Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Think Small

I’m miserable at goal setting, but I do it anyway.

Every coach I’ve worked with; every personal development book I’ve read; every self-improvement workshop I’ve sat through, has driven home the same point: if you have no goals, you’ll achieve nothing of value in your life. So I dutifully set goals. Fail to achieve them. And rinse and repeat.

A sane person might wonder why I keep doing it. I’m well aware that the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting a different outcome. But I seriously want to leave this world feeling at peace with how I spent my time. So I keep at it in hopes that I’ll make some headway.

In my own defense, I do mix it up a bit. I’ll change the goal-setting process. Or try different implementation approaches. And there are plenty of times when I’ve hit the jackpot! Without a plan, I’d never have gone to art school. Moved to New Jersey. Started my own business. Completed a triathalon. Or met Jim.

The problem I’m having now is that the goals I’m dancing around aren’t as clear-cut or sexy as “get married” or “hike the Grand Canyon.” They’re more along the lines of “rekindle my creative fire” and “successfully manage my money”. Just writing them down leaves me feeling overwhelmed and underwhelmed all at once. I make matters worse by coming up with outcomes that are a recipe for disaster: Change a lifetime of overspending in 30 days! Paint a masterpiece on the first try after not picking up a brush in 10 years! Launch a blog and have dozens of followers overnight! Yikes! No wonder I just want to pull the proverbial covers over my head.

As luck would have it, my current coach, Becky Rodskog, is just the woman you want in your corner when you step into the middle of this ring. She's incredibly positive, energetic and accepts no excuses. And I'm sure it's no coincidence that last night, when I was feeling so discouraged I wanted to trash five months of painstaking progress, she reminded the group of us that she’s working with about a little thing called the Kaizen principle.

Kaizen (Japanese for "change for the better") refers to a set of specific business practices that focus on continuous improvement. You can Google it and read about its applications in the world of personal development (Robert Maurer’s “One Small Step Can Change Your Life” is a sort of guidebook.) But as Becky deftly summarized it, the Kaizen thing is about focusing on one tiny step you can take each day to move toward your goal. There it was: my life preserver!

This morning I got one of those random inspirational emails that talked about how messages come in all forms. It advised me to pay attention to the stuff strewn across my path. So I did one minute thing to inch closer to a seemingly impossible goal: I wrote this post instead of diving under the covers.


  1. Hurrah!!!!!!!! Thank you for the credit, but you, Donna, are the one to get the credit - your tireless pursuit of a happy life is worth emulating, and you are and will be even better for each little step (and big step) you take. I have so much love and admiration for you!

  2. Love it! My favorite line is "But I seriously want to leave this world feeling at peace with how I spent my time." Isn't that really what it all comes to...

  3. Thanks to both of you for the gift of being part of your "change process"!

  4. Donna, thanks so much for sharing your blog with us! I love your writing style and, I also loved the line that Stacey quoted - I can so relate to that feeling/desire. Best of luck!