When Writing Your Goals, Do What Works for You

From The Encourager Newsletter Issue#002 June 2003. Copyright © 2003 by Don H. Morris.

As a personal coach who assists people in defining their vision and purpose in life, I am often asked whether it is better to write down your goals by hand or to use a word processor on the computer

The most important thing is to formulate your goals as fully and specifically as possible. The media you use is less important, and depends primarily on what works best for you. The same is true for vision statements, mission statements, passion statements, personal creeds, action plans, and even journaling and brainstorming.

I personally employ a combination approach. When first formulating an idea, for example a goal statement or a new newsletter article, I like to reflect as freely as possible first. I am able to be much more expressive writing by hand than on the computer. When writing my ideas in longhand, I can underline key phrases, put stars by key ideas, and draw arrows between related points. This seems to help get the creative juices flowing. I use a notebook purchased specifically for each important project.

For some people such a notebook is the finished product. They find it much more convenient to pick up a notebook than to turn on their computer and find the file that contains their goals or other information. Notebooks are much more portable, too.

Other people, such as someone who is blind or severely dyslexic, cannot write their ideas down in longhand. They can and do find other approaches that work for them.

In my case, as a partially sighted person, my handwriting is very messy. Sometimes I cannot read all the words in my notes a few days later. Also, I write really large. It may take several pages of handwritten notes for a statement that is only half a page in print.

I also find myself misplacing the notebook, or using it for other things. Pages get all out of order, and I can’t find important information. Sometimes I write related ideas in several notebooks or on loose scraps of paper and backs of envelopes.

So I prefer to type the final product on my computer. I gather up all the information on a topic I can find, and organize it into a single word processor file. I emphasize key points with italics, bold face, and underlining. I find the spell checking utility essential, too. As a special bonus, I can have the computer read my text aloud or print the file in extra-large fonts, features I really enjoy. The computer offers a better way for me to organize my work. When I need to communicate with others, I can print my ideas out much more legibly than I can write them.

I have learned from experience to make a separate folder on my hard drive for my motivational projects, and to name each file as clearly as possible. It is extremely difficult to find that file you whipped out on the spur of the moment if you don’t have a folder allocated for such items.

I sometimes start my writing project on the computer. When doing so, I type my ideas in plain text first, without bothering about spelling or punctuation. I find it distracting to stop and put in bold or italic faces in this initial process. I later “clean up” the file, and run the spell checker and add emphases as desired.

I have also found it very helpful at times to record myself talking about my dreams and plans. Sometimes I have a “writing block,” and this is a way to access my ideas without writing. A recording of their goals may be the finished product for some blind people.

At other times I have talked over my ideas with a trusted friend, and either asked the other person to take notes or written a summary of the conversation afterwards. There are many creative ways to approach formulating an important motivational statement or other written product.

So experiment. Try several ways to get your goals and plans down on paper, on disk, or on cassette. After formulating your goals, review them regularly. Remember, writing it down can make it happen!

Mapping Your Social Network

From The Encourager Newsletter Issue#002 June 2003. Copyright © 2003 by Don H. Morris.

Create a map of your social network. This exercise is especially helpful for people experiencing special circumstances, such as serious illness, disability, divorce, or job loss.

