Why I don’t like goals

I’ve been thinking about goals and habits and systems again. I’ve talked about those things many times in the past, and I have continually chased goals and failed to meet the vast majority of them. I’m really getting tired of failing.

A forum post I read today talked about how binary the whole goal mentality is: succeed or fail. Sure, you can play mind games with yourself and try to remember that you haven’t actually failed if you’ve made progress, but… really? When you set a goal, if you don’t reach it, your brain is going to tell you you’ve failed. And too much failure definitely takes a psychological toll.

Just yesterday I had a talk with my son about how I’d made 2016 sound like my worst year for writing since I’d started publishing. But it wasn’t. It was very close to an average year, and better even than 2014.

2012: 146,821
2013: 268,191
2014: 217,641
2015: 250,011
2016: 220,017

The monthly averages show how close those numbers really are:

2012: 24,470
2013: 22,349
2014: 18,137
2015: 20,834
2016: 18,335

But it felt like a terrible year, all the way around, because I had set such large goals at the beginning of the year and I came nowhere near reaching them. 2016 was the year I tried to write 1,180,000 words in 12 months; it was the year I decided 4,558 was a reasonable number of words to expect from myself most days.

Looking back, I have no idea what I was thinking.