Friday, January 15, 2010

Self-help, part 3: Start by knowing what you want

"Give me an example of a goal you'd like to achieve."

I should have known I didn't need a $300 goal-achievement course when I couldn't come up with a single unrealized goal. The person selling this "life-changing system" tried again. "Just tell me something you've been wanting to do and haven't."

"Uh, I want to check out the new Burnsville shopping mall." Wow, I've got a live one here, she had to be thinking. But she was determined to demonstrate how this system worked. "Okay, let's it break down into achievable steps. What's a small step you could take toward realizing this goal?"

"Uh, I could get in my car and drive there." Why did this not set off alarms in my head? Brrrrng! You don't need this!

Instead, I was attracted by the sparkly promise of a new key to success and happiness. I shelled out $300 for a colorful cardboard box containing a dozen audio tapes and a few hundred bright paper cards on which I was to write goals and intermediate steps - weekly and daily - toward achieving them. Over the next few months I listened to about half the tapes and wrote on a couple dozen of the cards. Then the box sat on a shelf in my bedroom in three successive homes over thirty-some years. Two years ago I threw it away. I would have tried to sell it on Ebay--I am evidence that there is a market for such things--but without all the little cards it just wouldn't be the same.

In the years since I put aside the "system," I have set and achieved plenty of significant goals. I did it mostly the natural way, thinking, "Here's something I'd like to do." But sometimes, when conflicted among several possible goods, I have called upon my husband's mantra: Start by knowing what you want.

Stuck in a troublesome situation you'd like to escape? Start by knowing what you want. Approaching a negotiation with someone whose service was less than satisfactory? Don't waste time complaining; tell them what will make you happy. Dissatisfied with a situation at the office? Decide how you want things to be.

And that's the issue. My problem has seldom been how to achieve something once I set my mind to it--in fact, my husband and I make a formidable pair of strategists. The problem, from time to time, has been knowing what I want. For that, you have to know yourself and be willing to make choices, even take risks.

Today, I know what I want: good health and a good life in retirement not long from now. There are some arrangements to be made. None of them involves listening to goal-setting tapes. If I find myself writing notes on colorful little cards, I promise I will not have paid $300 for them.

How about you? Driven by goals? Systematic in seeking them? If I hadn't thrown away the tapes and cards, would you have said, "Yes! Send them at once....That's exactly what I need!"

So ends another in a series of recollections of mostly-useless self-help stuff I've bought over the years. Occasionally, I learned a little something. Other times, nothing at all! Next up: assertiveness training.

26 comments:

Moogie said...

Very interesting post. That's how I live my life.... I set a goal and work towards it. Sometimes they are baby steps, but I eventually succeed.

Nancy said...

I had to laugh at the Burnsville Mall - we moved from Prior Lake a little over a year ago. Burnsville Mall was a place I visited fairly regularly.

This is very timely for me and your husband's advice is ringing in my ears. I have wanted to do something and I've put it off - just as I've put off other things in my life. It's time to start, I think.

Thanks for this post.

Allyson said...

I think this is a man thing...whenever I have complained about my job or my weight or my debt he would say "ok, let's fix it. What would make you happy?" and then we would work our way toward making that happen. It's an amazing strategy and I have no idea why it didn't occur to me earlier. Because of this, I have a house I love, a career I love and a life that I wouldn't trade for anything. I'm glad I didn't pay $300 to get there. But you did get the experience of paying $300 to find out that you want to check out the new mall. So, that's worth something...

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

@Moogie: baby steps can make possible what would otherwise be overwhelming.

@Nancy: I don't know why I thought Burnsville would be better than Rosedale or Southdale, but it was literally the only thing I could come up with at that moment! Read on....

@Allyson: Just realized that after 30-plus years, I've still never been to that mall! Maybe I shifted focus to more meaningful goals and just don't remember that fact.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I believe I have mellowed over the years..some of what I used to view as "Important" wasn't and will never be..but at the time I thought it was worth the effort.
The Mall huh? an interesting answer:)

Kathy said...

I read the book, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and whatever I spent on that was well worth it. It was life changing for me. I kind of just make plans, but I do break big plans into smaller plans so they are easier to achieve. It works for me. I don't have a lot of plans though. When you live one day at a time, you really don't need to many. If my plan each day is a success...I will eventually get to where I want to be.

DJan said...

I think I have been very blessed to be living in retirement in a place I love with a man I love. I'm getting ready to go on a trip today with a raptor guide to watch him tag a red-tailed hawk. I am hiking and bird watching and working out every week. When I tried to think of something I want that I don't already have, nothing came up! Thanks for the post, I realize I'm already "there."

Chantel said...

I've taken plenty of ribbing over the years about my lists. (chuckle) From my husband to employees, family, friends--my brain is "on a note pad." I tried to go a week once without a list...complete chaos! Our goals and our ways of achieving them are so rooted in the basic no-bull**** of knowing yourself--really knowing yourself. As you say--knowing what you want, what you're not willing to settle for, and what you have to put into it...makes success is so possible!

