Resolutions require resolve

Getting through the tough slog of whatever goal you’re trying to achieve can be accomplished if you have enough resolve – grit, determination, single-mindedness, whatever you want to call it.  It isn’t enough to have a goal and a list of steps you’re going to take to get there – or at least it isn’t enough for the really tough goals.


Note that I’m not saying resolve means you’ll successfully achieve your goal, because I don’t promise that.  Some of our goals are things that are outside our control: we can’t control whether Random House publishes our series of historical novels.  We can’t control whether we end up on the New York Times best-seller list.  What we can control is writing the best books we can, promoting them the best way we know how, and so on.


But I am saying that you’ll be able to get through the tough slog if you do two things to build your resolve (that is, the endurance you’re going to need):


The first is caring passionately about your goal.


Here’s the thing: I may want to have a million dollars.  I may fantasize about the things I could do with a million dollars.  But unless I feel passionately about getting that million dollars, I’m not going to be able to stick the tough slog it will take to make the million dollars.  This, my friends, is why I’m not now and probably never will be a millionaire:  I just don’t care enough about it to make it my life’s work. All of the goal-setting in the world isn’t going to change that.  All of the shoulds I tell myself won’t make a difference: “I should care more about money.  I should do work I don’t like or is harmful in order to make more money.  I should give up time with my daughter to make more money.” 


If you’re anything like me, those shoulds strike you as ludicrous (as well they should) (yes, I amuse myself).  What shoulds are you telling yourself to reach a goal you don’t care about?  They’re just as ludicrous.  If you don’t care passionately about your goal, find another goal. 


The second part of resolve is believing you can achieve your goal.  This is where people ultimately give up.  They encounter challenges and obstacles and think, ah, I can’t do this after all.  But they need to believe they can.  Usually this requires an effort at self-delusion.  Just because you’ve never lost those twenty extra pounds before doesn’t mean this time you’ll fail!  When I first started in publishing, I had the touchingly naive belief that I was different from all the other writers who tried and failed to establish successful careers in publishing.  If I had known then what I know now, I probably would never have tried.  But I did try, and I did succeed, and in no small part because I just thought I could.  The same with earning my black belt or my Ph.D.  That many of the people who embark on these endeavors never conclude them didn’t make any difference to me.  I convinced myself that because I cared so much, I’d achieve what other people found difficult, if not impossible.


That doesn’t mean getting published or earning my black belt or getting that degree was simple once I cared passionately and thought I could do it.  I got knocked on my butt more than once.  It was just that getting knocked on my butt didn’t stop me.  Possibly it should have, but it never did.  I call this “being the last one standing.”  In many areas of life, even — or maybe especially — in the achievement of difficult goals, being the person who keeps showing up despite being a bit bruised and battered around the edges is all the difference you need to get what you want.