Today’s blog is Goals, which is the flip side of Dreams—last week’s subject. The two go hand in hand and are like Siamese twins. One is rather inseparable from the other. According to Webster’s Dictionary, Dreams are the ideals that propel us toward a certain objective while Goals are the objectives to which effort is directed.
I generally defer to Webster’s Dictionary when trying to nail down a topic. I do this because I remember Miss Bailey, the librarian at my high school, used to tell us that before we could talk about something, we had to first know what we were talking about. She always suggested Webster’s as a good place to begin—and after all these years, her suggestion seems just as correct as always.
Webster’s key word in its definition of goal is the word “effort.” This is the fuel that propels us toward our dreams. Without this special fuel we are adrift. When we are young, we are pretty much just drifting in our thoughts. To my friend Ferman when I was growing up, I confided my dreams of going to Hollywood one day where I would involve myself in acting and writing. I had not a clue how that was going to happen. To tell the truth, I don’t remember much of what Ferman confided in me about his dreams. I think he was just hoping not to have to follow in his father’s footsteps and be a farmer or cattleman and for sure not to have to go into the army. He also wanted a comfortable life.
I think young people indulge themselves in serious daydreaming from about age ten to fourteen. All of a sudden we hit puberty and not only do our bodies change but our minds. Notice I said “mind”—not brain. The brain is mainly just an antenna for the mind.
After puberty strikes, the mind all of a sudden has to become as realistic as the body has about its changes. Before puberty you were mostly day dreaming. After puberty you must start dealing in goals—which as we found from Webster means dealing in effort toward a specific set of objects. I’d say about fifty per cent of the population become goal oriented at puberty while the other fifty percent put it off by lackadaisical living such as drugs or alcohol or maybe even sex. The more this last half put off generating the ”fuel” of life, the more their motors can’t really crank up and run. These people are setting out on a journey (growing up) and have no real destination in mind. It boils down to achievers and non-achievers.
The fifty per cent with “fuel,” become focused and self-confident. The other fifty percent become distracted and life takes on a pointless grind. Even so, all this fuel generation takes “effort” and is easier to say than to do. So how does one actually go about setting goals and actually accomplishing them?
I can only give you by example what I did and perhaps it will work for you as well. It all began before puberty for me. In the south, it was very common for white people to have black household help. (If you saw the film a couple of years back called THE HELP, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.)
In our house, we had a black lady called Aunt Liza. She was awfully interesting as far as I was concerned because she was full of stories about slavery times and the like, including superstitions and daily life. I loved her stories but my mother didn’t because Aunt Liza was always giving some excuse or another for not doing what she was paid to do—and that was household work—not tell stories. Aunt Liza eventually gave up working after a lifetime of being a fabulous story teller but a pretty incompetent household worker.
My mother hired another black lady by the name of Ellen. Now here was a woman who could not only tell all sorts of interesting stories but got all her house chores done like clockwork. I noticed when I visited in her home, it was well run and really nice. Once while I was visiting her and I guess I was about fourteen (puberty time) I asked what her secret was in living such a well ordered life. She told me: “I always make up my to-do lists. One for today, one to cover next week and one to cover a month or two down the line—and I always list the items in their pecking order—from the most important down to the least important. That’s the real secret. If you do all the important things first, all will be wonderful for you. If you don’t get around to the small things, nobody will really care all that much.”
She then showed me some of her lists. To say I was impressed would be putting it mildly. I noticed that Ellen was really precise in her to-do lists. What I soon realized was that “a to-do list” was the same thing as a “goal.” I noticed that Ellen didn’t have far-reaching goal lists say for five or ten years. She said that just being alive then would be good enough for her.
So, there you have it. No big secret. I have accomplished a great deal of my goals by simply following “The Ellen Method of To-Do Lists.” I was so surprised to see how easily it worked. The great thing I found out is that as long as I was in charge of my goals instead of my goals being in charge of me, I was batting a thousand. That will happen if you don’t mix the big goals and the small goals and don’t make those five and ten year “to do” goal lists. Let them take care of themselves because anything beyond a year in the goal department turns into day dreaming. Just stick to the day, week and month “to do” lists. They’ll see you through just fine.
One important thing though: Set goals that are realistic—even small ones. Don’t let other people set your goals for you. I covered that part of my life thanks to the wisdom of Clara, the house help out at my friend Ferman’s home. One of Clara’s big statements was, “Honey, I’d rather fool you than fool with you.” I didn’t know what she was talking about at first but by observing her I soon found out what she meant.
People were always setting big goals for Clara that she couldn’t possibly accomplish. (That’s exactly what happens if you allow others to set your goals—they’re much too large.) So she broke those big goals down into smaller goals that she could easily accomplish. The stuff she couldn’t get around to or didn’t have time for, she conveniently forget. That’s where the “fool you” part came in.
It worked for Clara and it sure has worked for me. “Clara, clean out the barn and make a picnic dinner for my 22 grandchildren by tomorrow afternoon at three.” Guess what Clara said? “Sure nuff, Boss.” She’d then clean what she could in the barn to make it look a bit tidied up and save time to cook a ton of easy-to-fix things for the kids. The youngsters wouldn’t know the difference and the boss would see she had at least done something in the barn. And guess what? Everybody loved Clara.
This is where not letting others set your goals for you. They may try but you re-set them for yourself and you’ll come out just fine.
So, there you have my take on goals—with BIG THANKS to Ellen and Clara—and even Miss Bailey. Maybe they’ll be able to help you too. I hope so.