Unless you know to what port you sail, no wind is a good wind. Remember, too, that winds change with each day, and sails are trimmed to meet existing winds.
“There is just never enough time! It seems like I just finish taking roll when the bell rings. The frustration is driving me nuts!”
“Each year I promise myself not to get entangled in this trap of always being behind and never getting caught up, but it just seems to be a pattern I can’t break. How do other teachers get everything done?”
“If someone would just tell me one thing I could count on to really help with this situation of too much to do and not enough time to do it in, it would be worth everything to me.” Have you ever heard these statements? Perhaps they have even passed through your lips. They seem to be inherent in the profession, don’t they? How does one stay on top of the situation and not fall prey to the anxiety caused by constant incompletion of work?
Goal-setting is nothing revolutionary in the educational world. In fact, we have all memorized the “benefit package” available to the individual who establishes goals. And, most certainly, we all have goals. Our students have goals. Our schools have goals. Everyone has goals. However, in looking a step further, it is evident that successful teachers maintain a serious, disciplined pattern when it comes to short- and long-term goal setting. Their consistently high level of accomplishment serves as a positive testimony to the worth of this process. The exercise does pay off.
Do we carefully plan our day? Specifically design our week of classes? Outline the first and second priority goals of the month, the semester, the year? Or are we flying by the seats of our pants? This is an uncomfortable set of questions, isn’t it? How quickly we are reminded of that familiar quote: “Failing to plan means planning to fail.”
We will spend hours selecting the “perfect” music for the upcoming concert or planning for an upcoming field trip but will not extend that same detailed preparation to the planning of the rehearsal or class format. Not only is this self-defeating, but it becomes a vicious circle leading to personal stress, poor performances, strained rehearsals, and a constant battle for program survival. These negative results confirm our worst fears and reinforce the subconscious mind. Further, the cycle is certain to repeat itself again (a classic case of self-fulfilling prophecy).
How does one break the cycle? What steps can be taken to alter this seemingly endless, predictable outcome? The answer might well be within the logic of these questions:
- Would you start driving across the country without a map?
- Would you attempt to put together a jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box?
- Have you ever boarded a plane without knowing its destination?
How ridiculous and simplistic these questions appear! Only a fool would be lured into such nonsense.
Our minds lead us in the direction of their most dominant thoughts. Are we taking control of those thoughts and carefully “mapping out” our futures, or do we simply hope everything will fall in place?
It is imperative that we set the goals––draw our map, define the intent, lay out the plans, create the blueprint––which will determine the success of our efforts.
The mind works on goals like a homing pigeon. Without a destination, the homing pigeon is known to fly in circles until it collapses in a heap of exhaustion. It is time to focus our efforts, just as we would focus a camera before taking a photograph to insure a clean, crisp representation of the vision.
Setting goals––creating our vision in detail––is more than just “thinking through” what the day has in store on our way to school.
Goals must be written. It is a highly skilled procedure with strict rules demanding self-discipline at the highest level.
Goals must be specific. The more detailed we can make the goals, the greater the chance we will reach them. It is mandatory that we write them down and create as many outlined sub-entries as possible.
Goals must be realistic. Aladdin was not a teacher. This routine is futile if we are extreme in either direction: too easy or too difficult. Assess the students’ potential, then set the goals one rung higher on the ladder of success.
Goals must match our values. If the results of the goal setting are inconsistent with out values, the mind will wipe out the goals much like a computer will erase a document. The plan must be congruent with our purpose in teaching, our purpose in life, and our purposeful being.
Goals must be visualized in detail. Be able to share the vision with the students in a way they understand, and see the picture. Enthusiasm and positive energy will always be available when they are clearly aware of their destination.
Goals must be measurable. If we cannot measure the goals, we cannot chart the progress. Without progress, there is no positive feedback for the mind, and the energy level subsides. Much like a car without gasoline, the goals are without fuel and fall far short of the mark. This common flaw often prevents people from achieving complete success.
Read and review the goals daily. Each time the message is sent to the mind, it reestablishes the forward momentum. Much as a gyroscope keeps a center to an airplane’s flight with constant course corrections, our mind needs to be fed data to adjust where necessary for goal attainment.
It all sounds so easy. It’s not! At least at first, it’s not. But, like anything else, the habit of doing it time and time again becomes like all other patterns of life. After a given amount of time (twenty-one to twenty-eight days the experts say), goal setting becomes an integral part of our daily routine.
Good planting means a good harvest. Good habits develop good results.
Perhaps it is not the will to do good that counts, but the will to prepare to do good.
We all have the ability for success, but we often allow ourselves to be programmed for failure. After listening to countless people explain why something cannot be accomplished, our subconscious begins to accept this information, and we start to behave accordingly. Personal motivation dwindles, and it becomes impossible to define our goals or even explain our plan for reaching the chosen destination. Much like our friend the homing pigeon, we struggle in a hopeless attempt to break out of this professional entrapment. Such an emotional straitjacket unfortunately often leads to the proverbial burnout syndrome.
It is not a dead-end street. The process of goal setting brings with it an abundance of personal drive. The more vividly we can describe our goals, the more energy is available to us. It has also been demonstrated repeatedly that a disciplined goal-choice will always override a failure-choice in the mind. The choice seems clear!
I recently read a gripping statement of truth that brings all of this to an appropriate end: A person who does not improve is no better than a person who cannot improve.
The goal is to strive for excellence in every facet of our daily lives. Unless we commit to excellence, we are doomed to mediocrity. Why settle for less?
Are we worth our weight in goals?
This article is adapted from the book “Everyday Wisdom for Inspired Teaching” by GIA Publications, and reproduced with permission from Tim Lautzenheiser