In a previous post titled, “Commitment”, I mentioned the importance of setting goals for oneself. I think it really helps to have in mind where you want to be or what you hope to accomplish. It gives you a sense of direction and something towards which to work and against which to evaluate yourself.
When I was teaching, at the beginning of each chapter, I had the kids write on an index card a goal that they had for that chapter. It had to be something specific like increasing their average, getting above a certain score on the next test, handing in more homework, coming in more often for extra help, participating more in class, being less of a distraction to others, not being late to class, and so on. At the end of the chapter, I would have them write on the back whether they thought they accomplished their goal and why or why not. Then they had to write a new goal for the next chapter. I tried to familiarize myself with some of their goals and praised or encouraged them when I saw the students making progress. I believe having the students set goals periodically did help at least some of the students who took it seriously to be more successful. They may not have accomplished all of their goals, but at least they were a little more conscientious about working towards them.
Establishing the goal is just the first step though. Then you have to figure out what will motivate you to make progress towards the goal, self-evaluate along the way, and reward yourself for progress in the right direction. You shouldn’t necessarily wait until you’ve reached your goal to be proud or reward yourself. Any steps in the right direction, even baby steps, are sometimes worth celebrating, depending on the goal.
This is all well and good, of course, when one can be in control of whatever needs to happen between setting a goal and reaching it. That is often not the case though, and we have to deal with external factors and depend on other people, for example. And there may be obstacles preventing us from moving forward that may take a while to overcome. That’s where patience and perseverance came into play. Feeling stuck in a rut or a particular situation that is all or mostly beyond your control is not fun. Sometimes we have to deal with feeling like we’re in limbo for a while, but in the meantime, hopefully the goal we’d like to achieve keeps us feeling positive or hopeful about things to come, helps us deal with our current situation, and/or gives us the extra incentive to do something differently. Like I said in a post titled “Adapting To Change,” sometimes we need to see the light at the end of the tunnel before we can move towards it, and that’s where setting goals can be helpful.
Even if we don’t actually achieve whatever goal or it takes longer than we anticipated, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it’s not reaching the goal that’s the most important thing but rather what we learn about ourselves and what character traits we develop or improve along the way. As Albert Einstein said, “If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal. Not to people or things.” It’s what you become by achieving your goals that matters just as much as whatever you hope to accomplish.
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