How to set goals

Darlene asks: what advice can I give friends about setting goals?

Hi Darlene –


Well, I’m going to sound a bit hypocritical here, since I give advice on this website every day, but really, friends often don’t want to get advice from their friends.  I’m a huge fan of setting goals, and clearly I’ve set a lot (making this website, catching squirrels, and other less-important issues), but I did those because I wanted to — not because Buddy or Scruffy from across the street told me I should.


In fact, I find that the best way to get your friends to “up their game” in the way you want is to show them, instead of telling them.  So if you have a goal that you want to achieve, talk more about it.  And let them in on your process.


For example, let’s say that you make a New Year’s Resolution that you’re going to plant two hundred flowers in your yard this year.  Well, so tell your friends about it.  Maybe ask their suggestions as to what varieties of flowers you should put in different areas.  Then talk with them about what you go through in doing it – the trouble finding certain kinds of seeds, having to change your choices, the different times you need to plant different ones, and how mad you get when your neighbor’s dog furiously runs through your yard and digs a bunch of them up (not that I have ever been guilty of that — please no don’t begin to think I would ever be so thoughtless as to ruin something beautiful in the soil…   Okay, yes I’ve totally done it, but really I didn’t mean to!!).


And what do you think will happen at this point?  Most likely, those friends of yours will be scornful!  They’ll tell you you’re spending too much time working on these silly flowers – why not just plant one kind, or just put astroturf or concrete in your yard instead?!  They’ll feel very superior to you, because they don’t have goals!


But then, one day, they’ll see your garden.  And they’ll gasp in awe.  And they’ll know just what you put into it.  And they’ll be a little envious — but they’ll also know that they don’t really have the right to complain, because they saw you do all this work!  And they’ll think about what you did that they didn’t do – and eventually they’ll realize… it’s that you set a goal and stuck to it.


And it’s that that’s going to give them the advice they need!


But when they ask you, “Uh, what’s the trick to setting goals?” there are a few things you can tell them.


– Don’t be casual about it.  Goals must be taken very seriously.  Think a lot about what you really care about before you start.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was your garden… or this website, believe me!


– Allow yourself to change your mind.  If your goal was a nice idea, but someone else has already done it, or it turns out to be too hard, drop it!  Come up with another idea!


– But if you do commit to it, prepare for it to be way harder than you’d thought!  Like what I said above about the dogs running through the garden – life will test any goal!


– But then, let yourself feel proud of your accomplishment!  So many people forget all the work they put into their goal.  Write it down, reward yourself along the way, and note all you’ve learned.



And if you give them that advice – for goals they’ve chosen for themselves – your friends will absolutely appreciate it and adore you!






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