Sunday, January 24, 2016

Setting SMART Goals

Since this is near the beginning of a new year I thought I would share an acronym we learned in a staff meeting recently. It is an easy way to remember effective goal setting.

S.M.A.R.T – and we all want to be considered smart.

According to our pastor Tom, when it comes to a goal you are wanting to achieve is it:

  • Strategic -- (Does this goal clearly connect with what God has assigned me to do?)

  • Measurable -- (Does this goal have a number attached to it?)

  • Actionable -- (Does this goal have a clear action I must take?)

  • Realistic -- (Is this goal grounded in reality?)

  • Timed -- (Does this goal have a clear deadline?) 

Which one of these points is hardest for you?

I don’t know about you, but the hardest step for me is the last. Even the thought of having to set a hard deadline on a goal gives me a measure of anxiety. I can become a master of excuses in order to avoid having to exercise the required amount of self-discipline to meet the target date. I was painfully aware of this as I walked around the outside of our house with a contractor this morning. I had set a date to have some work done to our house by the end of last year. But here it is January and I am just getting started. And the truth is, I can come up with no good excuse.

If my goal is good (and in my case it is) I remind myself that giving up is not an option. Healthy self-reflection and a measure of grace helps me to process and reset my missed deadline. Instead of shaming myself, I encourage myself to positive action.

Is being realistic hard for you? Do you tend to overestimate your capabilities or resources? Unrealistic goals produce frustration and discouragement. You can begin to doubt yourself and others may lose trust for you as well if you are frequently falling short. It is usually smart to under-promise and over-deliver.

It’s easy to imagine this concept being applied to career or work goals, but how about to relational goals? Is there a growth goal that you have been thinking about that would produce a closer or healthier relationship? Or have you developed bad habits with people that you would want, or need to change? Can you articulate a relationship goal that encompasses this whole concept in one or two sentences?

For example: “Since God wants me to be patient and kind (strategic), I will completely eliminate my angry outbursts (measurable) by physically withdrawing from conflicts (actionable) so that my family can look forward to a peaceful vacation this summer (realistic and timed).”

Why don’t you give it a try in some area of your life and see what you can come up with. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Finding Your Voice

In counseling, the concept of “finding your voice” may come up as a topic or issue. Usually it is because someone has had a hard time speaking up when appropriate, or has been silenced because of various reasons. It can be a pretty sensitive area when the person has been a victim of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

Especially in marriage it is good to have an equal voice and shared power (along with equal responsibility) and we encourage people to ask for what they need. If we continually sublimate our desires to someone else’s we will eventually build up toxic resentment and bitterness. Trying to keep the peace by not speaking up in a relationship is very risky. It is with both our words and actions that we set appropriate emotional and physical safety boundaries that declare “This is my property, stay off!”. Sometimes, however, when a person is learning to exercise their power in this new way they may overcompensate and create new problems.

                IMMATURE                    MATURE                             IMMATURE
--------------Reactive-------------    -------------------     ------------------Reactive------------------      
Passive Victim                                  Assertive           Aggressive          Rageful Victimizer
            |                      |                             |                          |             |                  |     
                     Passive Aggressive                                         Angry Aggressive

As you can see on the above chart, the range of response is a continuum from very passive to very aggressive. I would suggest that the goal is right in the middle, communicating in a firm, but kind manner. That is assertiveness. From a spiritual perspective, we call this “speaking the truth in love”. It respects both us and them and creates an environment where closeness is possible. Both withdrawal and aggression creates distance within a relationship, but kind honesty is fertile soil for something positive to grow.

When a person has been a victim of something serious, regulating their emotions and behavior and finding a balance may be very challenging. Not wanting to risk becoming a victim again, they might overestimate what is required to remain safe (overpowering).  This is when having a counselor or mentor to give feedback can be very helpful.

From a spiritual perspective, the Bible seems to have many more cautionary verses about anger and aggression. It is an area that is more likely to get away from us once we enter the territory. I also think we have a higher risk of practicing self-deception as we try to justify our over-reactive or sinful behavior in retrospect. On the other hand, measured responses have the potential to promote understanding and intimacy. Find your voice, but find the balance.

Proverbs 16:24(NLT)
Kind words are like honey — sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.

James 1:19-20(ESV)
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God