Understand your goals and go for them

Friday, November 2, 2007 | 4:00 p.m. CDT; updated 7:56 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Two boys I know used to love to hunt for snakes in the fields adjacent to their home. They grew up in a rural area, and from early childhood until late adolescence, they would hunt for snakes in the fields two or three times each week. They would go into the fields and start turning over rocks and sticks and boards at one corner of the field and move in every direction and cover every square foot. They would turn a rock over and quickly look to see if there was a snake to be caught. If not, they immediately moved to the next rock or piece of wood or debris and turn it over just as quickly. If there were no snake to be had, they would move on to the next rock.

I noticed that they had no real idea of how large this field was. It was at least 15 acres. They kept their heads down and kept looking for snakes. I also don’t think they paid much attention to the number of rocks and boards they turned over or the number of times there was no snake. Indeed, they usually returned from their hunting trips empty-handed. However, they remained focused on the idea of catching a snake. They found lots of energy and excitement and hope in that idea.

I once had a client who weighed close to 400 pounds. Her goal for therapy was to figure out why she has always had trouble losing weight. She was dissatisfied with herself, her previous helpers and the available weight-loss programs that promised to lose the pounds and keep them off. One day, she told me that she prayed four or five times every day to God. She prayed for his help in providing her strength and for help in increasing her metabolism. She prayed for his help in reducing her stress and improving her energy. I told her that it was fine for her to pray, but she might also want to stop eating two pizzas a day.

Some individuals lose the ability to experience their goals. Instead, they get caught in the bumps in the road on the way to achieving them. The 400-pound client would pray to God and plead and become angry with God. But her goal was not to be more spiritual. The snake hunters did not stop and fret about most rocks not bearing a snake because their goal was to find one, not to become philosophers about why there wasn’t one or why there should be one under this rock or that.

We all have bumps in the road. The key to moving beyond them is understanding what our goals are and having the ability to keep them alive. Good goals are the ones that keep us excited. Good goals keep us excited because they tickle a part of us. They come from our dreams and our interests. Good goals are not those set by others for us. If you pursue goals and find yourself resenting them, perhaps they aren’t your goals. That is how people end up resenting their own lives. They pursue goals that are not theirs and end up resenting the goals, as well as the people that pressured them to adopt them. And more importantly, they end up resenting themselves.

Dwayne Stone of Columbia holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from U.C. Irvine and a master’s in social science from Southern Oregon State College. He has worked in the mental health field for more than 18 years in both public and private agencies and private practice as a counselor and life coach. He has developed a parenting program aimed at noncustodial parents and published three self-help books. His columns appear periodically in the Weekend Missourian.

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