Tuesday, November 30, 2010

- reaching the finish line -

I'm sure everyone has big goals they'd like to accomplish someday. Here's what I learnt from NaNoWriMo (and other delicious sources):

Visualize-able End Goal

You have to know what success looks like or you will never be able to know whether you've really hit your target. For NaNoWriMo, success was defined in an incredibly straight-forward way: write 50,000 words in November. Not everything will be that clearly scoped out for you - in most cases, you will have to define how success looks like yourself.

Action-able Steps

You have to know what is the immediate next step for your project. This may require brainstorming to figure out all the potential steps, and then analyzing which step is the best one to take. For NaNoWriMo, I had to figure out a general outline of the plot and sketch out my main characters. Then I simply wrote 1,667+ words a day.

Steps can be adjusted. When I could had nothing left to write about, "planning" replaced "writing" as my next step. When I lost ten days to non-stop overtime at work, I had to replace "1,667+" with "3,000".

Small Pieces Relate-able to Big Picture

Tying the two concepts above, you need to be able to keep in mind the overall goal when you work on your next action. Seeing a visual or numeric representation of your overall progress can be helpful here. This was easy for NaNoWriMo: I simply updated my word count every night and saw it slowly increasing to 50,000. A progress meter can be really motivating, which leads me to the last point...

You Have to Want it Badly Enough

If you want to complete something - as opposed to simply experimenting - you have to really want the end goal. Seeing your progress is worthless if you do not care about where that progress leads to. Novelty wears off quickly. Writers for NaNoWriMo are warned that the second week was the toughest and I can attest to that.

And that's it! Time for me to try this out on my next project.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

- judging ourselves -

We are our own biggest supporters.

We believe that our strengths are unique and that our failures are either 1) not our own fault or 2) extremely common. Your classmate's high grades aren't that impressive - you could easily match those if you wanted to. Who cares if you don't get much done at work? Not like anyone else is putting up extra effort - and even if they did, they probably don't have as much going on as you do.

We fall victim to self-serving bias all the time. An interesting experiment my psych prof once recommended: take out a notepad and jot down every time you make an excuse for a failure. You'll be amazed at how long the list will get.

And that's exactly why self-serving bias not a problem: our self-esteem would be battered without that spiffy little mechanism. High self-esteem makes us think we can be great things. High self-esteem makes us think we can achieve big things. And if we believe we can do it, our chances of succeeding actually increase.

The key to balancing is to be our own biggest critic.

After all, criticism is easier to swallow when it comes from yourself.