Goal Setting & Achievement

There is a very interesting blog entry called “Casting last year into the virtual bonfire”. All the club members write their yearly accomplishments on a piece of paper and toss it ceremoniously into a bonfire. The basic premise is to wipe out your past year’s accomplishments, goals, personal records, etc. and start anew. Part of the message is that we are no better than what we do today. Another part of the message is not to get stuck in the past. Celebrate your victories but do not dwell on them; create a history but do not live there as DaBigLeap says.

It stimulated many thoughts for me. I’m glad that this annual ritual stimulates some people to set goals for the future. It is indeed not healthy to live in the past. Also, rituals as a form of renewal or celebration are healthy for us.

I want to take a different slant on this “fresh approach” strategy to motivation. I love history… to see where I’ve gone… to see the building blocks of the future… to more clearly see where I’m going (correct my course for instance). My personal records and accomplishments are uniquely mine. They may or may not be much to someone else. But to me, they are a source of pride and a source of motivation.

I enjoy seeing my successes. In fact one of the things I started doing way back in the mid-1980s during one of my classes in my graduate sports psychology program was to create what Dr. Jean Williams called our “Success List”. The idea is in fact to hold on tight to every record, accomplishment and source of pride by recording it so as not to forget and not to minimize what you’ve done. The purpose is to provide a sound foundation and launching pad for bigger and better things as well as to pause and be thankful for all you have done without living in the past.

It’s funny (curious funny not ha-ha funny), but in our society, we spend precious little time celebrating our successes. We are always busy setting our next goals, pushing our limits, moving up one more rung, placing one more notch in our belts. How often do we simply reflect on the marvelous nature of what we are capable of doing? Don’t get me wrong, many of us do celebrate our accomplishments but so many also do not. It’s back to work! We become “human doers” instead of “human beings”.

A Success List is very simply created. Each time you successfully accomplish a goal, record it. You will most likely start with the big obvious things but soon you realize there is celebration in many more mundane accomplishments: graduated from college, Honors GPA, academic & athletic awards (List them all… even the ones back in high school!), attendance awards, professional awards, new jobs, promotions, starting a business, hitting your goal weight, even special events (i.e. marriage, being a parent), special acknowledgments, and of course running more-farther-faster, running streaks, finishing that first marathon, qualifying for Boston etc. You get the idea. You should strive to add to the list. Of course, it shouldn’t be something trivial. It does have to have a special meaning to you.

Our society is fixated on social comparison. Most often it results in devaluing someone or something. There is only room at the top for one… right? All others will – through social comparison – be “less than.” It would be idealistic and completely unrealistic to expect that everyone is so psychologically strong that we’re immune to these influences. I’ve worked with Ph.D.s to high school dropouts and business owners to unemployed well-fare recipients as a personal coach and All-American runners to beginner joggers as a running coach. Each of these individuals have plenty to enter on their success lists and celebrate. I can only tell that in our goal-driven-social-comparison laden worlds we do not slow down enough to enjoy and do so. So, one point of a Success List is to fight that tendency to buy in to all the comparisons made (by us, family, friends, media, etc.). Another is for a source of self-motivation.

To this day, I still add to my list. In fact, I now have three lists: life list (personal professional successes), running list (personal running successes), and athlete list (athletes’ I coach successes). And my goal is to keep adding to them. A key aspect is that the list is mine and only mine. I add to it on my criteria not someone else’s. And though my running list and athlete lists are for public viewing (ok part of it is marketing) my personal list has never been viewed by anyone. I refuse to have social comparison enter into my list.

Soon, you realize you are doing and have done so many things… it feeds on itself… stimulates you to keep going. And during those times when you’re feeling a bit lost, down, or less than worthy (of whatever) it’s really nice to get recharged seeing these accomplishments. So, for me… I like to keep that history alive… instead of letting it go up in smoke.

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