Isn’t it funny how an idea latches onto you and follows you around? Sometimes an admonition from Sunday’s sermon wriggles into your workaday life during the subsequent week. Sometimes a new word discovered in a book you’re reading (“encomium,” anyone?) keeps popping up, and you wonder how you’ve missed it all your life. More often, a topic that you’ve discussed with a friend trails you like a friendly stray puppy, nipping your heels as you leaf through a magazine or surf the net.
Something like that happened earlier this week when I popped by our campus director’s office to say hello and ask for ideas about the best way to use Starfish. A visit to Allisha’s desk always motivates and inspires me, and this day was typical. Allisha was energetically tackling the dreaded PPE, HCC-speak for “Performance Planning & Evaluation.” She explained that she was considering her selection of three personal goals. While many of us might struggle to come up with three goals, I suspect Allisha’s challenge was to narrow hers down to only three. As she described some of the plans she has for our campus community, I realized just why she accomplishes so much: she understands how to set and use goals.
A day or two later, I opened the current issue of Real Simple to find “Mission Accomplished: Do you have a goal that has proven elusive to date? Here’s a foolproof plan for (finally!) achieving it.” Next, our pastor opened a wonderful homily, “Finish Strong,” by asking the congregation how many of us have an unfinished project or two. Later that day, as I played with my iPad instead of working toward my goals, I happened across “10 Apps That Will Extend Your Life” by—you guessed it—helping you attain your goals.
Clearly, something in the universe is demanding that I give some thought to goals. So I’m starting with a very personal list that I carry around in my wallet. As I talked with Allisha, I noticed how she intuitively understands that a goal needs to be specific and measurable. My 2014 New Year’s resolution list is pretty specific, and keeping the list in my wallet insures that I think about it regularly. This is an improvement over many previous years. Still, as I shared some of the items with Allisha, I realized that several of them fell into the squishy realm of intentions, or even wishes, rather than being measurable behaviors.
I really should know better. My C25K (couch to 5K) running app never tells me to “just go out and run until you’re tired.” Nope, it orders me to run for very specific intervals on specific days. What gets measured does, indeed, get done. I don’t suggest to my students that they should “just take a swing at this anatomy thing and see what you learn.” No, I have a specific schedule of reading, homework, quizzes, and exams, all of which are measured and time-sensitive.
In the coming weeks, I plan to become better at setting goals and, I hope, better at attaining them. I’ll invite you along to see what I’m learning. This week, I’m going to focus on turning my wishes and intentions into concrete goals. So “Call Mom more often” has just become “Call Mom at least twice a week.” (Are your reading this, Mom?) And “Clean Email” has just become “Spend 10 minutes per day tidying email until it’s done.”
Do you have any nebulous goals that could use a little firming up?