“Focus is a natural principle. The sun’s scattered rays are too weak to start a fire, but once you focus them with a magnifying glass they will bring paper to flame in seconds.”
-The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling
At the start of last summer, V (my oldest daughter) set three goals for herself:
- Learn to ride her bike without training wheels
- Swim horizontally across our neighborhood pool
- Tie her shoes
By the end of August, she had nailed all three of them.
I love that she set goals, and then got to it.
I was setting big goals too, but often they tumbled to the wayside, lost in the day-to-day.
Kids though, they dream big and go for it. It’s a natural instinct. I want to learn … I want to be a … The sky’s the limit, full steam onward and upward.
Somewhere along the way, we hesitate, halt … stop even. Stop dreaming big. Or if we’re still dreaming (I am!), we get bogged down – hindered by norms, responsibilities (I do!) – and make our “dream” realistic.
It sounds grim, but so often we get set on an ill-designed path. The creative pull is ignored, swatted away – no time for you right now. The whirlwind of keeping the boat afloat on a day-to-day basis eats up all the time and energy needed to change the game.
Dreaming big becomes overwhelming, a past time for youth. When I was young, I wanted to be, we might say.
It’s hard to turn around an ocean liner, so we settle. This is comfortable, this is fine, we tell ourselves.
The word settle has never sat well with me. It slumps my shoulders, depresses me. With it, I’m abandoning my passions, turning my back on my inner child, and letting the sparkle fade.
This fall, after a training day for the Leader in Me program at my school, I had an aha moment: I can keep dreaming, reinventing; I just need to focus.
I realized I was saturated with half-baked plans. I was trying to execute 10 to 15 goals – all at once – above my day-to-day-operation that is parenting, teaching, being.
That day I learned something so simple, so logical, but something I was not doing: Focus on a maximum of one to three wildly important goals (w.i.g.) at a time.
In a day-long meeting, I was asked to hone in on my pressing personal and professional w.i.g.s. If I could do anything, what would it be?
With that, I landed on a professional yearning: I want to create a French children’s CD.
I’d been tossing this around for a long, long time. Years! But I had tossed it aside.
So my first challenge was to analyze my hold ups. What was my inner critic saying? Why was I telling myself that my dream is out of reach?
- I’m not a formally-trained singer. I can name ten people, people I know, that sing better than me.
- I’m not a native French speaker. What if someone notices an American accent? I’m good, but I’m still an American.
Once I identified my shackles, I thought screw it, this is b.s. I can sell myself short or I can give it a college try and see where I land. Let the critics criticize, but I should not sabotage my dream.
I can grab ahold of my dream and wrestle it into reality or I can turn in my chips.
I’m going to go for it. I have NO IDEA how to make a French children’s CD, but I will figure it out.
There, I said it. It’s out there. I will figure it out.
I considered what I have in my ring:
- I have been teaching my elementary French students through song for twelve years
- I have a vision of what I want my CD to sound like, the themes I want to include
- My husband is a musician
- I love to sing in French
So I needed a concrete plan of how to go from x to y. I ripped it from the Leadership Notebooks from our Leader in Me program.
Here’s how you can make your dream a reality:
- Make it Measurable: Set your goal in measurable terms. From x to y by when. Instead of saying, I’m going to get in shape, say I’m going to go from running one mile to four miles by June 1st. This format recognizes where you are today, where you want to go, and the deadline for reaching that goal. Each w.i.g. must contain a measurable result and a date by which you want to achieve the result. You can also follow the S.M.A.R.T. model of goal setting.
My goal: I will create a children’s French CD by July 1, 2016. It so happens to be my 40th birthday. The deadline seems far off, but a couple years is reasonable given my family/work commitments.
- Actionable Items: Write down the actions needed to achieve your w.i.g. These items are both short-term and immediate goals to help you wiggle out the nitty gritty to achieve your w.i.g. You could do daily, weekly, monthly, depending on your goal. Each action is a step in the direction of achieving your goal.
My first actionable item is to record a song with my husband. For our own entertainment. Not a half sing, but a full blown sing. I’ve practiced singing with him many times – after a few drinks. Now it’s time to record it. I will do this by June 1, 2014.
Also, by March 1, I will:
- Talk to one people I know who has created a foreign-language children’s CD. Ask her about copyright laws and the ins and outs.
- Test run (teach) one of my songs with my Kindergarten to second grade students and my own daughters.
- Listen to inspiring French songs in the car with my girls, on the way home from school.
- Accountability Partner: It’s key to check in with someone. After you set your w.i.g., write down the people or resources that can help you achieve your goal, and make a plan to check in with them regularly.
My partner is my husband. He has my back; he is my support.
- Get a scoreboard: How will you know you done what you’ve set out to do? Personally I like check lists, and use the Goal Streaks app ($3.99). But, get creative, there are many avenues for this. Bottom line: A scoreboard allows you to assess and revise.
What dream is calling to you? What color is your w.i.g.? Well … why aren’t you pulling the trigger?
P.S. Are you looking to map out your life goals … Mindtools is a great place to start.
Ciao for now.