Tuesday, August 29, 2006


In my previous post I think I overstated the case for living each day as if it were your last. I'm indebted to a comment from a visitor to this blog who points out that you also need to factor hope for the future into the equation and to acknowledge negative experiences in order to be able to learn from them.

I came across the technique of living each day as if it were your last in the lovely book by Richard Carlson called Don't Sweat The Small Stuff. It's one of my favourites and one I keep going back to it for inspiration and ideas. The pay off of this perspective is that it makes you appreciate each moment more fully. It's so easy to take the gift of life for granted.

However, beyond appreciation of the present moment, we also need to have aspirations and to think positively about the future. We need to live in hope, which is what setting goals is all about. Goals and dreams are what give our lives momentum and direction. I like the definition of a goal as a "dream with a deadline".

I've delivered courses on goal setting on many occasions, and what became apparent to me from meeting people who needed help in this area was that they had no problem knowing what they wanted to achieve and in setting goals. What was more difficult for them was to actually get started on achieving their goals. It's here that a double perspective is necessary. You need the vision of a goal to motivate you. But you also need to break the goal down into short term goals so that you can move towards it. Goals are achieved in the present through small steps. Each day it's necessary to check in with yourself to see how you're doing. A good affirmation in this respect to say daily is: "I make today my masterpiece". This doesn't mean that you have to do fantastic things every day. Sometimes what is most important is what is very ordinary.

It's easy to get deflected from your goals when things go wrong. When that happens it's essential to learn from the experience. Ask yourself: what's the lesson here? Otherwise the tendency is just to give up altogether.

A trait of successful people is that they take responsibility for their mistakes but recover quickly. That's because they analyse what went wrong, learn from it and then move on. It's important to be flexible though and it's OK, I think, to change your goals when perhaps you realise you're on the wrong track. This isn't giving in. It's being adaptable.

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