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September Groundhog Day Resolutions Update

I missed four months of Groundhog Day review. The last was back in April. At that point, I was struggling with two of my three resolutions, the two parts of the Bradbury Challenge. I was not writing stories at a rate approaching a one a week pace. I had done alright on the reading but had gaps.

Both parts of the Bradbury Challenge collapsed since then. I had setbacks in my personal life in April. Writing and reading lost focus on resolving those issues. In retrospect, my choices hindered resolving them by losing that focus. I could have slowed the writing pace to maybe one story a month and an outlet for stress. I did not. I did finish one story, Lost Daughter of Amazons, in April, but it was the last story I completed. I only had eight successful days of one story, one essay, and one poem since April fourth. Half of those were in one four-day run in the past week.

The third resolution, to run a 5K I did complete. Training for it, which most days was less than an hour and was only three days a week, was a relief from working on personal issues. On June sixteenth I ran the Miles for Margaritas Atlanta 5K. I will run another this year, a turkey trot.

Have I failed with three months left? In my opinion, no, for a couple of reasons. The first is without setting the goals and tracking them from February to April, and even to today, kept me working and reading. While I only had eight full Bradbury days, there were more days where I got one or two of the targeted readings done. I just finished one story, but I will complete two more by the end of the year. I signed up for the Channillo series, which requires a story a month. I have more confidence I can do it than without the prior Bradbury effort.

The second and, to my mind, more important reason comes from having listened to How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams. In it, he rails against the idea of goals. His belief is goals condition you to consider yourself a failure. When you set a goal, you are saying, “I am defective in this way.” If you fail to achieve your goal you cement that idea of failure in your head.

I am not sure I buy Adams’s arguments against goals in their entirety. However, he is successful in cartooning and did predict the 2016 election. What I did find useful was Adams’s substitute for goals. He prefers thinking in systems. The difference is partially semantics. What is the real difference between having the goal of “write a story a week” and a system of “writing a story a week”? There are a few important ones. First, my goal was to “write a story a week from February second to December twelfth.” Either I do it or not. It continues even if it provides no positive growth and ends even if it does. A system of writing a story a week defines how I intend to work. I can choose to continue it as long as it helps my writing.

Is the difference huge? No, but adding a system mindset is a good choice. It takes the edge off of failures during the pursuit of a goal and instead gives value to being half done. If I read a story and read a poem, but miss finishing an essay, it is not a failed Bradbury challenge reading day. It is a day where I added to my store of stuff, as Bradbury put it, by working my reading system even if I did not check every box.

So, I haven’t failed. I will not meet my goals although I will report on progress over the next three months in continuing to write and read. I will stay with goals next year. However, I will work on making them as measures of systems conformance. Measures I will use to adjust my systems.

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