Lemme ask you a question: What role does goal setting play in your school’s culture?
If your building is anything like mine, goal setting is probably a regular part of your daily routine. There are goals in your school improvement plan, right? And each learning team has their own SMART goals to pursue. Teachers write goals for personal development as a part of their evaluation protocols — and goals litter individualized education plans for students with special needs.
That’s why James Clear’s bit titled Forget About Setting Goals caught my eye this morning.
Clear’s argument is worth considering: Goal setting can be intimidating — and can result in feelings of failure or fear that leave people paralyzed.
Here’s an example from my personal life: One of my goals is to lose 25 pounds in the next three months. Frankly, I’ve got a closet full of clothes that I don’t fit into anymore — and I don’t have the cash to buy a “fat guy wardrobe” right now.
But losing 25 pounds right now seems next to impossible. Mathematically, that’s 87,500 calories I have to lose. If I burn about 600 calories per workout (which is what the ol’ treadmill keeps telling me), I’ll need 145 workouts to lose 25 pounds — and that’s ONLY if I quit eating like a Buffalonian in the winter-time.
Just reading that paragraph makes me want to quit before my “healthy living” kick even begins — and the minute I miss a workout or down a dozen wings while watching a playoff game, I’m going to feel like I’ve lost. Those are pretty high stakes, right? So in order to protect myself, I’m going to either set easier goals or completely ignore the goals that I’ve set to begin with. That’s human nature. We are good at self-preservation.
Clear would argue that the solution to my growing waistline ISN’T to set some kind of big, hairy audacious goal for losing weight. Instead, it’s to concentrate on systems that result in weight loss.
My attention should be focused on thinking carefully about what I am going to eat for every meal or building time for regular gym visits into my personal schedule. Doing so concentrates my attention on practical steps that I can take to lose weight — and gives me a thousand opportunities to feel successful. Each scoop of hummus that I choke down or trip to the gym that I take becomes a victory for me — and victories build momentum that will eventually help me to achieve the goal that I would have set for myself in the first place.
It’s an interesting argument, isn’t it?
Goals are destinations. Systems are vehicles that keep you moving forward — and moving forward is essential to winning. “When you focus on the practice (systems) instead of the performance (goals),” writes Clear, “You can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.”
Now I’ve got to figure out how to apply Clear’s argument to the work that I am doing in my school. How can I prioritize practice over performance in order to drive my own professional growth, the growth of my learning team, and the growth of my students?
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