Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hacking My Brain [Where's the Scarecrow? Goal Setting]

I was rereading Steve Kamb's book Level Up Your Life, which is some of the geekiest self-help you will find out there, when I came upon the section titled: Growth Happens At Our Limits. In this section, Steve relates the story from Fellowship of the Ring of Sam and Frodo leaving the Shire for the first stage in what will be a long and arduous journey full of fright and peril. However, before they ever get to that, they stop at a scarecrow. Sam says that this is the farthest he's ever been from home. If he takes one more step, he'll have gone farther than he has ever gone.

Looking at it from the perspective that he's got a much longer journey to make diminishes the scarecrow. Have you ever done that? I still have so far to go, so you miss the milestone of what you have achieved in a single moment. It's easy to do. Sam didn't have the benefit of knowing what was coming, but often we do and because we do, it's easy to lose sight of the progress in favor of looking at the much larger goal. For example, right now I'm trying to lose weight to fit into my wedding dress. I won't tell you how much I weigh, but suffice to say it is significantly higher than the goal weight I have set for myself. I am making progress. However, I have to remind myself that each new milestone in weight loss is the farthest I've ever gone. The scarecrow keeps moving. Sometimes he's fast, sometimes he's slow, but he's definitely not pinned down in one place. This is a good thing.

So how do you not miss the scarecrow and the momentous reality that you've reached further than you've ever gone? First, scale back your focus. It's a good thing to be able to see what's at the end of the journey, don't get me wrong; however, it isn't always helpful when you're trying to make sure you show yourself some love when you reach a milestone. Focus on the next milestone and put the end of the journey to the back of your mind. Also, keep in mind, the end of the journey is another scarecrow, another moment of going the farthest you have ever gone, and it will deserve its day in the sun as well. Second, pay attention. This should go without saying, but the truth is we forget. If you're just la-de-daing along, you'll miss the scarecrow. This scene would have had much less impact if they just walked past the scarecrow singing some drinking song. Third, mark the occasion. For Sam, he marked it by the awareness of the scarecrow and telling his friend about the occasion. You can do something similar. When you realize you've reached a scarecrow, call a friend. Mark it on your calendar. Do something related to the milestone you've reached. Whatever you do, don't just let the matter pass. If you mark it, you'll have something to look back on to tell you how much you can do when the next scarecrow seems out of reach.

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