In a departure from my usual reflective and observational format, I’m going out on a limb today by announcing a plan I’ve set myself. It’s based on a chapter in psychologist Richard Wiseman’s new book :59 Seconds. Think a Little, Change a Lot. This is a wonderful book which debunks many of the more insidious and widespread fallacies that drive the so-called self-help industry. Professor Wiseman simply and clearly sets out alternatives for the many popular, positive thinking methods, which he shows can be hugely counter-productive and even downright demoralizing.
I’ve recently found myself in need of an effective way of keeping focus amidst the numerous projects and people (including my children) vying for my attention. So I’ve decided to give the professor a run for his money and see what transpires.
In his chapter on motivation, Wiseman describes five principles that emerge from extensive scientific studies into how people successfully motivate themselves, keep focus and reach their goals. These are the five principles he sums up:
1. Successful people have a clear plan, a specific goal. And they break their plan down into a series of steps, or sub-goals.
2. Successful people tend to make their plans known to family, friends and colleagues. This makes it a lot harder to quietly abandon their plan without anyone noticing.
3. Successful people focus on the benefits of achieving their goals, rather than on the risks involved in not achieving them.
4. Successful people deliberately reward themselves for achieving steps along the way, and of course for achieving the goal itself.
5. Successful people often articulate their plans in writing, in very specific terms including detailed actions to be taken and deadlines to be met.
In my case, my concrete goal is to write a screenplay for a feature-length animated family movie, based on an idea my creative partner and I dreamed up about a year and a half ago. This idea already exists in the form of a first draft script for a thirty minute short, but I’m taking it right back to the drawing board and redesigning it as a feature.
I’ve already started work, using the old cork board and index cards method, and my first concrete goal is to finish an outline by next Monday (27 July). The following four steps in my plan are: writing a treatment, writing a first draft, getting feedback on the first draft and then doing a rewrite.
In a concerted, albeit virtual attempt to publicly embarrass myself into getting the work done (i.e., principle number two), I’ll be posting about my progress here on the blog, as well as on Twitter.
And now I really need to get cracking on that outline ...