Why is goal setting so complicated? It really boils down to three easy steps:
- Identify what you want to work on.
- Be clear about your starting point.
- Create a map (action plan) to get you from where you are to where you want to go.
Simple, right? Hardly! We can quickly lose hope in our ability to accomplish a goal. Every year I think to myself, “This year, I’m really going to accomplish all of my goals! This year will be different.” It wasn’t until I learned about the influence of the family on each individual in the family that I began to understand what it really takes to accomplish a goal.
What makes it difficult to stay on track with one’s goals is the pushes and pulls of the force for togetherness that vibrates as anxiety goes up. People do what’s automatic in response to an increase in anxiety. As tension increases, some people overfunction by controlling others. Some people underfunction by distancing. These automatic, reactive responses are the basic fight, flight and freeze responses of the nervous system.
Here’s one example of how it works. Let’s say your goal is to spend an hour every day reading. You make a list of the books you want to read and you set aside in your calendar an hour every day. You tell your friends, family and coworkers that you do not want to be interrupted during this one hour. Everything initially goes well until there is a “Knock, Knock” on the door. Or a “Ring, Ring” on the cell phone. Someone needs your help right now! It can’t wait. These interruptions occur right before or during your scheduled reading time. You start to vibrate with anxiety. You feel compelled to help because you fear that if you don’t there will be consequences. But you don’t really want to help because this hour you have set aside is important to you. You feel stuck.
This is just one example of how anxiety and the fusion in a relationship system can disrupt one’s effort to set a goal and work on differentiation of self. Because it is reactive to anxiety, the relationship system automatically pushes and pulls people off of their individual focus. Differentiation of self provides a way to think about this problem.
I host an annual goal setting retreat. During the retreat participants learn how to plan for the predictable ways families and congregations unconsciously try to disrupt one’s efforts to accomplish goals. If you’d like to learn more about the retreat, click on this link to read about the opportunity and to register. Space is limited so don’t delay.