T he first obstacle to my own progress was deciding what progress and success meant to me. I have found that unless I saw something as being valuable to me, I would have zero staying power. If it is really someone else’s dream or goal, I would have no desire for it in my own heart. But, if I decide on a specific thing I wish to do, I set my mind on finding a means to achieve it.
The second barrier was always the largest, myself. I am my own greatest enemy and obstacle. Do I talk myself out of something before I have begun? I have always been far crueler to myself than anyone or anything else. I found that it is best to allow myself room for honest communication. In other words, I allow myself to be flawed. I am not perfect. I get down. I am not always happy, confident, or brave. I have failed at many things in life. I do not allow prolonged pity parties. I let the feelings flow, like a wave. Emotions are like water. If we dam them up, hold them back, pretend they are not there …. they grow stronger. That kind of unrealistic control is a prelude to disaster. If the negative feelings are allowed to flow, be expressed but not fed, they peter out … like a wave. Then in the stillness that follows, I remind myself that I am also my best friend. I look for the positive side of things. I remind myself what I love about life, and about myself. So, befriend the wildness that is human emotion. Tame the negative self-talk.
Third, it might have seemed impossible to attain at the time. But is it really? Whenever this has seemed to be the case, I would go into detective mode. I would ask around and talk with trusted friends. I would research different sources. And, if I found something that looked promising, I would study it and then apply it.
The fourth thing I think of as “the bump in the road”. Sometimes, I will have done all of the above and something sidelines me. Life is unpredictable and fecal matter occurs! This can go two ways. You can freeze up and decide that you should turn back or give up. Or use it as a learning opportunity. Failure is not permanent, it is just part of the process of life. Not a single soul started out a master of any craft. Everyone starts at the beginning. Sometimes something that seemed to block merely redirected me. Redirection is still movement. In movement I still have opportunity for success.
My fifth major block to progress was black and white thinking. As I got older I realized life is about shades of grey. “I failed the test, therefore I am a failure.” Why so serious? Lighten up a little. I have taken tests and failed them, then taken the same test and passed. Black and white, all or nothing, sinner or saint …. I call that unrealistic and unreasonable. If the words never and always are used, I hit pause, then rewind and start again. If you keep trying you will progress. If you make progress you may succeed. If you give up you will definitely fail. Don’t quit! ( Well, unless your goal was to quit smoking. Then…..quit.) 🙂
So, S.M.A.R.T. goals, yes I think that it seems logical to use them. If you are specific about what you want, you will know it when you get it.
Example, Goal – “I want a college degree.”
- Specific – “ I want to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree” (Now I know what I am aiming for.)
- Measurable -Attainable – Yes, it is attainable. You can measure your degree of success by tracking your grades as you go, both within a class and at the end of the class. Then based on your ongoing progress, make the changes you need to head towards your goal.
- Realistic /Timely- In this case attaining a degree is measured in known time. The average Bachelor’s Degree takes 4 years. You are able to measure your progress towards the goal in either semesters or quarters. And is very realistic to attain through time and study.
I had never heard of SMART until recently, but in my own way I was incorporating the concept. I think SMART is clever! 😉
Knowing that life is all about ongoing progress and change, whether we are mindful about it or not…. that is wise.