Setting *Ridiculous* Goals vs *Simple* Daily Habits

Failing to meet my new year resolutions taught me a valuable lesson.

Setting *Ridiculous* Goals vs *Simple* Daily Habits
Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Failing to meet my new year resolutions taught me a valuable lesson.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Set goals.

Break down the goals into actionable steps. Plan how and when you’ll carry each stage out of your big goal.


That’s how we make dreams come true, right?

But if it were truly that easy, won’t all of us have already achieved all that we ever dreamed of?

It’s the planning phase, the gap between the setting goals and executing them part. This is where most of us get stuck.

I began 2024 on a high note. I set a couple of ridiculous goals, following the technique outlined by Greg Isengerg. The process felt liberating and exhilarating — 

  • I set goals for things I normally won’t dream of achieving in a year. I aimed to publish four books this year.
  • I broke down those goals into actionable steps spread out through the year, that gave me a roadmap of what I need to do every month.
  • I set my travel dates accordingly so I can be all set to achieve my ridiculous goals.

Part one: The beginning

Based on my plans, January 2024 was the “Outlining” phase, the time I’d spent finalizing the chapter outlines for my book.

It began awesome. I took up a few courses on how to convert a story into shapes, and how to subsequently outline each chapter of my novel. It was a learning experience, and I had a lot of fun.

For the first 21 days, it felt as if I could go no wrong.

Every morning I’d wake up and dedicate two hours to ideating my story. I made progress in leaps, and by the third week, I had a rough outline ready.

Converting my story into shapes and outlining all 8 chapters (Image by the author).

Part two: The break

January was also the time I went to visit my parents after a year. Even though I started the month high on motivation, towards the end, I barely had time to spend a couple of minutes with my journal to outline my story.

This happened because the home visit was long due. My parents had planned a lot of fun outings with me, and I didn’t have the heart to cancel on them for work.

The result?

February began, and I’d only outlined one chapter out of the eight I’d planned.

This wasn’t good for my self-esteem. The words of self-doubt I’d worked so hard to silence came back in waves — 

Maybe novel writing isn’t for me. I’m not cut out for this author life. 

This is a pattern I know so well. I published by first book in 2018. Since then, I’ve only published 4 books in 5 years. It’s not that I haven’t written any more in the interim. I have. I’ve had so many brilliant novel ideas I started working on, then discarded after a few weeks or months of work.

Some were in the idea phase. Some were half-written. And one was a complete novel with 87k+ words that I never had the guts to publish.

So what went wrong all these times?

Part three: The analysis

I’ve always been haunted by a crippling fear of failure. 

If I try something (like writing a novel), I know it might fail. And if it does, the unrealistic standards I’ve set for myself won’t be met.

I’d be disappointed and bitter.

And what’s the easiest way to avoid this bitterness? Don’t try, so you don’t fail.

I know it sounds bullsh*t, but that’s how I convinced myself the novel writing game isn’t for me. 

I wallowed for a few days in self-pity, but once that wave was done, I came back to my senses. I understood that no matter how much fun it is to sign up high-paying freelance clients, my true passion as a writer is fiction. There are so many stories and ideas inside my brain, that I won’t be able to live in peace until I’ve put them on paper and out in front of the world.

Novel writing is indeed my goal. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was the pace and the strict deadlines I imposed on myself.

While it’s perfectly possible to write 1 chapter in 1 week, it wasn’t possible for me to finish ideating the entire novel in a month.

That’s when I understood a lot of the steps which I took for granted at the start of the year, were actually not in my control. I had no way of predicting when the good ideas would come. All I could do was put my head down and work every day. Which I would have done, had I not chosen that time to visit my parents.

This brings me to the second conclusion I had from this experiences: Unexpected plans, illnesses, family visits, etc. happen. A lot of the times, you won’t even know what lies around the next corner. That’s how even the best-laid plans go to waste.

If nothing is truly in our control, is it even worthwhile setting goals?

Part four: The solution

I started 2024 on a high, but by the end of February, I was close to burning out. I spent several days blindly going through the motions of my routine, without taking any strides forward.

Why did I feel so lost and disconnected? Because I was disconnected from my heart’s true purpose: telling the stories she was born to tell.

This helped me come to conclusion that I’m sure will shape the rest of my future: Making ridiculous goals is fine, but you should know your limits.

Heaping tons of expectations on yourself will only lead to a creative burnout. I suffered one in 2022, and I know nothing in the world is worth going through one.

You feel like you’re useless and worth nothing for so many days. And after a lot of self-talk and deep inner work, when you’re ready to face the world again, you realize you’ve taken too long a break. The traction you’d worked so hard to build is lost. Starting now is equivalent to starting from scratch.

I didn’t want to face a burnout again. And so, I worked on some expectation management.

Part five: The way forward

I have a new routine now. 

Every morning after I wake up, I complete my workout and breakfast. Then, I take my journal and sit in the sunlight for a couple hours.

During these two hours, I don’t do any “work.” Instead, I leaf through the pages and note my ideas down.

I’ve finally understood publishing four novels this year is not important to me. What’s important is that I must tell at least one story.

And currently, I’m focussing on that. 

There’s no deadline or strict schedule. All I’ve promised myself is, “I’ll spend two hours each day on my story.”

That’s it. That’s the only thing in my control.

Takeaway: Goals vs Daily habits

This isn’t a story about writing a novel.

Rather, it’s about setting goals, planning out the small steps, and sticking around long enough to see your plans to fruition.

When you make plans, it’s easy to get lost in the intricacies of your time blocking. A lot of unforeseen circumstances might come up that would totally derail your plans.

When that happens, it’s easy to slip into the abyss of self-doubt. That’s where most people abandon their dreams.

If you want to rise above these all, you have to remind yourself that setting goals is an unrealistic expectation in itself. How can you have the audacity to set deadlines when so many elements are out of your control?

The alternative is to set daily habits. Here are some examples:

  • I’ll spend a few minutes every day stretching
  • I’ll walk 10k steps five days a week
  • On weekends, I’ll cook my own food instead of ordering out
  • I’ll work on a Medium article every day from 5 to 6 PM.

When you set goals, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

When you set daily habits, you’re making tiny promises to yourself every day. Compounded over years, these tiny promises will determine the shape the rest of your life takes.

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