SOS - Goal Setting

... --- ... SOS This is the traditional seafaring emergency call to "Save Our Ship!" - to rush first aid to a sinking vessel. On land - and in daily life - it stands, simply, for "HELP!" Until I read this recently, I never really knew exactly what it stood for. Did you know the correct meaning? My sister thought it stood for Save Our Souls.

Do you ever feel the need to send out an SOS? To holler "help" because you just have too much to do and your life is just too confusing to manage? Do you ever feel as though you're paddling upstream in a leaky canoe? Well, maybe tonight I can offer some words of wisdom that will help you patch that canoe so you can make your journey safely.

Recently I read about another meaning for the acronym SOS. It was in a book entitled "Go For It, Get Organized", and it stood for Simple, Orderly, Step-by-Step. Now you may say, sure, it sounds easy, but my life is too crazy. I have too many things to accomplish; it will never work for me. My life is anything but simple. Well, before you reject this idea, let's take a look at how it works.

The first simple step is to take a look at your life or situation. Try to see the whole picture and set a goal. Now a goal is simply defined as "the end toward which effort is directed." So you can pick anything can be your goal. The second step is to take a look at your goal and determine what needs to be done first. Once you can establish an end point, it is much easier to see how to get there.

Think about doing a jig-saw puzzle. It is broken down into many tiny pieces. Each piece has to be fit into place. You have a picture of what it should look like when it is finished - your goal. When you can look at the picture on the box, it is much easier to envision where each of the pieces go. You keep checking with the picture to make sure you are heading in the right direction. Without the picture, it is much more difficult and takes a lot longer to complete.

Most people have a system for putting together a puzzle. Some people like to find all the pieces with straight edges and put together the outside first. Others will choose the largest object and put it together. Still others will sort all the puzzle pieces into piles of each of the colours before beginning. However you do a puzzle, you have to have a vision, an idea of the end result, before you can complete it.

When you were a child learning to walk, you had a goal. Usually one of your parents was holding out their arms and saying, "Come here". Your goal was to reach their arms and get a big hug. So you took a step or two and then fell down and maybe crawled the rest of the way. The next time you took two or three steps and then four and five until you eventually walked all the way just to hear them say, "Good boy, or Good girl" and give you a big hug. After days or months of practicing, you learned to walk all over the place, and then you learned to run. Now you were no longer restricted to a small corner of the world, you had a great big world to explore. But it all started with a vision.

We may all wish to be superhuman, to accomplish a lot of things, but the fact is, we can only really focus on one thing at a time. Most of us have computers and we are impressed with their speed and all the things we can do with them, but no matter how mindboggling a computer's operations seem, the computer is in fact performing only one operation at a time. And if the computer does not have an end in mind, if someone forgot a command, it can't accomplish its task. The same applies to us. If we don't have a goal, we may become scattered in too many directions to accomplish our tasks.

Have you ever noticed how much more you accomplish at work just before you go on holidays, or how quickly you can clean your house when you know that company is coming over in a little while? It's because you are more focused. There are certain things that must be accomplished and so you start working on completing one thing at a time and you don't allow little interruptions to take you away from your goal.

What are some of your goals? What do you dream of? Where would you like to be in four years? What do you want to do next week? What must be done today?

When looking at all the things you have to do in your life, ask yourself the following simple questions:

Must it be done?

Must it be done now?

Must it be done by me?

The answers to these questions can help you simplify, to take away what's not really necessary. Many times we complicate our lives when we are distracted by past, future, or side issues - by "what if", "if only".

The next thing to do after deciding that the task must be done now, and by you, is to break it down into smaller, simpler steps and to tackle those steps in an orderly manner, one at a time, just as you would the puzzle pieces. By focusing on one area of your life and getting it in order by completing it, you become energized to focus on another area and then you can complete that next. I recently read that completing tasks releases endorphins into our body making us want to complete even more tasks. Think about how you felt the last time you completed a project.

When working on a puzzle we usually take short breaks to rest our eyes, to look away from the problem and come back with a fresh perspective. It's amazing how often you immediately see where some pieces go when you come back from getting a snack or just taking a break. It's important to take breaks, to relax and put your mind and body on hold for a few minutes.

At Flylady.com, the site author suggest doing things in 15 minute intervals, e.g. if you have to clean your house in a hurry because company is coming over, set a timer for 15 minutes and tackle 1 room, perhaps the kitchen. When the timer goes off, you reset it and tackle the next room. At the end of that 15 minutes you tackle another room and at the end of the 45 minutes you set it for 15 minutes again and take a break. Then you start all over again. It's amazing what you can accomplish in 15 minutes when you are focused.

Getting into the habit of getting organized with the S O S principles takes what every new skill takes: practice.

Studies have shown that it takes about 21 days or 3 weeks to make or break a habit. So try it for the next 3 weeks.

Pick one goal or vision to focus on and put the acronym SOS on your bathroom mirror so that you'll see it every morning. See how energized you become around completing that task and think up a great way to reward yourself when you are finished.

Fran Watson is a Career Counsellor and a Toastmaster (ATM-B). For more information on Toastmasters you can go to her webpage http://www.franwatson.ca

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