LTWF: Reaching for the Stars (and other goal-related clichés)

I feel like I’m always Debbie Downer on Let the Words Flow. Discouragement and depression—not the most uplifting topics.

But you know what? I actually feel pretty good most of the time. And then there are those extra-special moments. You know the ones I mean: the moments when you’ve just achieved a goal.

Honestly, there isn’t a headier feeling in the world for me (well, except perhaps too much champagne, but that’s not a very pleasant heady feeling, so we’re not gonna count it). When I can strike something off my To Do List or–even better–when I can mark something off my Dreams List, I pretty much feel like an invincible SUPER WOMAN.

Dreams List

What is my Dreams List, you ask? It’s a list of my biggest, hardest goals, and it’s constantly growing. Whenever I have a new dream, I add it to the list.

Seriously, can you imagine how AMAZING it felt when I got to mark this goal from August 2010 off my Dreams List? It was possibly even more exciting than accomplishing the dream itself because here was my written confirmation that I had set a goal, worked hard, and conquered it.

The key is to be specific about what you want and what qualifies as success. For example, here’s a dream taken straight from my list:


Mission: I want to send a polished draft of SCREECHERS to my agent before the end of August 2011.

Wildly Successful If: I send it to her before the end of July!

That “Wildly Successful” bit makes a nice little difference in how you view your goal. It gives you a little nudge to work that much harder. Yet it also suggests you might not be able to meet it (since it’s “wild”) and that it’s okay if you don’t.

While the SCREECHERS GOAL is shorter term, you can also make a long-term goal. Here’s another from my list:


Mission: I want to be able to afford a house of my own, and I want a house in Southern France with a giant yard, garden, mature trees, and lots of privacy. I want to buy it within the next 5 years (before I turn 32).

Wildly Successful If: I can afford it before I turn 30!

Savoring the Small Goals

I make my planners SUPER CUTE AND SOOZ-IFIED so I feel happy and motivated every time I open it up. And yes, that IS Han Solo.

The thing is, the Dreams List usually takes time. It’s long-term, so reaching that awesome pay-off that is accomplishment can take time. We need small goals to tide us over.

And that’s where a simple daily To Do List can really help. For those of you who already maintain daily planners, you know what kind of joy comes in marking something off your list. Ahhh, the satisfaction of a simple scratch-through or check mark.

Right now, I have three sorts of goals on my Dreams List: writing/career, health/fitness, and financial. As such, my To Do list includes something related to these big dreams almost every single day. So instead of just listing the mundanities of my day, I also lay out the little steps that build up my dream.

Here’s a page from my To Do List:

Even though I follow a pretty standard daily routine, I always list every step. It’s not that I need to be reminded of my routine (though I do forget some things), but rather that I like to be reminded I’m working toward something. It keeps me on-track and focused.

For example, I do cardio every weekday, and it’s a habit. Yet I still write it down everyday. That way, when I do my daily cardio, I can mark it off and know I contributed to my overall healthy lifestyle dream. Plus, I get that little rush of feeling that comes with accomplishment!

The Key is in the Reminding

Maybe keeping track of your goals or to do lists aren’t your style. I realize I’m a little nuts (read: absolutely crazy obsessive), but I do think there’s something to be said for writing your goals down somewhere and reminding yourself every so often that you’re making progress.

You could do something as simple as sticking a post-it on your bathroom mirror that says: SEND QUERIES BY JULY! Or maybe just writing your goals on a paper you keep in your wallet.

The day I went on subs for Something Strange and Deadly, I made a desktop background that said SOLD! Every time I saw it, I smiled and did a victory fist-pump. And you know what? A week later when my book did sell, seeing that desktop background made me absolutely giddy with joy and pride.

Set goals—big and small. Work hard to achieve them. Dream of them; visualize them.

Then grin wide when you jump the small hurdles, and throw a freaking party when you reach the big ones!

Do you keep track of your long-term dreams? Do you keep a daily to-do list? How do you celebrate reaching your goals?


Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.