  1. Make a list of all your needs. Break them up into categories that are meaningful to you, beginning with instrumental and expressive. Get a close friend or family member to help you remember what you needed help with in the past six months (or whatever time period makes sense to you). Be sure to include the intangible emotional needs as well as the concrete practical tasks that must be done.
  2. Write down the names of all the people who have helped you with each of these needs in the past six months.
  3. Write down the names of other people you could ask to assist you with each need. In addition to friends, family, and colleagues, are there any agencies, service organizations, support groups, churches, or special interest groups that you can request assistance from? For ideas in this area, see Assembling Your Team for the Game of Life.
  4. Look over the map to see if there are any holes (needs going unmet). Consider why this is happening. Remove any barriers that prevent you from requesting assistance with those needs. If you do not know anyone who can assist you with these needs, how can you create new relationships?
  5. Look for patterns in your social network map. Ask questions like the following.
    • Are you only getting help from family and friends, not from appropriate organizations?
    • Do you ask for help only from strangers, fearing to burden your friends and family?
    • Are you calling upon just a few people for almost everything?
    • Does one person meet more than one need?
    • Can someone you rarely utilize be asked to assist more often?
    • Is there a way to “spread the load” to prevent burnout?
  6. Note the ways you reciprocate by meeting the needs of the people in your social network. Make plans to do this more.
  7. Be creative. Think about other ways you can use the information you gain from constructing your social network map. Invent new ways to show appreciation for the people who help you most.
  8. One way to make the chart for your social network map.
    • Take a blank sheet of paper.
    • Make three equal columns by drawing two lines all the way down the page.
    • Label the column on the left “Need.”
    • Label the middle column “Who Has Helped in the Past?”
    • Label the column on the right “Who Can Help in the Future?”
    • For each need, write in the names of the people who have helped meet this need in the past six months. Then write in the names of potential helpers you can request assistance from in the future.
    • Use a different sheet for each type of need (instrumental, expressive, or a category you choose).

Social Network Map

Name: _______________________ Date: _______________

Current Needs Who Has Helped in the past? Who Can Help in the Future?














Guidelines for Assessing Friendships

From The Encourager Newsletter Issue#002 June 2003. Copyright © 2003 by Don H. Morris.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. John Donne (1572-1631 CE), Meditation XVII


Donne was keenly aware that human beings are intimately interconnected. Each person experiences daily two types of needs that can only be met by social interaction: (a) Instrumental (task-oriented), and (b) expressive (emotional).

Instrumental needs are met when the people in our lives perform practical, concrete actions. They do things like baby-sit, give us a ride to the store, help us pack for a move, or provide vital information for making decisions. Love, empathy, caring, and trust meet expressive needs. We need smiles, hugs, kind words, and caring connections just as much or more than we need practical assistance.

Throughout our lives, we develop hundreds of relationships to meet this huge array of needs. When a pressing need arises, often it is our friends and family that we turn to first. Sometimes this is appropriate, and sometimes it is not. An understanding of friendships will greatly increase the likelihood of getting our most important needs met.

Let’s start by seeing how the rules of friendships operate. As you read, note especially how these rules differ from the rules of the other relationships in our lives.


A good friendship is a relationship of trust and mutual sharing. Good friends share deeply with each other on a wide range of important and not-so-important topics.

Forging a friendship requires risk-taking and effort; it does not happen automatically when two people first meet. Some relationships never develop into true friendships. Loneliness and isolation result when a person has difficulty in establishing and maintaining good friendships.

All relationships follow certain rules. When these rules are not followed, the relationship may falter. A relationship that could have met both instrumental and expressive needs may instead dissolve away entirely. An understanding of relationship rules can help a person develop deeper, richer friendships. Here are five of the most important.

Rule One

Friendships are both deep and broad.

The depth of a relationship refers to how intimate and personally revealing the information is that people share with each other. Some relationships, such as co-workers or classmates, never go beyond the surface or factual level. With some people you may go somewhat deepr, sharing opinions as well. True friends share deeply, telling each other not only facts and opinions, but their inner feelings as well.

The breadth of a relationship refers to the number of personally important topics people talk about with each other. Some relationships are limited to one or only a few topics, such as sports or current events. Such relationship may be quite animated and friendly, but are not true friendships. Friends share on a wide variety of topics.

Friendships, therefore, are marked by having both depth and breadth. Other relationships may be either deep or broad, or neither.

Rule Two

Friendships are reciprocal.

Reciprocity is the give and take of a relationship. First one person speaks or communicates nonverbally, then the other responds. Then the first communicates again, and the interaction continues until a stopping point is reached. A relationship can exist only if a communication effort made by one person is acknowledged and returned by the other.

