Black Belt Goal Setting

  • In my second book, a self-help guide, I talk in detail about setting goals. I'd like to give a "mini" talk here on the things I've found useful. You can read my first blog entry on this topic, Goal-Setting for Beginners, to get a prelude of the book as well. All this material is taken from it.


    First up, I'll give my take on New Year's resolutions and why I don't set them. If I do start off January with a goal, I make it something I can easily achieve, to build my confidence that I can tackle bigger dreams in the future. Already I know my resolution for 2008: to wear makeup when I go out on the weekends.

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    When I first started out in recovery, I had a simple plan: take showers five days a week. That was all I worked on until I made it happen, and then I set another goal. One thing that guided me through was to write down my objectives and what it would take to get there. I don't believe in rigid deadlines; I prefer to think in terms of a flexible date.


    In my self-help book, I talk about what I call the PVC Factor: how our priorities, values and choices determine whether we succeed. First, I came up with five things I valued: health, confidence, education, career and creativity. I suggest you come up with no more than five imperative values to keep them manageable. Based on our values, we're going to make certain things a priority. Our life is in balance when we make the choices that reflect our values.


    Here's how it goes: I typed out "Value: Education" and under that "Priority: Life-long learning." My Choices reflected this:

    1. Re-frame negative thoughts by using cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.
    2. Travel to other locales to expand my worldview and refresh my point of view.
    3. Utilize my research skills to gather information to use for my advocacy work.
    4. "Solo" in my careers as a writer, lecturer, and educator so that I can lean from others at the same time I advocate for them.
    5. Devote my energy to the positive dissemination and use of knowledge.
    6. Stay flexible and adaptable and open to change.
    7. Be computer-literate and use state-of-the-art technology.


    I recommend you limit yourself to at the most seven or eight choices. Right now, when it comes to "health," I haven't met my goal of going to the gym three times per week. So that's something I need to work on, or revise the choice to two times a week. However, your choices generally will not change throughout your lifetime, or will do so only as you leave one era and embark on another.


    My goals binder has everything typed up in it. On the covers, I inserted under the clear sheet quotes to motivate me. The PVC Factor starts off with my vision: "My goal in life is to use my writing to make things right. Through my words and actions I seek to inspire others to change for the better." I suggest you spend some time working on a mission statement for your life, too, and place it under the "Vision" heading. Then I typed up under that my "Motto/Guiding Principle": "Who cares what everyone else thinks. Be true to yourself." Spend some time creating your own motto, which can change over the years.


    Then comes the PVC Factor: You write down your values. Mine starts with "Value #1: Health," and under that "Priority: Positive Lifestyle" and under that "Choices:" where I list the choices I'll make to live in balance. And so on through my lists of five values. If you feel your life is out of balance and not working, it's probably because you're falling down in one or two of the Choices.


    After the PVC Factor is taken care of, you can itemize your "decade-by-decade" goals. I started off with this:


    In my 40s: 1. Author three books. 2. Public service librarian. 3. Freelance journalist. 4. Life coach for mental health consumers. 5. Board member. 6. Motivational speaker. 7. Own a co-op. 8. Diploma in image consulting from FIT.

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    Now, the last item I may not get to, but it's there as a jumping-off point because I would like to use my love of fashion to benefit others in recovery, perhaps by taking someone shopping for her first interview suit. I also wrote down goals for "In my 50s" and "In my 60s." This section of my goals binder ends with "At the end of this Life: 1. Set up a scholarship to Pratt Institute-SILS for people with a mental illness to pursue library work. 2. Spend time solo to reflect on my life and create a legacy."


    The next section I typed up was "Where I see myself at 42 years old." It was my five-year plan. Interestingly, I wrote, "At 42, I'm a freelance writer, lecturer and educator. My book, Left of the Dial, has been published." As I've said, not everything goes as planned. A more realistic publication date I now know is spring 2009, when I'm 43.


    In my goals binder, I also place the results of any tests I've taken, like the Kolbe A Index, and the Authentic Happiness VIA Signature Strengths. I recommend you do this, too, as a tool for self-awareness and knowing what makes you tick. In the front of the binder, I included a quote from Audre Lorde which inspires me to never give up hope and keep soldiering on in the service of my vision.


    This all sounds detailed and carved in stone, I know. The beauty of computers is that we can save our goals binder information to a disk or hard drive, and revise it as we go along, and as we settle into ourselves in later years. I urge that when you're first starting out, you re-read your goals binder every day, or at least at the beginning of the week to power you through. To be honest, I have only two life-forming goals: to publish my memoir and own a co-op, so I haven't really been reading the binder, maybe once a month, and I examined it thoroughly again when I started to write this blog entry.


    One of the reasons I like support groups is that you can get feedback from others who've been in your shoes and you can develop goals and work on them with others who understand what you're going through. I do not believe that your goals are beyond your reach if they are S.M.A.R.T. These goals I wrote about in Goal-Setting for Beginners. They are goals you set that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and tangible.


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    Goals aren't set in stone. If they were, you'd believe you failed if you didn't do what you set out to. Life happens. Our priorities shift and change. But our core values withstand the test of time, and so do the choices we list in our PVC factor, with a tweak here and there, perhaps.


    I would love to hear your impressions of what I've talked about in here. I'm convinced it's a myth that people who have schizophrenia can't accomplish much of anything, as some people subtly or not-so-indirectly tell us. Sometimes, the greatest stigma comes from within the mental health community, from others living with the illness and from ourselves. My goal in writing this kind of a blog entry is to get you to see that you have options. You don't have to attend a day program for the rest of your life if you don't want to. You don't have to strive to be a stockbroker or accountant, either, if you feel that or any other goal isn't something you'd like to achieve.


    In my life, I've come to accept that even if I were to remain a public service librarian until I'm 65, I'd be happy with that. Publishing my memoir is the one non-negotiable goal. Everything else would be bonus. So, too, I believe you are the expert on your own life, and only you have the right to determine how you want to live. I write about setting goals because goal-seeking behavior is the one true thing that allows us to succeed. It's something everyone can do regardless of disability or life situation.


    My next blog entry will be about Giving Thanks: Developing an Attitude of Gratitude.


    A happy and healthy Thanksgiving to you all!

Published On: November 20, 2007