Goals that succeed

Goals are things you will hear a lot about from psychologists. You might also hear a lot about them as you head back into work and school for the year. My children often talk in Term 1 of a new school year about filling out their goals for the year for homework or perhaps identifying learning goals for each new unit they start. It’s everywhere and now… it’s here in this newsletter! I am going to say I have a little bit of a problem with this “goal overload” as I feel that it lends itself towards lots of energy being spent on identifying goals with perhaps less gusto for the (often) boring process of executing them. I think most people have heard of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely). This handy acronym is all about getting down to the small print of a goal – do we know what we are actually wanting to change? Can we know when it has changed, that is, is there a way to measure when we make a gain? Is it a realistic goal to have in the first place? Is it worth it – does it matter to us? And… will it actually happen this century?

All very important elements to consider. Though even when all these factors line up, we may still find it hard to pursue our goal. But why is this? James Clear, author of New York Times bestseller Atomic Habits, says “one of the greatest barriers to achieving your goals is the other goals you have”. He speaks of The Four Burners Theory which posits that when you turn one burner up (focus on one particular thing), you have to turn the other burners down (other goals). In a nutshell, he says that learning how to prioritise a goal allows for it to be achieved. This is sort of the opposite process to the ‘set and forget’ manner of creating a goal that I spoke of at the start of this article, where the emphasis is on making some really shiny great looking goals that fulfil the criteria but slip from consciousness at the point of creation. 

So, what is going to be important enough to you/ your family this term or this year, that it is worth garnering your time, energy and attention? And importantly, what goals will you set aside to make room for this one? Perhaps the most important goal will be one that you strive for as a family. You might consider what areas you feel you as a family struggle with and what would doing better at that look like? This is ideally something you are able to canvas with all family members – not just the grown up ones in the house. Sometimes this can be a hard process, but just like setting the goal, turning your attention to it, will foster new thought which is always the precursor for change. 

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