This is the final installment in a six-part series by Dr. Jeffery Baker. You can start from the beginning and read all six parts by visiting Dr. Baker’s Rebel Storytellers page.
Do you have a proclivity towards excellence and get great satisfaction from doing a difficult job exceedingly well, but that doesn’t happen often enough? Do you often spend more time doing a project than you planned? Do your projects end up larger than you anticipated? Do you end up neglecting self-care, fun, or relationships because you are too busy? When you fall short of your qualitative standards do you suffer the pangs of guilt? Do you procrastinate? If you are habitually trying to pour 5 gallons of water into a 2-gallon bucket, then this article is for you.
What lies beneath and drives this often-frustrating situation is a set of values. You, my friend, value long-term sustained effort and the big prize of well-polished achievement. Because this is such a high value to you there are coinciding thoughts that protect it from the mediocre. Some of your thoughts defend vigilantly against any careless or shoddy workmanship. You care deeply about committed action that represents your identity as a skilled individual in your area of discipline. What you do in the simplest terms is a representation of who you are.
There are three diversions that can derail you and keep you from acting on your values of excellence and applying it successfully. They interfere by creating pseudo goals.
The first pseudo goal is a dead man’s goal. Never have a dead man’s goal, which is anything that a corpse can do better than a live human being. A dead man’s goals are: I want to stop feeling depressed, I want to stop using drugs, I don’t want to have any more panic attacks. Define a living person’s goal by describing what you want. A live man’s goal would be: I am going to go to my brother’s party, or I am going to learn to kayak. The brain struggles with what not to do, but is activated by concretely stating what to do.
The second pseudo goal is an emotional goal. Never have an emotional goal, like I just want to be happy or I want more self-confidence. Emotional goals are to attempt to control how you feel and will ultimately reinforce experiential avoidance. An appropriate goal is that you would want to learn effective ways of handling painful thoughts and feelings that you have been struggling with when you do something important. Remember the only way to stop feeling is to stop caring. When I competed as a boxer my contract said I had to weigh in at 132 pounds or under. That was very important or I could not compete nor get paid. I no longer compete and, therefore, have no anxiety about exceeding 132 pounds. This is evident if you go out to eat with me.
The last pseudo goal is an infinite goal. Never have infinite goals, which is a goal with limitless resources of time, energy, and money. Ignoring the resources at hand often has you overestimating what you have to work with and always falling short of achieving what you hope for. Your expectations are misaligned with the assets at hand to accomplish a goal. Underestimating the gravity and weight of a goal is a sure set up for failure. The excitement of achieving something with outstanding results can become so intoxicating and mesmerizing that we can lose sight of the meager supplies we have to take on the task. Often upon realizing you cannot achieve your magnificent result with your ordinary resource at hand, you resign and therefore get nothing.
Setting your goals on fire is when someone constructs their actions in line with their signature strength and makes them attainable. This ignites passion. Passion is infectious, powerful, and has tremendous energy.
When you change your questions, you change your direction, which changes your focus and shifts your attention toward attainable goals. Change the question, “How do I get in better shape?” to, “How many push ups could I do to get started today?” Value-based goals need to be SMART. The SMART conditions for those new questions are as follows:
S – Specific: specify the actions you will take.
M – Meaningful: the action must be genuinely guided by your values.
A – Adaptive: does this goal help you head in the right direction?
R – Realistic: is this goal achievable given your resources of time, money, and energy?
T – Time-framed: set a specific day and date for your goal.
This is my last installment in this series. Hope it made you smile, think and just maybe, live a little better. If you have an interest in attending an eight-week group to go deeper then you can call 513-726-5551 and leave your information.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Matthias Ripp