Wildly Improbable Goals

My friend and mentor, Martha Beck, talks about goal setting in one of her books (Find Your Own North Star). She calls her goals WIGs: Wildly Improbable Goals. By WIGs, she means goals that are scary-exciting. The ones that feel almost impossible, but wow, if one of them happened, wouldn’t that be cool?

I’ve been setting WIGs for years now. At one point in my life, running a marathon was a WIG—now I’ve done eight. Becoming a life coach was a WIG—and I’ve been a life coach for almost ten years now. For 2012, I looked over my list of WIGs and wrote some new ones. I noticed a few that I’d really like to accomplish in 2012.

One of my WIGs for 2012 is to become a published author (and by that I mean I want to be paid for my writing).

My WIG is intentionally vague, unlike the goals in my weekly and monthly planner. The reason I left my WIG vague is to give my WIG room to become. As my friend, Shaman Evelyn Rysdyk says, “See your prayer already answered, then let go of the how.”

Right in the middle of the path to a WIG is a place where magic happens. You can map out the first few steps on the path and you can also work backwards from the WIG and map out the last few steps on the path. But in the middle is unknown territory.

For example, I’ll got back to my marathon WIG. In the summer of 1992, I started medical school in Brooklyn and decided that now was the time. I mapped out a training plan, bought running sneakers and started to run. I pictured myself standing at the start of the NYC Marathon, ready to run, and I saw myself crossing the finish line to cheers and applause. I started to train, but it was very slow going.

Then the magic happened in the middle, the part I never could have planned. I met a woman, Chris, in November of that year who was in my med school class. She was also a runner, and she had done two marathons. She became my running partner (at first I would run a mile to the park with her, she would loop the park while I walked, and then we’d run back to school together). She also became my best friend and she gave me a piece of running wisdom that I used to keep myself going over and over.

“If you can run three miles, you can run six, and if you can run six miles, you can run twelve. If you can run twelve miles, you can run twenty-four, and that’s practically a marathon!”

Now this may sound crazy to you, but it was what my soul needed to hear. I’d never been an athlete and I was afraid I couldn’t finish the marathon. Hearing those words helped build my confidence and having a training partner helped even more. The following year Chris and I both completed the New York City marathon and we’ve run together many times in the years since.

So I’ve mapped out my first steps toward becoming a published author, and since this is a writer’s blog, I’ll list them here:

  • Record writing accomplishments 2011 (It’s always good to start with a celebration!)
  • Create or join a critique group that meets weekly (by end of January).
  • Find 3 contents I can enter and commit to them (deadlines in calendar).
  • Research 3 magazines I can pitch to (one a week for three weeks).

These are the first steps that feel right to me. I can also see the last few steps to achieving my WIG (Did you just see me deposit that check?!). I’m going to keep working hard and I know the magic will happen somewhere in the middle to support the accomplishment of my Wildly Improbable Goal.

What’s one of your WIGs?

11 thoughts on “Wildly Improbable Goals

  1. I find “Wildly Impossible Goals” are the very things that fuel my fire. There is nothing wrong with setting small goals. They are the kind of stuff that keeps us feeling secure, because they’re do-able. Truly, minute accomplishments add up over the long haul, make us feel competent. They keep us moving along.

    Yet…honestly…they’re boring.

    “So what?”, I say to myself, “Is that all you’re good for?”
    The answer is always the same – “No, you can do BETTER, so REACH for it!”

    New Years resolutions are worthless unless you are setting goals that fall into the impossible or nearly impossible realm. They make you stretch, work harder and, as you said, they may “feel almost impossible” but if you take inspiration from all the great people who’ve made great accomplishments, isn’t that part of it?

    My book feels like an impossibility right now. I’m still reaching anyway. Learning WordPress, how to blog, building an author’s platform, and doing all of it while writing and trying to earn more doing that…um, can I panic now?

    “Scary-exciting” is an understatement Diane! Perfect understatement. 🙂
    I wish you all the best in reaching possible, nearly impossible and impossible goals in 2012!

    • Hi Laura,
      Thanks for your comment. I’ve always been a goal-setter, but I definitely enjoy the excitement I get from reaching for a goal that seems almost impossible. I’m rooting for you and your WIG! Good luck with your book and everything scary-exciting that goes along with it!


  2. Love this.. i am still working on little goals like touch that pen to paper EVERY day! But I also agree that if you set your sights way up there – your head is aimed in the right direction and you are just so much more likely to move in that direction.. I should listen to my own advice (laughter) c

    • Hi ceciliag,
      Thanks for your comment. I love goals like “touch pen to paper every day.” Those are the habits that allow us to reach the almost-impossible goals. The WIGs are just more fun to think and dream about! Let me know when you figure out what your next WIG is!

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  4. Dianne,
    You’ve inspired me–thank you! Love the marathon WIG and the “see your prayer already answered, then let go of the how” quote. I’m working on my WIGS and will let you know how it goes–I’m in a writing program at the YMCA and aiming for publication of my humor articles. Can an aspiring writer from Central New York be a part of the New Hampshire Writers’ Network? Hope so!
    Thanks again, and good karma to all of you in your efforts.

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