An inspiring story:
When the award-winning actor Kirk Douglas presented at the Academy Awards in 1997, it was a huge triumph for him. Not long before, he’d suffered a serious stroke that left him speaking with a stutter. To his friend and family, this moment was the biggest comeback of his career, because his medical team had doubted he’d ever speak again.
How did Douglas beat the odds? What was his secret? He set a single, clear cut goal and kept moving steadily toward it.
“The most crippling thing about a stroke is the depression,” he told “The Spectator,” a daily London newspaper. “When I first had my stroke and couldn’t speak, I wanted to crawl up to bed and cry. And then you get to the point where you say, ‘Enough of the self-pity.’ Then you get to work.”
The first step to his recovery was honestly analyzing his situation. The second step was setting a single, simple goal. Four Douglas, his four-year-old granddaughter became his motivator. After three months, he couldn’t speak as well as she could. So his first goal was clearcut: He wanted to speak as well as a four-year-old.
One day, after many hours of hard work, he said “Transcontinental.” His granddaughter couldn’t say it. “I knew I was at least moving ahead of a four-year-old,” he observed.
After reaching his first goal, Douglas persisted, working on bigger, tougher words until he had resurrected his speech and his life.
It takes grit to do what Douglas did: To suddenly be faced with a losing a strength—his speaking ability as an actor—and get past it. This story also shows the power of a single goal. Douglas started small and gradually regained his speech.
Setting simple goals in our writing makes sense, too. We can focus on finishing one story that’s been languishing and sending it out. We can focus on fixing one chapter that’s giving us problems. Or we can aim to pull together a list of the top 10 agents we’d like to query.
Simple goals push us gently out of our comfort zones. They spark our energy because they’re reachable. And when we achieve them, they spur us on—they help us keep going.
So let’s think big and start small as we all write on!
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