As I walk through the house, I will eventually pass by a mirror, and in my peripheral vision catch a glimpse of myself. Unless something is very out of the ordinary, I pay little attention. In fact, even when standing in front of the bathroom mirror I have only passing interest in what is reflected. Periodically, however, I will scrutinize in detail the image before me, taking careful note of whether it aligns with my expectations and desires, and making adjustments when possible (in my case, that leaves few). Tools used may be a beard trimmer or skin cream. In doing so, to some degree of success, I keep my outward image aligned (or reconciled if you will) with my expectations.
As events occur throughout my day, I find myself periodically taking brief note of how my words and behavior align with my expectations of myself. Even when involved in an activity intended to elicit self-evaluation (e.g. reading an article on “how to be a good man”, or “best software development practices”) I have little more than passing interest in how I truly align with what is described. Periodically, I will scrutinize in detail my life, taking careful note of whether it aligns with my expectations and desires. With life, however, making adjustments is even more challenging and time-consuming than with my physical image, involving changes in the way I think. The tried and true tools used for this are goals and commitments.
Some may consider those words synonymous, but for me they are distinct, and both necessary for success. One without the other will bear little fruit. Either done poorly diminishes the effectiveness of the other. Both done well always produces good quality fruit in the life of those who practice them.
The best goals come from detailed examination of an aspect of life with which we find ourselves dissatisfied. It involves noting where we are today, where we would like to be, and one way in which we can get there — like planning a trip to Disneyland! The best goals fulfill the well-documented “SMART” guidelines.
Commitments are statements of intention worded as if fulfillment were a certainty. “I will pick you up at 7 pm tonight’ and “my bedroom will be picked up by 9 am” are commitments. However, for life change (and I credit Dee Duke, Pastor of Jefferson Baptist Church in Jefferson, Oregon for this enlightenment), effective commitments are written, reviewed and reported (three R’s, if you will). They involve accountability of fulfillment (can you say “reconciliation”?).
Recently I was urged by an inspiring young friend of mine (Valentin Calomme, of Brussels, Belgium) to take stock of where I am today in comparison with my Values, Mission and Key Areas of life. It was long overdue. The result was re-dedication to my written goals, review of these goals each day, and reporting of success to my friend on a weekly basis. Already I find myself better focused on the things that matter most to me, and activities which align better with who I desire to be.
I encourage you to do the same: take a retreat (whether a trip to a secluded destination or an hour in a closed room of your house); identify in detail the kind of person you want to be (“effective at work”, “understanding as parent”, “lighter in body weight”); set SMART goals; share your goals with a trusted friend; and commit to fulfilling them. Even if you fall short of your commitment, I guarantee that you will move closer to that person you desire to be.