This month we’re talking about pushing limits, going that extra distance and accomplishing things you didn’t think possible. But what is a limit?
In calculus, a limit is a line that an equation approaches, getting infinitely closer without ever crossing. Now, I haven’t taken a math class since I was a senior in high school, so I won’t go much deeper than this. But from this basic definition, we can draw a clear metaphor between limits on a graph and our own personal limits.
We can get closer and closer to our limit, but really, we never pass it. This means we never really run out of steam, but we also can’t surpass it. Unless, of course, we push the limit farther. How do we do that though?
Set a Goal
One way to push your limits is to set a goal. But not just any goal! In order to work, goals need to be specific and measurable, so you can hold yourself accountable and actually accomplish what you set out to do. Part of the reason why so many people ditch their New Year’s resolutions halfway through January is because they only said, “I want to write more.”
How much more do you want to write? For how long? How will you measure your progress or success in accomplishing this goal? To be able to push limits, we have to understand what that actually means for us and how we intend to do it.
Some of our writing limits include our energy, motivation, creativity, or how much time we have. To push these limits, we need a strong, specific goal that takes these things into account so we don’t get trapped by them. Let’s take the goal, “I want to write more.” This is a great starting point, something most people can relate to. But now you need to make it specific to what you want to accomplish. Try using specific numbers or times, like “I will write for one hour a day” or “I’ll write 500 words a day.” This way, you have something to measure, which leads me to my next point...
Measure Your Progress
Now that you have a specific goal, you need a way to measure it. So write it down! If you set a word count for yourself, make a note of how many words you wrote that day. Same goes for the time limit. Set a timer or check the clock and make note of how long you write for. Make a spreadsheet or use a blank calendar to mark everything down, even if you were under your intended amount. Writing for 10 minutes when you wanted to do 30 is still better than not writing at all!
By tracking your progress, you’ll be able to see your growth in real time and feel proud of what you accomplish.
Understand that You’re Human
When crafting your goal, think about whether it is something that you can conceivably accomplish. While any goal you set takes effort and time and isn’t necessarily easy to fit into your schedule, take into account that you have other important aspects of your life that need your attention.
Most of us are students, employees, and/or parents, and we are all human beings with certain limits that we can’t push (like sleep!). So don’t set a goal of writing 3,000 words a day if you have a full-time job and a baby at home. It makes it much harder, even impossible, to accomplish your goal if you overload yourself this way.
You can still push your creative limits without sacrificing your other needs, and you’re always allowed to adjust your goal to find the perfect balance for your life.
Think About What Your Goal Means to You
Take some time to think about why this goal, pushing this limit, is important to you. What do you want to learn? How do you want to grow? Where do you want to go from here? Understanding why you want to set a goal will help you follow through and put in the effort. Don’t just do it to do it, do it because you want to!
Remember that we can never truly reach our limit, we can only continue to try and push it, practically and consciously. This is a continuous practice, so one single make-or-break goal won’t cut it. Allow yourself the option to change your goal as your needs and desires change. And the great thing about goals is that you can have more than one. Set a few, or have another one queued up for later. Happy limit pushing!
(Okay, the limit does exist, but I couldn’t not put a Mean Girls reference in here)
In this article I refer to some elements of the SMART goal setting method. If you want to learn more about good goal setting, check out the SMART Goal method here!
About the Author: Lindsey Odorizzi is currently working towards her BA in English and Creative Writing at Brandeis University. She lives in upstate New York with her parents and two sisters, and her cat, Sister. You can usually find her reading, crocheting, or watching Marvel movies. She hopes to be a writer and an editor in the future to continue to help others improve their writing.