Thursday, January 12, 2012

Setting Goals and Achieving Dreams

A while back when Malamute was struggling to figure out what vocation he should pursue, our bishop (who has a moderately profitable business) gave us this bit of advice: "My dream as a kid was to be a professional baseball player, and I played all through high school and college and then I realized I wasn't good enough to play professionally. So I gave up on that and got a job laying floors and eventually started my own flooring business."

I wonder if the problem was that he wasn't good enough, or that he hadn't planned how to achieve his dream. Most of us have grand dreams when we're kids, but adults tell us that those dreams are impossible and to focus on something more "realistic". The result is that many of us (like me) float aimlessly through our childhoods and never learn how to set and achieve goals. This inability to set and achieve goals continues to haunt us and prove our downfall until we figure out how to take steps to make our dreams into realities. (Again, like me.)

So, Malamute and I have resolved that even if Duckling comes to us at four years old after his first tee-ball practice and says that he wants to be a pro baseball player, we'll help him map out a strategy to reach that goal and carry it out. And you know what? That goal will probably change. And that's OK! We want him to explore a lot of things so he'll be able to decide on the activities that he really wants, and ultimately decide on a vocation. But what we would really want him to learn from a young age is that he can make his dreams come true- but he has to plan for it and work for it. Good things don't just land in your lap. Goal setting is something Malamute and I have been working on with our photography business. We've found a number of great books about how to set and achieve goals and it's been exhilarating! (This blog is one of my goals.)

I guess some people would say that if we encourage kids to pursue any grandiose dream, all they'll want to do is chase glamor. I beg to differ. I once stumbled across a discussion on an airline pilot's forum about flying military cargo transports vs. flying fighter planes. One poster who joined the Navy in the late '80's said that after Top Gun came out, many of his pilot buddies had dreams of catapulting off an aircraft carrier in a fighter jet and screaming through the wild, blue yonder. But flying (or rather landing) Navy fighters is notoriously demanding with little margin for error. That big aircraft carrier is about the size of a postage stamp when you begin your final descent and is surrounded by ocean. And if the weather conditions are less than ideal and/or you're flying at night, it's even more difficult. And don't cause any irreparable damage to the plane or yourself either, because both are property of the US government and represent an investment of millions of taxpayer dollars.

After finding out that flying Navy fighter jets wasn't all Kenny Loggins and volleyball games, a lot of pilots were quite happy to fly transports. Others preferred flying transports because it allowed them to see the world. It's the same reason that no one reading this blog is a famous pro athlete, model, or movie star. (Unless someone out there has a secret life he or she is hiding really well.) There will always be a few people who aren't going to be happy unless they are working to land their plane on that postage stamp in the middle of the ocean at night with high winds. But for most of us, being a "fighter jock" isn't what we ultimately want out of life. And we should pursue whatever does make us happy wholeheartedly and excel at it.

So I guess where I'm going with all this is that if Duckling is in the same spot as the bishop 50 years from now, I would hope his advice would go something like this: "My dream as a kid was to play professional baseball, so I set a goal to practice every chance I could. I went to lots of games and studied the best players. I even got up at 6:00 am every morning to go running and lift weights. But in college I started looking at what I really wanted from a career- flexibility, lots of time with my family, and the ability to set my own hours- and professional baseball couldn't give me that. That's when I decided to focus my efforts on building my own business and make baseball a hobby." I don't think it's the outcome that matters as much as the how and the why of getting there.


  1. Don't forget keeping your mind open to inspiration to CHANGE those plans :) I had my goals and plans set out very clearly about how I wanted to become an effective music teacher for children and by having my plans completely messed up, I have gotten so much closer to those goals than I even knew was available.

  2. That is one of the best reasons to change plans!