October and November have been so busy I’m just now getting to type up my notes from the retreat I went to from September 28th-30th. I had a great time and met a lot of new people, which is always good. Even though each retreat or workshop is different they’re all alike in one way: although there are often multiple parts of the retreat I enjoy there’s usually one experience that stands out. This time it was Nancy B.’s workshop on Saturday morning. The topic was Goal Setting. First I’ll share with you the process she took us through (and how I handled it), and then I’ll talk about the Self Esteem workshop Marlene S. and I had been invited to co-host.
Nancy put on a meditation CD for 10-15 minutes to help us relax and clear our minds. Once we were relaxed she asked us to start thinking about our goals. We were given paper and pencils and the following instructions, with time between each for writing:
- Think of a substantial goal, something that will take 3-6 months. Write it down.
- How can you break the goal into smaller steps to use as milestones? Write those down.
- Think of one or more people you can ask to help you remain accountable. Write them down.
- Spend some time imagining what my life will be like after I finish this goal. Visualize it! Then write that down.
- How will I reward myself once the goals are accomplished? Visualize that, too. Then write it down.
- Now make a commitment to ask those people you wrote down to hold you accountable. Do this within the next week. Share your goals with them, including the milestones, your timeline, and your reward. Ask them to check with you weekly to see how you’re doing.
Even before the meditation CD was played I got my notepad out and started listing the goals I’d like to complete in the next 3 months:
- Pass the next industry certification I need at work
- Become a homeowner
- Finish reading a book I’d put down a few months ago
Then I realized those were essentially work-related goals, things on my to-do list. So I started thinking about improving relationships. I thought about a woman I’d recently started dating. I wondered how her goals might align with mine, so I wrote down questions I wanted to ask her to give me a better picture.
After I got those out of my system I looked at my paper and the goals I’d listed: work goals, to-do-list goals, relationship goals. They were all external. I’d come to the retreat for me, so I asked myself, “What can I do to grow as a person? Is there an area of my life that I’m uncomfortable but I could see myself growing?” Over the years I’ve learned to trust my instincts. The first answer that comes to mind is the answer I need – and the one I’m ready for. I won’t share my goal because it’s personal, but I wrote it down.
Once the meditation CD was over we got the rest of the instructions. I realized my goal could be completed in 2-3 months so I expanded it. I added another phase to the initial goal that would push the final completion date to about 6-8 months. Next I broke it into smaller steps. I wound up with 5 steps, but the last one would probably take 4-6 months because I’d have to read a few books. I decided I’d have 5 major milestones, and then smaller milestones within that last step. (For the record, over the last two months I‘ve completed my first three milestones. I’m working on the fourth one now.)
Nancy’s workshop helped me visualize the next big step I wanted to take in my life, specifically in terms of my own growth. I was very happy about that. Later in the day something else nice happened too. I’d come to the retreat because my friend Marlene and I had been invited to host a workshop on Self Esteem, that was scheduled for the next morning. Saturday evening after dinner I started mentally preparing, going over the list of tools Marlene and I had put together for our workshop.
When Marlene and I were designing our workshop I’d pulled 20-30 of the tools from my book that I felt were helpful in building my Self-Esteem. We saw we could break them into two groups – the first were tools that helped me deal with conflicts with other people, the second group were tools that helped me learn to deal with my own self-defeating issues (fear, insecurity, feeling overwhelmed, etc). That Saturday night as I thought about these two lists of tools it occurred to me that Nancy’s workshop had only addressed half the equation. There were further questions that could be asked.
Asking me to write out my goals is a great thing, and necessary. Another thing that’s important to ask is, “What might be some of the obstacles I’ll face while achieving my goal?” By asking that question I can prepare myself to meet (and overcome) those challenges. That’s really helpful because it reduces anxiety. There’s always some level of anxiety when an obstacle arises, but when you know what to do there’s a great relief.
All the possible obstacles to the goals I’d written down earlier that day could be summarized into those two categories: internal and external – precisely what Marlene and I had put together for our Self Esteem workshop. That made perfect sense because that’s what gave me Self Esteem. As one of my favorite quotes says, “Happiness is not the absence of problems; but the ability to deal with them.” (Attributed to H. Jackson Brown Jr.) I felt I had the tools to handle my problems once I learned the 20-30 tools we were about to discuss in our workshop.
So I talked to Marlene about this and we decided all we had to do was change one question. In our original plan we were going to start our workshop by asking everyone, “Please take a few minutes to write down the things you think are obstacles to you having better Self Esteem.” Instead we chose to ask people, “Spend a minute thinking about the goals we wrote down in Nancy’s workshop yesterday. Then write down obstacles you may face when working towards those goals.” Everything fit and our workshop joined with Nancy’s like two bookends.
So as it turned out, we got to spend a good 2-3 hours talking in depth about how certain tools can help us overcome the obstacles we face every day. And we didn’t just get to talk about them in general terms – we also got to talk about how we could tailor them specifically to the goals we’d just written down. All in all, I had a great time!
You may be wondering what the 20-30 tools were that I pulled out of the book for this workshop. I’m going to be working with a friend who creates interactive Flash animations; over the next few months I’ll be creating a Troubleshooting Section on this site, and I’ll post them there. The animations will ask you questions, and based on your answers they’ll present you with a list of tools tailored just for you. Stay tuned!