By now, the tinsel and streamers from New Year’s Eve celebrations have been swept away,…
Keep Your Eye on Your Intended Goal
"Only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find his right road." – Dag Hammarskjold, Swedish diplomat, economist and author, the second Secretary-General of the United Nations (1905-1961)
Goals, goals, goals – sometimes we just don’t want to hear about them. Why is that? For one thing, we may be feeling down on ourselves because we just messed up something that we were working towards. Instead of the productive result we had anticipated, it may be that we fell a bit short. We may have even failed miserably. This could very well contribute to a feeling of malaise, a desire to do nothing for the time being while we lick our wounds.
But when we have a misstep or don’t fully achieve our goals is precisely the time when we need to take a step back and look at what just happened. Naturally, what first comes to our mind is a different kind of what just happened. What we generally think of right away is we are disappointed in ourselves for not achieving what we sought. The quick follow-up is often to chastise ourselves for our lack of knowledge, experience, determination, or some other reason. This, however, does us no good whatsoever since it falls into the area of negative thinking.
A better approach is to analyze what we did and when, looking both at the effort we put into the task as well as whether or not we were fully prepared to take it on when we did. Maybe we tried to rush through it and missed a few steps. Who doesn’t want to take a short-cut now and then, right? But short-cut approaches don’t always work. Sometimes they backfire, which can leave us feeling more dejected than if we’d never begun the task.
Maybe we just lacked sufficient knowledge. This can likely be remedies. We can put aside completion of the task, or the attempt to try it again, until we obtain the knowledge necessary to do it well. The good news about gaining additional knowledge is that it fosters a sense of self-confidence since we are adding to our knowledge and learning how to apply it in our lives. We will likely be more motivated to tackle the task again and subsequently to take on even tougher challenges.
One point that’s worth making is that we cannot afford to take our eye off our intended goal. We may have to take a short detour – such as the time we spend getting more information before resuming the task – but our goal should remain firmly in sight during the process.
When we allow ourselves to forget about our goal, the obvious happens. We put off pursuing it for longer and longer periods until it may disappear from our radar. We may have become so involved in other things, short-term tasks and so on, that we don’t even think about our long-term, cherished goals for extended periods. It may even turn out that months and years pass and we’ve done absolutely nothing to advance our progress toward those once-dearly-held goals.
How can we guard against having our goals fall by the wayside? One way is to have a printed list of goals that we refer to on a somewhat regular basis. We don’t necessarily have to consult it every day, but it is good to glance at it whenever we complete one goal or have significant progress – or a lack of it – on whatever goal we’re working on at the time. Why is this valuable? We need to revise our goals so that they reflect our progress. We also need to add new goals as opportunities present themselves and to eliminate goals that we now believe are no longer in our best interests, or that we’ve gone beyond them, or that we’re moving into a different area.
It doesn’t take long to revise our list of goals. Just checking through them regularly helps keep them top-of-mind. This way, we keep them in sight and always have them handy when something new comes up. It’s like a report card, in a way, since our goal list should have areas for us to mark off our accomplishments. One look at it can readily show us how much we have achieved.
And we know that success builds upon success, so it’s important that we have this as one of our best practices.
Suppose, however, that we’re just now entering recovery. We don’t have any accomplishments to our name at the present. Did we forget a big one? We did just complete rehab or got clean and sober, didn’t we? That is a huge accomplishment and one that we should rightly be proud of ourselves for achieving. What’s ahead of us isn’t written in stone. That is good news. We can create the kind of future we want for ourselves by putting down the goals we believe we want today.
Don’t worry that we don’t have a long view yet of what it is that we want to accomplish. Just start by jotting down whatever comes to our mind. We can begin by putting down sobriety milestone goals, for example, such as one month clean and sober, 60-days sober, 90-days, six months and one year. Getting a job or going back to work could be other short-term goals that are appropriate to consider for our recovery plan. As we make our way through the next few days, weeks and months we will find ourselves adding to our list of goals. It is a natural by-product of living our new life in recovery.
Sometimes we have a goal that we’ve held in high regard for a long time and we just don’t want to take it off our list. It could be a goal that we’ve had as a placeholder for what seems like forever or it could be a goal that someone else suggested and we latched onto – even though it wasn’t really right for us. Here’s the thing: We should never be so rigid about our goals that we cannot let go of them if they’re no longer right for us, or if we recognize that they never were in the first place. There will be many new goals that will surface that can take their place. The most important thing we can do is to keep our eyes on the goals that are most valuable to us while at the same time keeping our minds open to the possibility of discovering new ones.