The Partner's Healing Workshop
Goals and Stability I
Of all the elements presented in this workshop, none will be capable of producing more stability and balance in your life than goal management. It is one of the most important life skills to master, yet few do. Why? Because it's boring. Well, it can be. Because it is tedious. Well, it can be. Because it requires a whole lot of time and energy to manage one's goals. Well, it can initially. And time and energy are two things that most people in crisis feel they do not have.
Few people learn to master the skill of goal management. And by goal management, we are not talking about merely setting goals--anyone is capable of this. Those who limit themselves to setting goals and then hope and pray that they can achieve them (see: New Years Resolutions) are setting themselves up for failure and frustration. Unfortunately, this is the most common approach to goal management, and its pervasiveness throughout our society has diluted the true value of this skill.
What is Goal Management?
Goal management is the skill of mapping out your goals in such a way as to produce a prioritized, value-based list of activities that you need to pursue in order to live a stable, balanced life. Mastering goal management is to reduce your life to small, obtainable, manageable goals. And because these smaller goals (short-term goals) are based on bigger ones (medium-range goals)...and because these bigger ones are based on even bigger ones (long-range goals)...and because these biggest goals are based squarely on your values...you have created a logic flow that allows you to pursue your life's goals in a balanced, stable, realistic manner. And with the way that these goals will be developed, it will be a manner that you are in complete control of--which is the essence of effective goal management.
Nobody wants to lead a completely rigid life and this is certainly not the pursuit of setting healthy goals. Nor is it to develop an overwhelming list of what you would like to accomplish in a perfect world--though such a list should be incorporated into your plan. The goal of goal management is to provide you with a road map for you to access should you find yourself "lost" in life. Also, it should be capable of providing you with step-by-step directions that will ensure that the goals that you are striving for are both realistic and obtainable.
It is one thing to want a career, to be a better mother, to be a better wife, to lose weight, to go back to school, to make home improvements, to make personal improvements, to pursue hobbies, etc.; quite another to find the time and energy to accomplish these things in an efficient and fulfilling manner. Realistically, many who create such an overwhelming list have based their goals from a core of emotions. And so the consequences tend to be emotional as well: anxiety, pressure, disappointment, feelings of failure, frustration. Wonderful emotions may be produced as well, but the great majority of people do not succeed in such a goal setting environment and so the negative emotions are by far the most frequent. The goal then, is not to base your goals on emotion, but on something much more stable--your values. And this will not be easy at first, though once you have learned to use your values to set goals, you will wonder why anyone would do it any other way.
Elements of Effective Goal Management
There are certain things that you will need to put into place before embarking on the development of such an extensive task. Some of these you have begun already, some you will need to complete over the next few weeks. When you are done, you will have developed an amazing tool for managing your life, and one that you will no longer have to recreate, but merely update as your values change. This means that you will be asked to do something that will not provide you with much immediate comfort, but rather...you are being asked to invest in a project that will demand more of your time, more of your energy, and this will most likely increase your stress level temporarily. So then, why do it? Because the investment that you make here to develop this 'life plan' will produce significant returns down the road. Not the least of which is to regain a vision of what your life is, and to regain palpable control over that life.
Step #1 Time Management
The first step in learning an effective goal management strategy is to take an inventory of your time. Most people take the reality of time for granted. If asked to account for their time, few could give realistic accounts of how much time they actually spend engaged in many of the mundane routines in their life. In addiction, for example, it is not uncommon for those engaged in twenty or more hours of compulsive behavior each week to report five or less hours--actually believing that they have only spent five or less hours in this activity. It is only when they take a daily inventory of their time when such a realization is discovered. If you are in no hurry, considering creating your own time management log. The results of this log will be used in assessing your value-based activities and goals down the road.
Optional Activity: Time Management Log (I highly recommend this, if you want to get the most out of this lesson).
For the next seven days, keep an inventory of all your actions that require time and energy to complete. This information should be documented on a fifteen minute basis, but YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DOCUMENT EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES. You should, however, document every few hours to ensure that you obtain an accurate representation of your activities. Also, for major blocks of time spent on the same activity (e.g. sleeping, working), there is no need to document say, "sleeping" every fifteen minutes.
Where people most often struggle is in documenting only general activities--thus negating how this information will be used. Ensure that you document what it was that you were actually doing. Entries such as: "6:00-6:30 Dinner" or "7:00-8:00 Cleaned House" are not going to provide much value. Entries such as: "6:00-6:15 Searched through cupboards to see what to make for dinner. Decided on spaghetti. Out of meat, so ran to store to get some. 6:15-6:30 Returned from store. Browned meat, boiled noodles, set table, served dinner 6:30-6:45 Rounded up family for dinner, sent kids in to wash hands, served drinks, ate dinner 6:45-7:00 cleared table, loaded dishwasher, put away condiments" will provide you with the exact information that you will need in the next stage of goal setting.
As you complete this time management log, you may simultaneously complete the next part of effective goal setting:
Step #2 Prioritizing Your Values
While it is important to recognize your values, it is even more important to identify the priority that each value plays in your life. This is not always easy, as the emotional interpretation of values tend to skew their functional value. In other words, being a good mother (while too general of a value for any real value to be ascertained) has a strong emotional connection to it, paying bills on time tends to have less of an emotional connection. When prioritizing, it would be easy to see that 'being a good mother' might be prioritized higher than 'paying bills', but what happens if those bills aren't paid? You can lose your child's housing, their transportation, your ability to feed them, etc.
Emotionally, 'being a good mother' would be the highest priority; but functionally, it is being responsible that allows you to pursue 'being a good mother'. Given that these two values overlap, you should see that it is not always easy to prioritize them. And, it isn't completely necessary to, either. All that is necessary is that you have a general prioritization in place, for times when value conflicts arise and you are forced to make 'the best' decision given a particular situation.
Activity: Prioritized Values List
The next step of goal setting is to develop a prioritized list of your current values. Effective goal management is about the efficient organization of the resources that you have available. Your greatest resource--your values--is what will be used to identify which goals should take precedence. Therefore, these values will need to be prioritized so that your decision-making can be prioritized. For the most part, you have already done this. In lesson four, you created a list of values that defined the person that you believe yourself to be. You will now be asked to take some time to update/expand this list, and then organize it according to it's meaning in your life.