Posts Tagged 'responsibility'

Goals

There is a lot of talk these days (well, for a while now) about SMART goals. Goals should be S.M.A.R.T., or that is what people say. I get that it’s a good acronym (though I suspect it’s more of a backronym than an actual acronym). But I have issues with the whole thing.

First of all, the only consistent bits are the “specific” and “measurable” parts, but I feel like those are nearly redundant. Of course with an explanation you can see the difference, but how hard would it have been to combine those ideas into something that embodies both ideas? But then it wouldn’t fit into the neat little acronym, right?

And even if you don’t feel like those ideas can be joined together, do we really need to make sure every goal meets five criteria? And don’t forget that some authors add additional letters to the end (SMARTER, for example). I want to write goals, not go through checklists to make sure my goals meet five or seven or more criteria.

For various reasons I have been asked to write a lot of goals lately. And I’ve also been trying to help others come up with and meet goals that will help them improve. And that’s the thing: I feel like most goals should lead to some kind of improvement. Isn’t that the focus, anyway?

So I feel like the first criteria should be that goals focus on improvement and responsibility. Of course, we don’t need to include “improvement” in some kind of “how to write goals” piece, because that’s the purpose of a goal, not part of the design. But it is worth mentioning, in case someone is setting goals that might lead to some kind of degradation. Plus, when we take responsibility for our own shortcomings we set goals. We aren’t blaming circumstances, or our parents, or our spouse, or our coworkers, or our boss, we are saying, “I have something I need to improve because I am responsible for this.” And with that in mind, goals that you set for someone else will rarely be reached, unless they are heavily invested in all aspects of the goal. They must feel that the goal is necessary and be invested in generating the goal to the maximum allowable extent.

#1 Goals should be focused. You should be pretty specific about what category you want to set a goal in, how you plan to execute it, what you plan to do, and why you are doing it. Focus on something, find ways to remind yourself about the goal and the focus. This is something you’ll need to carry with you in the forefront of your mind through to reaching the goal. Focus is key.

#2 The next thing that I think a goal should be is reasonable. I don’t just mean this in the normal sense of the word (that the goal not be absurd or unreasonable). You should be able to reason about your goal, you should have reasons for your goal, and you should reason your way to the goal. Goals should be accompanied by reason from inception through to completion. Of course goals should also be reasonable in the sense of “not unreasonable or absurd.”

#3 The final thing I feel is an important part of goals is that they be restrictive. I know that one is a little odd (especially since it’s such a negative word most of the time), but hear me out. We grow though self-imposed restrictions and through work. We increase in self control by exercising restraint, which leads to work. We deny ourselves instant gratification in order to gain discipline. Nearly all good things in life come through some form of personal restriction and hard work. By restricting our options we gain freedom. There are a lot of potential actions I could take right now, but by removing most of them I am free to chose the best options. For example, I could commit any number of crimes right now, but by restricting myself to the list of possible actions in the “completely legal” list I am avoiding issues with the law (which could lead to even worse imposed restrictions) and I have a much shorter list of potential activities to choose from, which avoids overload. The brain is actually pretty good (most of the time) at removing options in order to more easily and quickly make decisions. And similarly, by occasionally imposing restrictions on ourselves with purpose we can grow more readily and easily. A favorite exercise among writers and one I enjoyed in college was to pick a common word and write a paper or story without using it. You might try writing a short story without including the word “the” or “and” or “then.” By doing so you grow, because you are forcing your brain to work harder than usual to complete a mundane task. Restrictions lead to growth, so long as they are reasonable (see #2). Reasonable here means your restrictions shouldn’t be too loose or too tight. Seek moderation.

Again, like with the mention of “improvement” above, I don’t feel that my mnemonic device need include the final bit of advice. Moderation, balance, simplicity, and elegance. These are fantastic criteria for anything, whether it be a goal or an interaction with your neighbor. I seek moderation, balance, simplicity, and elegance in all things, and I encourage others to do the same.

So while FRR isn’t a great acronym (Focused, Reasonable, Restrictive), I do feel that it is a better set of criteria for goals. Before finalizing any goal, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is the focus?
  2. What are the reasons for needing goals here? Why am I focusing on this? Why do I need the goal? What do I hope to accomplish? How can I reason my way to that accomplishment? (Don’t stop here, there should be lots of questions in the “reasonable” stage, all the way through to reaching the goal.)
  3. In what ways will I restrict myself in order to reach this goal?

The final bit of advice I have for goals is to keep records. Record your progress. Record your thoughts. Record your failures. Reason your way through the records from time to time and take assessment. Do you need to adjust course? Is the goal wrong? Is your methodology flawed? Are there any potential improvements you’re missing?

So while the three steps (FRR) are the most important bit when forming goals, the entire process looks like this:

  • Take responsibility and use goals for improvement.
  • Create goals that are Focused, Reasonable, and Restrictive.
  • Seek moderation, balance, simplicity, and elegance.
  • Keep records throughout the process.

If you do all of those things you will have success, which is the primary objective of any goal. If you do not taste the sweetness of success you will struggle with goals for the rest of your life. Start small (and simple), taste the success, and take small steps from there, setting goals along the way.

