When I first started this blog, several of my friends commented that my schedule of updating the blog every Wednesday was a very challenging commitment. To which I said: “Yes, that’s the point.”
When setting goals, it’s important to ask whether your goal is attainable. Effective goals should be neither below your standard performance nor too far above it. Although lofty aspirations can provide long-term inspiration or serve as a valuable brainstorming exercise, it’s important to break your goals into pieces that you can actually achieve. Having all your goals be pie-in-the-sky means you run the risk of constantly dreaming rather than doing.
In a similar way, a goal that simply rehashes minimum expectations might be useful for evaluating why you have gotten where you are currently, but it won’t help your personal development as much as a more challenging goal would.
To provide some judging-specific examples, a brand-new Level 1 saying “I want to Level 3” is a classic example of a goal that is set too high, primarily because it doesn’t suggest how to actually achieve that goal. For judges interested in pursuing Level 3, a more attainable goal might focus on one of the 10 Qualities of Regional Judges, like “improve my skill in Developing Other Judges by writing a review of the Head Judge at my next event.”
As for examples of goals that are set too low, Riki Hayashi has some great words of wisdom about setting goals for events:
“Have fun, see old friends, make new friends, don’t screw up” are not goals; they are minimum expectations.
So how can we make sure that our goals are, in fact, attainable? One answer comes, amusingly enough, from the realm of body-building.
Obviously, lifting weights strains your muscles. On the molecular level, this stress causes tiny tears throughout the tissue, which stimulates your body to reinforce and rebuild these muscles — harder, faster, stronger. If the weight you lift is too little, your body will have correspondingly less stimulus to grow and rebuild; conversely, if the weights you select are too heavy, you could overload your body’s repair machinery and fail to build as much muscle as you might like.
Similarly, psychology experiments suggest that stressful situations can actually improve our performance — but only up to a certain “optimal” level. After this point, productivity deteriorates as stress levels continue to ratchet up. This concept is deeply embedded in the philosophy of the Judge Program. For example, the list of L3 Qualities explains that judges who excel at managing stress and conflict “thrive when under pressure” and actually improve their performance when confronted with tough situations.
Now that we understand why we want to set attainable goals, how can we ensure that our goals actually are attainable? To explore that question, check back next week, where I’ll discuss the concept of the three “zones of productivity,” along with advice for figuring out which zone you’re working in right now.