Life Focus Center

Effective Solutions for Life's Challenges


- by Dr. Elaine Kindle, Ph.D. -

Henry Ford once said, "Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right." His words containtruth, but are not the full picture. After all, if we don't believe we can accomplish some particular thing inlife, then certainly we won't even bother to go after it.

Our beliefs about ourselves set the foundation for what we will be able to achieve in life. But, before we canset goals, we may need to look at and challenge the beliefs we have about our abilities. Often we sell ourselvesshort. Sometimes it is enough to say to ourselves, "I'm not sure I can accomplish this, but I want to giveit a try." Interestingly, once we commit to achieving goals, we tend to find ways to complete them. If ourgoals are not realistic for our talents, or our budget, we find that we can discover alternate attainable solutions.Flexibility is essential in goal setting.

Our goals are to be guidelines to give us direction in achievement; they are not chains to weigh us down. Thereis an old saying, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there." Or, to say itanother way, "If you don't know where you are going, all roads will be the wrong roads." If you knowwhere you are going, you may take short detours, and even backtrack momentarily, but at the next junction, youget back on track again toward your goal.

Meanwhile, life changes over time for all of us, both in circumstances and in personal growth. Common sense tellsus that our goals change as we do.

Much has been written about goal-setting. Not only are there books and tapes about achieving goals, but also, theInternet is loaded with information about this subject. Here are ten basic principles about goal-setting that consistentlykeep reappearing:

10 Basic Principles about Goal-Setting:

1. Goals must be about the self, and for the self. We can only set goals for ourselves, not for others. If Susanwants to loose 20 pounds, or wants to quit smoking, she can set that goal only for herself, not for anyone else.Also, those 20 pounds need to come off because she wants them to come off, not because her husband or anyone elsewants her to loose weight.

2. Stretch, challenge, and modify thinking. Begin with a dream of what could be. Ask, "Why not?" Sandywanted a house on the beach, but couldn't afford it. She expanded her thinking and discovered she could afforda condo near the ocean. She would have settled for something less had she not been open to think about alternateattainable solutions.

3. Base goals on personal values and beliefs. Amelia may be paying for her tuition by working in a topless bar,but that doesn't mean the same job might be acceptable to you, regardless of how much money you could earn. Weare much more successful in life when our goals match our personal values and beliefs.

4. Goals must be believable. If Sarah, age 34, wanted to finish her GED, and knew it was within her ability, inspite of having three young children at home, she would be able to find a way.

5. Goals must be realistic. If Linda can't carry a tune, it's not realistic for her to want to sing opera. Shemay be able to take voice lessons, improve her ability, and be able to sing in a choral group, but she does nothave the basics to sing solos, no less opera.

6. Goals must be clear and concise. Evelyn knew she wanted to take a class. But she was vague about where, when,or in what subject. She needed to clearly and concisely define her goal in order to meet it. Finally she decidedto take a basic computer class on Saturday mornings at the local ROP. Once she had crystalized her goal, she wasable to complete it.

7. Goals must be measurable and manageable. Peter decided to set a goal to "be healthier" this year.He valued exercise so decided that working out would be a good way to do meet his goal. However, he needed to breakdown his plan into measurable and manageable steps. He worked long hours every day, so figured out that he wouldbegin by working out one hour a day three times a week, after work. After a few modifications of his original plan,he was able to adjust his routing to include four days a week, and to work out for 1 ½ hours on Saturdaymornings.

8. Goals must have a target date of completion. Susan wants to loose 20 pounds. It's realistic for her presentsize. She has clearly defined what she wants. She can plan on using one to two pounds a week as her measure. Basedon her calculations, she then can set a target date for the beginning of summer. This date gives her room to looseslowly, and to have weeks when the scale might move in the wrong direction. Conversely, if she wanted to be readyfor the summer season, she could "count backwards" and from there determine that, from the first of Februaryto the first of June she had 16 weeks with which to work. She could then set her goal more rigorously at two poundsa week. This plan still allows her some weight fluctuation and meeting her goal in a timely way.

9. Goals need to be reviewed, re-analyzed, and re-set. Sometimes our goals change because we have changed. Sometimesour circumstances create the need for change. Mark planned to open his own business in a computer connected field.His plan met all of the eight steps listed above. But two years later, his plans stopped. The fast-paced changesof the computer industry made his plan outdated. Meanwhile, Mark realized that he, himself, had changed, and withhis growth, his goals had shifted. He re-analyzed the situation, and from that, came up with new goals that betterreflected his dreams.

10. Write goals down often. When we write our goals down we are more likely to reach them than if we don't. Writingour goals allows time for us to reflect on what we want, to commit more fully to our goals, to remember what itis we want, and to challenge our thinking. Expect goals to change over time. Change is part of the process.

"Our goals are meant to guide us, not to chain and bind us." Elaine Kindle