The term stroke may be used as the fundamental unit of social action, referring to any act that implies the recognition of the presence of another person (from Games People Play by Eric Berne). Strokes can be physical (touching, hitting), verbal (praising, criticizing), or nonverbal (smiling, scowling).

Illustration of a pair of strokes, or a transaction.

A Pair of Strokes
(A Transaction)

An exchange of strokes constitutes a transaction, which is the basic unit of social interaction. Some encounters between two people are made up of a single pair of strokes, while others consist of many pairs. When one person makes all or most of the communication efforts in a relationship, it is not reciprocal. True friendships are.

Rule Three

Friendships are balanced.

In most relationships each person shares a similar amount and depth of information with each other. A relationship is out of balance when one person shares more information than the other. The counselor/client relationship, for example, is not intended to be balanced (the client shares much more). Friendships deepen when they are.

Rule Four

Friendships grow and deepen over time.

Most, but not all, relationships are best when they are incremental. New acquaintances share small bits of information while getting to know each other, and gradually reveal more about themselves as the friendship deepens. This gives each person a chance to test the waters to see if the other person can be trusted with personal information. If a person shares too much when first meeting a person, he or she may scare the other, or a one-sided relationship may develop. If a relationship does not grow in depth and breadth over time, the two people are either not investing the time and effort a friendship requires or it is something other than a friendship. Other types of relationships are essential in our lives, but they must not be confused with friendships.

For example, we like for the sales clerk at a store to be friendly. But we usually do not have a relationship that grows and deepens with clerks. There are other people with whom we share quite deeply on a particular topic, but little or none on many others. Examples include physicians, accountants, mechanics, and many others. Although we need and appreciate cordial relationships with people in such roles, we must not assume these relationship are friendships unless and until we make them so. It is essential that we make a clear distinction between the various types of relationships we have with the people n our life.

Rule Five

Friends are proactive with each other.

A folk proverb says In order to have friends, one must be friendly. A mark of a friendly attitude is the willingness to make the first move in an interaction. This can take the form of introducing yourself to someone you do not know or calling a friend to make arrangements for an activity. It is especially important to be proactive in conflict situations, which are inevitable in friendships. Apologize without being asked when you realize you have offended someone. Set up a time, preferably in private, to discuss a problem when one arises with a friend. A proactive person initiates appropriate interaction in relationships rather than always reacting to what others do.


Since friendships require mutual, balanced, incremental self-disclosure, it is essential that we learn more about this process. Self-disclosure is defined as ‘intentionally revealing to another person important information about yourself that cannot be observed by others.’ It is potentially richly rewarding, but poses significant risks. The other person can use the information revealed against the discloser. The following questions can guide a person in deciding when and to whom to self-disclose (from Looking Out/Looking In by Ronald B. Adler and Neil Towne).

  1. Is this person important to me?
  2. Is the risk of disclosing reasonable?
  3. Are the amount and type of disclosure appropriate?
  4. Is the disclosure relevant to the situation at hand?
  5. Is the disclosure reciprocated?
  6. Will the effect of disclosure be constructive?
  7. Is the disclosure clear and understandable?

Action Challenge

1. Think about two of your most important relationships.

  • Name three instrumental needs each relationship meets.
  • Name three expressive needs each relationship meets.
  • What needs do you meet for these people?

2. Again, thinking of two of your most important relationships, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this relationship deep and broad?
  • Is this relationship reciprocal?
  • Is this relationship balanced?
  • Is this relationship growing and deepening?
  • Are you proactive in this relationship? Is the other person proactive with you?
  • Based on your answers to the preceding questions, can you truly say this relationship is a friendship? If not, what other kind of relationship is it?

For a different approach to assessing relationships, see the companion article Mapping Your Social Network


Berne, Eric. (1964). Games people play: The psychology of human relationships. New York: Grove Press.

Adler, Ronald B., & Towne, Neil. (1999). Looking out/looking in: Interpersonal communication (9th ed.). New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

The Dream Squashers vs. the Cage Openers

Feature article of The Encourager Newsletter, Issue #001, June 2002.
Copyright © 2002 by Don H. Morris. All Rights Reserved.

