Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tracking Progress

The last step in goal achievement is to identify our results.  Are we incrementally achieving what we set out to achieve?  This has always been the hardest step for me because it means that the goal that I set needs to be quantifiable. 

If we were taking a journey, our goal would be to get to a final destination but that journey is also made up of sub-destinations.  We could track a unit of measurement:  the inches we travel, the feet, the yards, or the miles.  We could track established milestones, ones that previous travelers have placed such as actual milestones, the next city on the map, crossing a state line, or reaching the highest peak on a mountain range.  If our destination was California and we lived in Colorado, we might report when we arrived in Vail, Grand Junction, Salt Lake City, Utah, Wendover, Nevada or we might report when we crossed over the Rocky Mountains, the Wasatch Front,  and the Sierra Nevadas.  

If our goal was to improve our own fitness level as we journeyed, we might track our heart rate, distance/elevation, or calories burned per unit of time (minute, hour, day).  We also could track the amount of weight we could lift or the distance we could stretch if our goals were to increase our physical strength or flexibility.

I recently watched a TV movie called, “Magic Beyond Words: The JK Rowling Story” with my kids.  It is about the life of J.K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter.  Her goal was to write a story and get it published.  So how could she quantify a journey like that?  Stories have been written and published before but her story hadn’t.  Many writers have actually developed a type of map that outlines how to write a story.  Some of these “how to” books focus on developing characters and scenery.  Others focus on plot development.  Still others focus on grammar.  Deciding on which Cause’s “how to” book works best for us will help us track our progress. 

Even if a published writer has not written a “how to” book, the patterns in his (or her) written story serve as a template for our own story.  We may even choose a few different qualities or story devices used by different writers.  But if we are going to track our progress, we need to be able to visualize the journey from beginning to end.  Prescribed story devices need to somehow progress the plot from beginning to end, not just be brilliant ways of illuminating a character or a setting in a static state.

From my own study of the structure of story, I have identified some key milemarkers:

1.  Identify the main character’s (MC) Desire or Conflict.

2.  Identify the MC’s Cause—Dumbledore, Gandolf, Obi-Wan Kenobi, etc.

3.   Identify the journey the MC needs to take to obtaining her Desire or to resolve her Conflict.

4.  Identify how the MC knows she is on the right road and how she knows she is deviating.  How does her Cause communicate this to her?  What Conflicting Causes get in the way?

5.  Identify the Results, the milemarkers, the quantifiable goals.  How is the MC progressing towards her destination?

It’s hard to be a writer because we are both the MC of our own story with our own goal (to write a complete story) AND we are writing about someone else’s story who has another goal (Desire/Conflict), Cause, Process (journey), Effects, and Results.

If we’re reading a story, it would be boring if all the steps to accomplish the goal were laid out in front of us in quantifiable detail.  Half the fun is the mystery.  How does the MC figure out where to go, how to do it, how to overcome obstacles, and who to trust?  A story usually shows the MC making wrong turns on her  pathway and then figuring it out and eventually righting herself through a climax and into a triumphant ending.  Yet as the author, we are required to know.

So in tracking our results we need to ask ourselves the following questions:  How can we quantify our goal?  Since our Cause has already obtained the goal we’re seeking to obtain,  how did he progress along his journey?  Where are we at right now on that journey?  What have we already accomplished?

This step in goal achievement nourishes our motivation.  If we recognize that we are achieving our goal incrementally, we experience hope.  We know this is a team effort.  We recognize where our Cause has helped us.  We recognize where the very adversities we have been required to go through have helped us.  Trust is created.  Wisdom is obtained.  And if we’ve been able to come this far, we can keep going!

So think about your goal?  How is the progression to obtain it quantifiable?  How can you measure your progress?  What are the milestones you have already achieved?