It’s amazing what sticks in your head from school, I remember a poster in our music department that had a picture of a flying arrow with the caption “If you aim at nothing you will hit it” on it and this message has remained with me ever since.
I’ve been thinking about goals and target setting recently and thought I’d put some thoughts down on paper, so here goes… The way I’ve always worked is to have one big vision of what I want my little world to be and how I’d like the world to be in general. By having this fixed vision in my head I am able to start my journey towards the overall goal and make steps towards it.
Creating your overall vision/goal does not need to be completely specific, many people would find this far too difficult and probably overwhelming, but consider the type of lifestyle you’d like to have; the type of people you want to be associated with, the types of activities you’d like to be doing, what you want in terms of family life etc and then work backwards from there.
Who remembers back in school when at the age of around 13/14 you had to make subject choices that would potentially affect the rest of your life? Most 13 year olds have no idea what jobs/careers are available – in fact neither do many 30 year olds! – so how could we expect them to make the 100% right call unless we were doing their dreaming for them? This is a difficult time and one way of assessing the best options is to think of the overall dream and then make selections that would help best to get you there.
They may not know that they want to be a bank clerc, a builder or a baker but they might know that they would ultimately like to work for themselves, live in a nice house with a family and be free to pursue their love of photography/fishing/painting/addyourpassionhere, and by working backwards from this point they can make conscious and subconscious decisions to make it happen.
My wife talks about manifesting what you want and making it happen – check out http://www.thetahealingedinburgh.com for more info on how to do this. This is very true and very achievable. I believe you need to know what you want first, I mean really know, and then believe that it can be done.
It’s all well and good saying we need to dream and have our ‘big goals’ but how practical is that in the real world that we’re living in today? Whether we believe it is doable or not might be the difference in making it happen. If you don’t know where you are going how can you possibly know if you ever get there?
One analogy I thought of recently while driving was that it always seems to take longer when you’re driving to a new place but then it seems to go quicker on the way back, or even the second or third time you visit there. I believe that this is because we know where we are going and have become more familiar with the idea and this makes it eaiser for the brain to process and make real.
An idea that has stuck with me since I was around 14 was something that a basketball coach said to me. He told me that everyday we either take a step forward or a step backwards, we never stay in the same place. I really liked this, it made sense to me and is something I have tried to live by (not always taking a step forwards by any means!).
I feel that if we can couple this practical action with our overall ‘big dream’ it can become the path we need to meet our goals. One thing is missing though, assessment/reflection/objective evaluation. If we are to truly understand whether or not we have taken a forward step we must spend a small amount of time each day, preferably at the end, reflecting on what we have done, what we felt we did well and what we will try to do better tomorrow. This could be anything; how we performed at work, how we dealt with people, how well we exercised patience, how much encouragement we gave to others. Doing this and actively thinking about it not only makes us better people (reflective practitioners) but this will help us take that precious step towards our major goal.
One practical example for me is my fitness routine. I have to set my myself a specific target of what I want to achieve (a big goal that helps to meet my overall goal of being healthy and happy) and then write down a realistic programme (smaller steps) that I can follow and tick off (very satisfying – think ‘to do list’) as I complete each session. This helps to motivate me whilst preventing me from becoming overwhelmed by thinking of how far I am from the big goal because the sessions are seen as mini challenges – how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. DISCLAIMER: Please do not eat elephants!
If I complete a session this area of my life is a step forward, however if I have an off day (which we all do!) and end up eating something unhealthy or skipping a session I might consider this a step back on the road to that specific goal. This does not necessarily mean that it is a step back on the road to my overall goal, merely in this part of my life. I may well have taken steps forward in my relationships with others, with tasks achieved at work etc. and as such do not need to beat myself up or give up! Assess-Plan-Do-Asess-Plan-Do.
When I am teaching pupils to design, develop and manufacture products/solutions we start off by assessing what we need it to do/achieve, what the key features need to be, who is likely to use it and what their needs would be. From here we can then break the concept down and then build it back up one piece at a time.
Few 14-18 year olds have much practical experience of engineering, woodwork etc so to expect them to know exactly how a product would be made is not realistic and to start with them requiring these details is a non-starter. So the approach is for them to understand the overall aims of the project and then once they have a range of developed concepts we can work together to break down the best solution in real detail and look at the practical steps that need to be taken in order to realise it – appropriate materials, how it would be shaped/joined, what processes are currently available to us, the most appropriate finish for it – we can then walk the path together, teaching and learning as we go and never forgetting about the bigger picture of what we want the outcome to be.
So, once you are lucky enough to figure out what it is that you want, for goodness sake aim for it… I guarantee that if you are willing to build your own path there you will hit it!