Eating Elephants – Goals & Growth

(Posted this article a few years back and it has been really encouraging for folks and thought I'd share it again)

Yah, yah, yah! Here we go again. Yet another list of tips for achieving goals! Yah, I get it!” Heard it all before and frustrated? I hear ya. There are a lot of great strategies out there for change and achieving goals, and they all seem to re-appear at the beginning of a new year. Sadly many of these strategies end up in the dustbin along with our good intentions. If this is your experience? You aren’t alone!

While much of what is encouraged for achieving goals and making lasting healthy change in our lives are pretty universal they take effort, encouragement and tenacity! This is tough in a culture that, by and large, is looking for the quick, easy fix and very “destination” oriented.

By destination oriented I mean we are fixated on the end, the achieving of the goal and lose sight of the living life between where we are now and where we want to be. Keeping our eyes on our goals is important as it helps orient us and direct our steps but many of us forget to live, to celebrate the victories and progress in the everyday life. The reality is all great tasks, goals achieved or great acts of performance or heroism are not events in a vacuum but often the result of many, many smaller steps, some seemingly insignificant in the day to day of real life. The goal itself is only attainable on the back of a series of the choices made before it. The balance between a long term goal and the practical of each step towards it.

Whether it is the building of your business, ministry, being a parent or a spouse, losing weight- whatever, there is a whole lot of living that takes place as we establish healthy habits and attitudes that are consistent and empowering towards our goals, towards inspired living.

Do you remember US Airways Flight 1549 which was forced to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River in January of 2009? Upon takeoff from LaGuardia airport in New York, the aircraft collided with a large flock of birds. Birds going through the blades of a jet engine certainly aren't good for the bird and can be catastrophic for the engines. With both engines down, the plane over densely a populated area, this situation could have been a horrific event. As a well trained, disciplined pilot, Chelsey Burnett “Sully” Sullivan managed to make a number of decisions in short order. Combining skill, knowledge and emotional intelligence, Sully made a series of difficult maneuvers landing the plane in the Hudson possibly saving hundreds of lives on the ground and all 155 aboard the aircraft.

Sully’s performance in this instance did not magically appear in this circumstance. That one event did not forge his character rather the event manifested it. Leading to this heroic action were a series of choices resulting in action (big and small) he made every day of his life. Each of those daily choices contributed to his ability to demonstrate exemplary skill and character when it counted.

This is the case for all of us. Greatness is forged in the day to day. In the often mundane decisions of everyday. By making choices consistent with well thought out goals consistent with your deeply held values; even ordinary, small choices form habits and when opportunity and events present themselves the strength of character developed through the daily choices we make is made very evident!

The quality of leadership is not determined by the scale of the task but the quality of response to the task, even the everyday mundane tasks. This being the case with self-leadership, let us celebrate the little victories as we progress towards our goal. Let us not discount the value of the every day but allow the hope of the goal we have established motivate and empower each choice, each interaction!

Here’s a few thoughts to consider:

Quality of the Goal

  • What is it you want to achieve? Be clear and specific.
  • Is it consistent with your values and personality?
  • Is your goal realistic?

Why is this goal important?

  • Motivation is key because this will help keep you on track especially during the tough times.
  • Take the time to think about why you want to achieve the goal - keep these positive and empowering and be careful not to slip into negative motivation.
  • Now write these motivations down somewhere where you will be able to refer to them.

Expect Resistance.  Change can be difficult.  Expect Resistance.

  • This need not be intimidating and is why writing down and regularly reviewing your motivation becomes important.  This serves to help us re-focus our attention and energy on our goal instead of a short term distraction.
  • Visit your motivation list often.

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

  • Goals are achieved by a lot of little steps which are consistent with your goal.  Real life is made up of many choices which can either lead us towards or away from our goals.  Many of these choices may seem inconsequential, regardless, each step is a step in a journey. Your daily choices matter.
  • What choices do you make daily which are consistent with you achieving your goal?
  • Be specific.

Be Patient.

  • Change takes time.  Old habits, ways of thinking take time to be replaced by others.  Be gentle with yourself but be deliberate.

“Should’ve made a left turn at Albuquerque?”

  • If you make a choice or series of choices which are not in line with achieving your goal - don’t sweat it!  Simply get back up and orient yourself.
  • If those choices have some lasting consequence, don’t panic - take a deep breath, get your bearing towards your goal, adjust and keep walking.  One step at a time.

Each step in the right direction is victory!

  • Don’t underestimate the power of the present moment and the little choices we make! Like exercising a muscle, with each flex we are getting stronger.
  • Remember poor choices are opportunities to learn.  They are only failures if we don’t learn something from them.

Reflect regularly.

  • Daily - the choices that furthered you on to your goal and those which may have been a distraction.  What worked and what didn’t?  Remind yourself of your goal and the motivation.
  • Consider Journaling your thoughts on your day.
  • Monthly - Review the month, get a bigger picture. review your daily jornal notes. What worked and what didn’t?  Look for victories and opportunities for more growth.  Remind yourself of your goal and the motivation.
  • Having a brief daily reflection with make this easier to do.

Be well Resourced.

  • Access and utilize resources which empower and inspire you.

Life inspiring People.

  • Be sure you have one or two people in life who can inspire you without trying to form you into their image!   Have a companion who can provide some meaningful friendship to support, encourage and offer some healthy accountability towards your goals.

You are not alone!

  • There is a creator God who is interested in you, to see you become all you are created to be! Get to know your creator and the voice of love and life!  (Hint: if you experience shame, guilt and condemnation you maybe are listening to the wrong voice!)

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