Posts Tagged 'self'

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.

All About Me

Who am I? What am I doing? Where am I going?

Ah, the classic questions. It seems that everyone either has their own version of the answers or they openly acknowledge that they do not have the answers. If you put people into respective groups based on this assumption, there are those who know and those who do not.

I would generally consider myself to be in the group of those who know. I say this because if you ask me who you are, what you are doing and where you are going, I will have clear, true answers for you. As for me, the general truths I am familiar with (those I would share with you to answer those three questions) still apply so I am safe to say that I am one of those who knows.

But am I really? I know the answers to those questions, I understand them, I have personal convictions that run deeper than than a wishing well and testify to the truth of what I believe. I don’t have an issue with my beliefs. I have issues with me.

Here’s where it gets a little complicated. If you’re not willing to sit with me and explore some of the vastness that is my persona, my complex and my enigma, then I suggest you stop reading, leave a nice comment about what a silly person I am and go find something light to read (like The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank).

Where’s the problem?

Now that’s an interesting question. I would say that I am the problem, but in reality I know that either I created the problem or I was born with it, like one of those personal challenges we’re given to struggle with and try to overcome while on Earth (you know, like some people are blind, others only have one leg, and so forth).

Back to the question of where the problem is, I think it’s safely tucked away somewhere inside me. The most likely place inside me that you might find the problem is in my head. No, the problem is not in a sinus or a nostril, I’m pretty sure it’s in my brain, my mind, my head.

What is the problem?

Well, I stated it simply above saying that I have issues with myself. What are a few of those issues?

Would you like a bullet list, a numbered list or some stories to illustrate? First, I’ll just start listing a few off in paragraph form and see where that leads me.

I annoy people, and I especially annoy myself. I annoy myself the most when I am annoying someone else, and horribly so when I am annoying someone I care about. In fact, there is an inverse relationship between how much I care about a person and how normal I can be around that person. For example, people who I don’t really care about may never realize that I have issues. On the other hand, people I hold dear and close probably wonder occasionally if I might benefit from a little professional help.

The source of this problem eats at me. It eats at me because I haven’t been able to find it as of yet. Perhaps this frivolous inquiry and these superfluous thoughts on digital paper can help me in my quest to eradicate the issue. (How do you pronounce that word, by the way? SuPERfluous? Or SUperFLuous? I once preferred to pronounce suPERlative as SUperLAtive because I thought it sounded better. It does have the word “super” in it, so logic dictates that the prefix should not get swallowed up in the pronunciation of the whole word, but should retain its identity through clear pronunciation of each part as they were before being joined together. Whichever rule is followed, I think it would be nice if we could just follow the same rule for any word containing the prefix “super” and avoid any confusing pronunciations due to inconsistencies.)

(Oh, and I prefer to throw any idiotic irregularities in our language to the French. It’s a nasty language where words have twelve or more letters and only one or two syllables.)

Let’s take a look at my class environment, for example. At first I didn’t care about anyone there, and I was largely successful at remaining transparent and unnoticeable – not annoying. Now, though, I have made a friend in class (that’s right, only one) and I seem to be on her nerves about a third of the time (I was going to say half, but I don’t think I can take credit for all of that).

(Plus, she’s not actually annoyed at me half the time, most of that time I just think she is.)

What’s worse, is that other people in class seem to get annoyed at me too.

Please don’t think me to be a simpleton. Many people make that mistake. I am aware of far more possibilities for explaining these behaviors than I am willing to write out, and some of them you would probably never even consider. You know why? Because I do social things the same way computers play chess. Basically, I take a look at where I am (the whole situation), calculate every possible reason for why things might be that way, how they may have gotten there and where they could possibly go next; and I do a very robotic, detached and mathematical evaluation of the situation based on my data. It’s like I’m not even entirely human (but I’m not the only one).

An example of just one of my thoughts about the classroom situation (outlined above) follows:
Perhaps the situation is entirely a product of my own perception. I could be creating something out of nothing just because I am beginning to take emotional stock in the situation. (Details and variations of the same idea omitted for brevity’s sake.)