Zeemaid said...

great post. I would never have paid $300 for a kit like that. some times I find it hard to figure out what I want and the things I do decide I want seem unachievable... mainly do to self limitation/personality... but still your post made me stop and think again that my wanting to get published is a goal and by breaking it down I can see how I can make that happen.

Stopping by for SITS Saturday sharefest. I was glad to come by!

Ms Sparrow said...

I remember when Burnsville Mall was new and there was little else in the area. The only thing that draws me to that area now is a Unique Trift store in a strip mall on the east side. I know how easy it is to seduced by smooth promises of making yourself better.
I once bought a book entitled, "Love" by Leo Buscaglia.
I was recently divorced and depressed and there was this bright red book with LOVE in big letters on the cover. I wanted some of that so I bought the book.
Of course, it was a big disappointment.

Alison said...

I am all about goals. In everything I do, I set a goal for myself, but I have a tendency to get frustrated if it doesn't turn out exactly as planned. I know I shouldn't, and I don't complain about it, I just begin wondering if I'm wasting my time. I have to keep reminding myself that it will be very rewarding when and if I do meet that goal!!

BTW, thanks for visiting my blog!

Jeanie said...

I think goal setting is important, but I think for me I have to take it a step at a time and be willing to make changes from what I learn on the way to the goal. Self-help books and plans have always frustrated me because they make me feel somehow that I just can't measure up to the lofty results they are promising.

√ Abraham Lincoln said...

I don't remember ever setting a goal. How different that must be. I never ever thought about it.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I love all your responses...but I'm especially struck by Abe's. There were years of my life when I was constantly trying to make myself smarter, better, more upwardly mobile in my career, etc. It was like I was trying to prepare for some big opportunity in the future, and forgetting to live and enjoy life in the moment. I think the women's movement of the 70s had a lot to do with that.

JenJen said...

Okay. I need to come back to this when I'm a clearer mood.

bj said...

Over from SITS to wish you a blessed Sunday.
Come by to see me when you can..I'm a grandmother, too!! :O)

gayle said...

Thanks for a great post! Most of the time I don't know what I want...but I really know what I want now!! I am just too afraid to do it and also I don't have my husbands blessing. I want to
retire ...that would make me happy so now thanks to you I will be setting my goal and working towards it!!

kys said...

I'm not too good at setting goals for myself. I usually can't achieve them so I try not to think about it.

UberGrumpy said...

I always wanted a pilot's licence.

Alas on my first lesson I couldn't resist shouting 'ratatatatat! Take that, Messerschmidt swine!'

And they won't let me go anymore.

Any suggestions?

Helene said...

I have goals for myself but my main goal is to get through each day without wanting to rip my hair out because the kids stressed me out. I'm always striving to be a better mother but at the end of the day, I realize I have a far way to go still.

Thanks for this post! And thank you for stopping by my blog on Saturday!

Grandma Nina said...

Thanks for stopping by and for your comments. Yes, I agree with you that grandbabies totally change your priorities and goals in life.
I like this post of yours. My husband is the king of 3x5 cards. He writes positive notes to himself and when our boys were young he would write them encouraging words and life lessons. Anyone that knows my hubby teases him about his cards. 30 years later, I wish I had kept all these cards and I could have written our own self help book from them.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

@ JenJen: If something in this post rings a bell or touches a nerve, I hope you do come back to it.

@ bj: Thanks, I had a GREAT Sunday!

@ Gayle: Good for you. Retirement is tricky given the economy, but I'm finding that it feels so much better to be making plans and taking some action than to just wait and wonder!

@ kys: Sometimes just being happy or going with the flow is all we need. Other times we find ourselves wanting something to change, and if we want it enough, we can make it a goal. I agree that setting goals just because we "should" can be really self-defeating.

@ Uber: See, if only I still had the goal-setting tapes and all-important little cards, we could backtrack and figure out where you went wrong. In this country shouting ratatatat during flight training is likely to get you in trouble with Homeland Security, so you may be exhausting your options.

@ Helene: My overall goal for 2010 is "Maximize the bliss, minimize the stress!"

@ Grandma Nina: Wow, you're right, with those cards you could write the book on positive reinforcement. You could call it "Attaboy!"

Lydia said...

I'm best with short term goals; like 'by this weekend I will' or something similar. I can be a procrastinator and urgency can, unfortunately, be my best motivator. Though I just started a long term goal: learning the guitar. Good luck with your goals!

MissKris said...

Thank you for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment!

I've never been one to do the New Year's resolutions thing. Never liked the self-help guru stuff. My parents were old-fashioned Great Depression-survivors. Good old common sense is what got them thru, and I find myself relying on the same 'system'.

The mad woman behind the blog said...

How did I miss this? I love your writing.
More please. And I'm going to read this again when I'm not on cold meds.

bettyl said...

I really can't think of any major goals that I have set and then achieved. I guess I live my life more by faith than goals....it works for me.

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