Dear John

I have two friends that have been dating for a while now. They are good for each other, but I have noticed something in them that many couples struggle with. So, I write this letter to my friend, but it could be for anyone:

Dear John,
I think you’re a great person, please don’t ever forget that. As I think back to the first time I met you, I remember not knowing quite what to make of you, and I remember discovering that you were someone I could like.

I also remember when I found out that you and our friend [Sally] began dating. At first I wasn’t sure what to think, then I saw how you loved her and how much she loved you. All of my worries disappeared. The most important thing between any two people in a would-be couple is love, and you two had it. Through the time that has passed since then, I have watched the two of you grow and work together. I am aware that you have sometimes spoken together about marriage (I think I asked you about that once) and I remember thinking it sounded like a great idea for you guys.

John, I know you are a good man doing his best to succeed in life, keeping up with work, keeping the girl happy, keeping yourself happy, etc. I know how difficult it can be to do all of this, because I have been doing it for a while and sometimes I’m not sure how I’m going to keep going.

The reason I wanted to write to you is to tell you one thing: Don’t be stupid.

This is good, free advice that may seem readily available (and it is) but it is often missed or misunderstood. I bring it up because I have noticed something amiss between the two of you, and especially in [Sally]. Keep in mind, I don’t know anything outside of what I can see, but I see much more than you think. I do not know everything, but I know relationships and I can see it when there is something wrong.

Again, I don’t know exactly what is going on with you guys, and I don’t feel that it is my business. However, I decided to write this for you because I wanted to send a few messages to the two of you, as well as sharing these ideas with others. I have noticed in [Sally’s] face and demeanor that she is sad. It’s the kind of sadness that happens when a guy is being a guy. Men are naturally jerks (as everyone knows) and as hard as we try to fight it, we will invariably be a jerk from time to time, mostly by accident without even realizing it, sometimes on purpose only to realize our mistake after it is too late.

Besides being jerks, I believe that men are absolutely stupid when it comes to women. Being naturally stupid jerks, we have a huge responsibility when it comes to relationships with women. This responsibility has two, simple parts: 1) love our woman more than we love ourselves and 2) remember that the man is always at fault when there is something wrong in the relationship.

I don’t care what happened. You are to blame. Keep in mind, you can only take this to a certain point, but it always needs to be the first reaction. It works as long as both the man and the woman of a relationship are of similar levels of maturity and have similar levels of commitment to the relationship.

Thus, if there is something wrong in your relationship (and I really think there is), you need to start by asking these two questions:

1. Am I about as mature as she is?
This question may seem difficult to answer, but as long as you both are close in age (within five years or so) and close in mental capacity (none of you is retarded or mentally ill) then the answer is yes. You two are both smart, so I know the answer is “yes” to this one.
2. Are we both 100% committed to this relationship?
You may need to gently, lovingly bring this up in conversation with her when you both are thinking straight and you aren’t mad at each other. If either of you has his/her heart somewhere else, then nothing can save the relationship except recommitting and trying again. I happen to know that her heart is in the relationship, and I thought yours was too. We’ll assume it still is, and the answer is “yes.”

If you can answer “yes” to both questions (and I know you can), then you are ready to fix the problem. Are you ready for the solution? Here’s the answer: take responsibility and fix it.

Do you want to lose her? If you are both at similar levels of maturity and mental capacity, and you both want the relationship to work, but there is a problem, there is nobody to blame but yourself. I don’t care if she started the argument, or you did, or the neighbor did. Once the two questions above are in the affirmative, it is your responsibility to make things work, not hers.

That’s right, not hers. Sure, you can go ahead and leave her, telling yourself, “If she were only willing to admit she was wrong, then we could still be together,” or, “If only she weren’t that way, then we could get along fine.” Is that what you want though? Don’t you love her? If she never admits she was wrong, or if she never changes that one little habit, you would still love her. Rather than trying to change things you have absolutely no control over, why don’t you take charge and do what you can to keep her? Don’t lose her, she’s special, beautiful and in love with you!

Over time, if you patiently accept her for who she is (mistakes, bad habits and all) she will eventually mature and grow past those little things. Besides, don’t you think you probably have things that you need to change too? Are you so perfect? What if it’s your mistakes and errors that she’s always getting mad about? So what? If she really loves you, and you are patient and loving with her, then she too will learn to look past those things on her own.

You are adults. You are an adult, and so is she. If you treat her like an adult (without trying to “help” her grow up), she will learn to see you as one too. This is part of the process of growing up. Everyone has to do it on their own. It takes time, support, and tremendous effort, but it can be done.

Don’t be stupid. Don’t let that woman go. Do everything in your power to keep her. Remember, do everything in your power to keep her. You cannot change her, that’s not in your power. You can change you. So do it. Just get it done.

I think you are both really wonderful. I have met a lot of people over the course of my life and travels, and people like you and [Sally] are not common. You will never find another woman as great as she is. Take my advice and stake your claim. Let your love for her tell the world that she is yours.

Good luck, and if you ever need someone to talk to, you know where to find me.

Your friend,
Brian


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