trying to explain the difference between expecting something from myself and hoping something will happen, but trying not to dwell on it. Aspirations is perfect.

    1. Thanks for your comment, MK. I'm glad that you found this a useful and easy-to-relate-to post.