Today, I want you to consider a powerful quote credited to philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
A couple of weeks ago, I shared five overarching themes I want to embrace in 2019, and I explained why I hope to incorporate each of those mantras into my lifestyle and identity in the coming months. And while I’m an avid believer in the beauty and power of words, when it comes to goal setting, I have to subscribe to the old adage and agree that actions speak louder. To that end, what I’d like to share with you today are some actionable steps to becoming proactive in converting your very own abstract goals into tangible realities.
Let’s Get Started:
As you may or may not know, as my day job, I am an Instructional Designer at a public university. This means I work one on one with college professors to help them develop high-quality online courses through implementing best teaching practices. A great deal of our criteria for measuring what makes a course successful can be boiled down to one concept: instructional alignment.
What is instructional alignment, and what does it have to do with me achieving my goals?
Instructional alignment refers to a high degree of agreement between the objectives (targeted goals), activities, and assessments (assignments and tests) in a learning experience. In other words, if a teacher claims that after taking his or her class, students will be able to identify every major organ in the human body, then guess what? He or she better be giving their students the tools and information they need to do just that. And before the class is over, those students will need to demonstrate their achievement of the objective by… you guessed it —identifying every major organ in the human body.
So, where am I going with this?
Well first, let’s exchange the term “instructional” for “personal.” Then, let’s swap “objectives” for “goals,” “activities” for “thought patterns,” “assessments” for “actions,” and “learning experience” for “one’s life.” Now, what we’re left with is this:
Personal alignment refers to a high degree of agreement between the goals, thought patterns, and actions in one’s life.
Are you with me?
So, what constitutes a good goal?
A goal can be defined as a desired result. Generally, when we set a goal, it’s either because we have observed something someone else has that we want, or we are looking back on our life and we see something about our past that we want to change.
You may remember being taught in grade school or even college that goals should be S.M.A.R.T. That is, they should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound.
Let’s break that down:
While we all hopefully aspire to “be a better human,” that’s not a specific enough goal for us to use as a springboard to initiate true change. Why not? Well, because what constitutes a good human is very subjective (a matter of opinion) and thus, extremely difficult to measure. So, you need to decide, what exactly is it about yourself that you want to improve? Your mental health, your prayer life, your relationship with your spouse, your involvement in the community, your spending habits, your physical health? Dig deep — a week, month, or year from now, what needs to be different in order for you to be a better version of yourself? Be realistic, be intentional, and focus on what is truly important and relevant to your current lifestyle.
How do we train our minds, bodies, and souls to engage in activities that bring us closer to the achievement of our goals?
From the very beginning, you have to subscribe to the idea that, “No one said it would be easy; they just promised it would be worth it.” Because that muddy mess in the middle? That’s where the magic happens, friend. There is joy to be found in the journey, and there is growth to be gained in the process.
Some tips for producing positive thoughts and healthy habits:
Do your research.
Find out what benefits and challenges are associated with the lifestyle changes you are trying to make. Study your Bible, read books, read blogs, listen to podcasts. Whatever you need to do, do it. Just make sure you find your why.
Make a list of action steps.
Once you have a deeper understanding of why you want and need to achieve your goal(s), make a list of at least five practical ways you plan to make it happen.
Engage in regular self-reflection.
At least once a week, journal about your progress. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find this both therapeutic and an effective way to increase accountability, combat burnout, and identify areas of improvement. Remember, you don’t have to wait until the end of your journey to decide what you wish you would have done differently. There is no such thing as failure, only learning experiences.
Celebrate small victories.
As human beings, we like to be rewarded for positive behavior. It motivates us to continue growing. Reward yourself for putting in the effort to change. Whatever that looks like to you, just remember to give yourself credit for showing up.
How do I transition these patterns of thought into tangible actions?
One of my all-time favorite quotes and daily reminders comes from the back of an Al-Anon bookmark.
“Just for today… I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for 12 hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.”
True transformation occurs with time. No matter how eager we are to achieve our end result, we will only spin our wheels if we fail to see and seize the opportunities in today, in the right now. Give yourself the opportunity to try, try, and try again. Learn from your mistakes and remember why you started. If you truly want to make something happen, you will. And trust me, friend, you will be better for it.
Until next time,