Saturday, July 25, 2009

Laying track – to where? The difference between dreams and goals

My Uncle Bill dreamed of retiring. So did my friend Sherry. They both had public-service jobs so there was a pension awaiting each of them.

Sherry worked her allotted span of years and began to collect her pension, but several years later she still clocks in regularly and it’s not because she needs the money.

Uncle Bill punched his last time card, said So Long to his colleagues, and never looked back.

The difference between them is that Sherry’s dream was retirement, which is simply a lack of employment after a certain age. She hadn’t decided what she wanted to do with her eight-hours-a-day-plus-commuting time.

Uncle Bill, on the other hand, had more than a dream. He had a goal. After lunch Monday to Friday, he headed for the golf course and played a round with three like-minded buddies.

His goal was smart: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Timed.

He achieved it step by step, and each step was a goal in itself. He chose a job with a pension attached. He lived in a community with year-round golfing weather. He joined a golf club.

I’m not suggesting that golf was his only goal. He got a job that paid well enough to support his wife and children. They lived in his wife’s small hometown, which was a pleasant, safe, affordable place to raise a family. He made friends who shared his pleasure in the challenge and camaraderie of the sport and they helped recreate a course after the war. All of those things supported other areas of his life, and as a bonus they made his dream of golfing five days a week reasonable and achievable.

In his new book Who Dares Wins, author and former Green Beret Bob Mayer talks a lot about goals and one of his caveats is that a goal must include a positive verb, an action that you can control, and an external, visible outcome.

In Sherry’s case, she wanted to be retired, a state of being rather than an action. No wonder it wasn’t enough for her. Uncle Bill, on the other hand, wanted to play – that’s a very active verb.

If what Sherry had wanted was simply not to go to work any more, that’s a negative and doesn’t help her. She’s still left with those eight hours a day to fill. If she wanted to read her way through the fiction stacks at the local library – now that’s a goal.

Hm. I’ll have to think about adopting that one myself. It’s the timing that I’ll have to work on: by the time I’m sixty? Eighty? Dead? And what about all the new acquisitions every year? By the time I finish ten books there’ll be ten new ones added to the hundreds or thousands I still haven’t read… Perhaps this isn’t such a great idea.

A book a week. No, a novel a week. At least one novel every week. For the rest of my life.

This goal is growing on me.

Excuse me. I have to go to the bookstore now.

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