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Bridging myth and consciousness.
By Steven Barnes
Formulating S.M.A.R.T. Goals
Welcome back! If you're like approximately 40% of Americans,
you've made New Year's resolutions. And if you are like 75%
percent of those, you will break them by the beginning of February.
Goals. Resolutions. Why do they fascinate and plague us? A unique
approach to this entire issue is our subject of the month.
Joseph Campbell's model of the hero's journey details ten steps
which mark the passage from one life to another. The third of
these steps is called "Acceptance of the Challenge." The Lifewriting
system represents this step as goal-setting.
Much has been said about goal-setting, and there is a great
deal of misunderstanding about the process. Many people are
afraid the set goals, thinking that if they fail to accomplish
them, they will have somehow diminished themselves and their
ability to experience joy and fulfillment. Nothing could be
further from the truth. As strange as it may seem, one of the
most positive results of goal setting is what FAILING to reach
a goal will teach you about yourself.
The reason for this is simple: if you fail to accomplish a
goal there are a finite set of possible causes, and an examination
of the "negative" results will often yield invaluable insight
into your mind and emotions.
So let's go through the process of goal-setting and examine
the lessons that can be learned from either failure or success.
Let's say, for example, that your goal is to decrease your body
fat percentage to 15%. What are the necessary steps?
- Formulate S.M.A.R.T. goals. This means the a goal should
be Specific, Meaningful, As-if now, Realistic, and Time bound.
Let's go over these. "Specific" means that you should
say exactly what you want. It must also be as photographable
as possible. Don't say that you want money, say that you want
to increase your income by $10,000 dollars a year. Don't say
"I want to lose weight," say how many pounds, or what body
fat percentage you want. "Meaningful" means that the
goal should have emotional resonance for you. It shouldn't
be something you want because your parents wanted you to have
it. Don't lose weight because your wife or husband wants you
to. Lose body fat because it will please YOU to move more
lithely, or run more easily, or dance longer without fatigue,
or look better in the mirror. "As if now" means that
your goal should be phrased in the present tense. Don't say
"I will lose weight" say "My body fat is a lean, sexy fifteen
percent." "Realistic" means that your goal is possible
for a human being to attain. It is often said that there are
no unrealistic goals, only unrealistic time frames. If you
can find a role model who has accomplished a goal similar
to yours, starting from a similar place in life, within a
time frame similar to the one you set for yourself, and you
are willing to adapt that role model's actions and beliefs,
your goal is realistic.
Caution: in fat loss or any other arena, look for the long
term plan. Look for someone who took fat off and kept it off
for at least three years. This means no fad diets or crash
"Time bound" means that there is a time limit for the
accomplishment of your goal. "On June 1, 1999, my body fat
percentage is a lean, sexy 15%."
- Your goals should be balanced. This means that you need
to have goals set in each of the three major areas of life.
Three major areas are: physical fitness, career, and relationships,
(in other words, body, mind, and spirit). Do not neglect to
select a goal in each of these three areas. This critically
important, because most people will hide their fears and doubts
in one of these three areas, and then ignore that area.
- Because there are no guarantees in life, it is important
that you select goals that will help you become the kind of
person you want to be whether or not you reach the goal itself.
You probably heard the expression "The road is better than
the inn." This is its origin.
As you set goals in your life, keep a journal. Note which goals
you attain and which ones you don't. Note which promises you keep
to yourself and which ones you break. Patterns will begin to emerge.
This is where you encounter the real value of goal setting. Remember
that there are no failures in life, only results. Ask yourself:
Do I have negative beliefs about my ability to reach this goal?
What the goal or the efforts necessary to reach the goal represent
a value conflict for me? Do I have a negative emotional charge
associated with the goal or the actions necessary to reach the
goal? If you have followed steps one through three, chances are
very good that your problem lies one in of these three arenas:
beliefs, value conflicts, or emotional associations. The information
you get from "failing" could well teach you everything you need
to succeed the next time.
In the movie "Star Wars," Luke Skywalker's moment of acceptance
comes only after finding his aunt and uncle murdered. In your
story, what will take for your characters to be forced to the
point of commitment?
For readers and watchers:
Note that the entire film "Play Misty for Me" is basically
two hours of ever-increasing leverage on Clint Eastwood's passive,
self-indulgent character. The movie ends about three minutes
after he finally decides to take action!
Remember: A goal is a promise you make to yourself.
- Look at your five favorite films, and then write down the
moment in which the lead character finally takes responsibility
for action and decides on a goal.
- Look at the characters in your own writing, and ask yourself
where they have broken promises to themselves. What does this
tell us about their character, their inner world, their environment?
- How can you structure a story to give a character the resources
necessary to make and keep powerful promises?
- Ask yourself: Is failing to reach a goal a failure of character?
Or is giving up, or refusing to LEARN the only real sin? Where
have you let yourself down in life, in love, in career?
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