Yesterday, I made a bookshelf.
Go me, right?
To be fair, I did not build it from scratch. I bought it from Target, read the directions, and had to redo a step because I put a piece on backwards, but 45 minutes later, a slightly scuffed bookshelf existed where none had existed before.
The point of this post is not to bask in the glory of a tiny accomplishment, nor to knock you down with braggadocio. Rather, it is about goal-setting, both short-term and long-term.
The bookshelf itself was a short-term goal. I had a few elements in place to accomplish the goal. I had to drag the box in from the car, read through the directions and understand all the actions I’d have to perform, and then take each step until it was complete. It was not nearly as difficult as when I built my son’s crib, and I wanted to throw the thing out of the window during the process, but the completion of the goal yesterday gave me a sense of accomplishment that lifted up my day.
Unfortunately, after the brief euphoria that took place with the completed bookshelf, life smacked me in the face again and I realized that I was nowhere near done with my larger goal of rearranging our house in the hopes of streamlining our everyday existence. I started finding all of my son’s books that had been strewn about the house and went about the business of filling the shelf, completing that short-term burst and looking at my list to see what else needed to get done.
Teachers are starting to go back to work and students are another week behind us. It is going to be imperative that we talk about goal-setting in the first few days and weeks of school. I try to incorporate goal-setting into all of my aspects of an educator, having used them with my English students, newspaper and yearbook staffers and basketball players in the past. When setting up those goals, it is important to look both in the long and short term. Short term goals can be as easy as the one I just accomplished. I had a goal of putting the bookshelf together, I read the directions, and then it was done. Great, I can cross it off my list and celebrate a tiny victory. Short-term goals are great for that momentary lift, but also as building blocks for something bigger. With my students, these short term goals could be understanding a topic or finishing a draft of an essay. My basketball players could be focused on strengthening a specific move or increasing their shooting percentage from one day to the next. They are short, achievable, and although stressful, not as stressful as those long-term goals.
The long-term goals are what really drag people down sometimes because they can be so lofty. With the basketball team, our long-range goal every year was to win the state championship. Do you know how unreasonable that goal was? Even if we had the talent, the buy-in, and the focus, you are still relying on many other factors that get in your way. Plus the fact that there can be only one state champion out of hundreds of other teams with the same goal. So, was our season a success if we didn’t win a championship? Of course, because of the other long-range goals we set. Did we win an in-season tournament? Did we win more games than the previous season? Did our players grow? Did we get kids to play in college?
These long term goals are tough. Our general goal is producing monthly issues of our school newspaper (or a yearbook), but is that good enough? Do we want to win awards? Do we want to engage the community? All of these things seem daunting, but they are necessary to the process. We are an hour away from our editor meeting and we will start setting these goals. We will accomplish many of them during this school year, and we will definitely fail in many others, but that will be okay. Just the act of setting them will make us stronger and more focused over the course of the year.