I share this one because that is the answer my logical mind has selected as the one I am most likely to hear (or any number of variations on it, which I also have automatically iterated in my mind) from someone trying to give advice and insight into the situation. Each possible interpretation of a situation has detailed information attached to it along with every variation or mutation, and all of that is thoroughly cross-referenced and cataloged with everything else I know and have observed in life. The relationships between bits of information in my brain form spontaneously and painstakingly and comprise an elaborate, multidimensional network.

Making sense of social, emotional or even logical events in my life requires a maddening amount of mental effort. I literally exhaust myself physically performing these calculations all of the time. I am a very skinny person, yet I eat more than (or at least on par with) the average guy my age. Doctors have told me I must have a high metabolism, but I tend to think my brain burns all of the calories I consume just to get through the day.

Because of the physical nature of my mental activity, I prefer routine and regularity to help keep a steady pace. Abnormalities and irregular events tend to disrupt me more drastically than I wish they would, especially when I am under any stress that may be preventing my mind from adapting to the change.

I do not like that I am a low energy, bland person either. Some people may perceive me as less than bland, but they are not around me as often as I am. I bore myself, sometimes even to tears. I get excited about things, but not the same way most people do. I get happy about things, but I do not show happiness in a way that allows others to see how happy I am. Granted, the way I show happiness about one thing may differ greatly from the way I show happiness for something else. That doesn’t mean that I am more or less happy about one thing than the other thing. It just means that I express my feelings differently for different things.

I complain about this because people I perceive to be “normal” (as in, people who share traits and tendencies with others around them in a manner that leads me to view their type as the majority and those whose traits and mannerisms differ greatly from the majority then fall into minority groups I call “abnormal”) tend to have predictable reactions for happiness regardless of what has made them feel happy. “Normal” people tend to show excitement, happiness, sadness, anger and other emotions in varying degrees, and they do so in proportion to the degree to which they are feeling the emotion. I just can’t seem to emulate this behavior. I can’t even crack a half descent smile for photographs, and my birthdays must be horrifying for potential gift givers because I just can’t seem to get my body and facial elements to work together to send the same message I deliver verbally – “Thank you, I really love your gift.”

I don’t like unanswered questions, unsolved problems or unfinished work; all of which I have an abundance of all of the time. I enjoy too many hobbies for any one of them to be enough. It’s like having a dozen or more favorite, I mean absolutely favorite, foods and trying to decide what to eat for just one absolutely perfect dinner. You couldn’t possibly finish every dish if you decide to include all twelve favorite dishes, but you can’t think of which ones could possibly be omitted from the perfect meal. Such is the nature of my hobbies and interests. There are too many to be satisfying.

There is plenty more I could mention, but you’ve gone far enough with the conclusions you are drawing about me. Yes, my over-active brain has been tracking every possible conclusion a person could draw from every thought, every word, every sentence, every idea I have shared here. While you will not come to every one of those possible conclusions, the numbers are not looking good. You might feel inclined to suggest that I edit some things out then, so as to reduce some of that effect.

Nah, I’ll leave it as it is. If you liked me before I find it unlikely that there is enough reason here to stop liking me now.

On to something more positive to wrap this up… for now. This is something I find very therapeutic so I will probably revisit this topic in the future.

Is there any hope in sight?

My brain is beginning to chatter at me like an uncontrollable, unintelligible man from India. If that little man doesn’t quiet down soon, I may have to discontinue my writing for the evening and leave this question unanswered.

Hope? Yes, I always believe in hope. I believe people can change and people can overcome. If the problems I face are my own creation, then I should be able to undo them. If I was born with these issues as challenges, then I should be able to rise to the occasion and overcome. If I am just messed up for no reason, then I can become stronger and better and make changes in my life to become more comfortable in the world.

No matter what happens, or what turns out to be the answer to any of the questions I have posed tonight, I really do have all of the answers I need… somewhere. It may be a matter of figuring it out, it may be a matter of sorting priorities and evaluating things, or it might just be a matter of time.

Whatever.

The thing is, I’m not really all that unhappy with the way things are, I’m just uncomfortable. That’s a feeling I have grown fairly comfortable with over the years, and even if I see absolutely no change over the course of my remaining years, I shall live, love and be happy.


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    "The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as the greatest virtues." - Rene Descartes
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