The Caged Dreams of the Majority

The majority of the people on our planet have made no plans for the future. They appear to be content to live from day to day, with little or no thought of achieving important goals or growing in their personal and professional lives.

YOU, I trust, are not among the majority. If you were, I doubt you would have subscribed to this newsletter! You probably have, as I do, a deep sense of empathy for the people who feel there is no use in trying to get what they want out of life. They, like you and I, must have often had to deal with having their dreams squashed when they sought to achieve them.

The Attack of the Dream Squashers

Think back to when you were a child and saw an accomplished musician, gifted athlete, or some other creative, talented person. With excitement you said to those around, “Some day I am going to do that!”

What was the response of your family and friends? Was it “Sure you will! I’ll believe it when I see it,” or “You? You’re too uncoordinated,” or “That’s silly. You need to be practical.”

Each of those words forged another bar in the cage you built to lock away your dreams. The Dream Squashers stepped on your dreams, and ground them into the dust. You then picked up the tattered remnants of your dreams and locked them away somewhere in the shadows, never to be seen again.

It may have seemed to you, as it did to me, that this was what usually happened when you spoke of hopes and plans. Even now when you make efforts to reach for your dreams, when new skills are not yet refined, you may hear comments like “Don’t quit your day job,” or “Amateurs! Why don’t they just go away?”

The Positive Impact of the Cage Openers

Except, there were those special few who DID NOT squash your dreams.

You know the ones, a teacher, a friend, an aunt or uncle–the people who said, “Yes, I can see you doing that,” and “I’ll be on the front row when you make it there,” or “I’m behind you all the way!” These are the Cage Openers, the people who help you release the potential of your dreams.

These people unlocked the door to the cage where your poor, crushed dreams were hidden away. They flung the windows wide open, and let the light reveal your inmost heart’s desires.

Cage Openers nurture and protect dreams. Dreams languish and fade away when they are shut up in cages in the dark recesses of your heart.

Personal Reflections

I have had many experiences in my life that threatened to squash my dreams. I began losing my eyesight when I was eleven, and now am legally blind. I was turned down unfairly for what seemed to be the perfect job, my “dream job.” I lost another job when the program’s funding was cut. I had a broken engagement with the “girl of my dreams” right after college, and a divorce later in my life.

These and other experiences, and the comments from certain family members and friends when they learned of them, led me to think at times that my dream of a successful, happy life was gone forever.

Yet this dismal prophecy was simply not true! My new coaching practice as a personal coach, where I help clients discover and achieve their dreams, is my own dream come true. I now use a number of adaptive aids to do my work and enjoy my life, such as CCTVs and talking computers. And I have met another woman. I am developing a caring, satisfying relationship with her. I have rescued my dreams from the cage I had stuck them in.

Failure Is Not Fatal

A favorite quote, author unknown, says “Failure is not fatal–unless you LET it be!” And I refuse to listen to the Dream Squashers in my life any more!

How can you break YOUR dreams out of their cages? Many of you already know–you, too, have refused to let the Dream Squashers tear you down. Send me your ideas, and I will include them in a future edition of The Encourager.

Five Suggestions for Uncaging Your Dreams

In the meantime, let me offer these five suggestions to Uncage Your Dreams:

  1. Allow your dreams to burst the bars that imprison them. This can begin when you allow yourself to relax, not by an intense effort of your will. Dare to let your memory dwell on your dreams, whether from the past or the present. You may find that negative or irrelevant thoughts keep coming to your mind when you think about your dreams. Don’t let it worry you–this is natural and normal. Stay focused.
  2. Reflect on your dreams and what they mean to you. Start with the one that stirs your heart the most. Meditate. Journal. Do whatever it takes to visualize your dreams as clearly and in as much detail as possible. Take your time–this process must not be rushed.
  3. After sufficient reflection, write down your dreams. Writing down your dreams is an essential step in bringing them into reality. Thoughts, even very precious ones, can sometimes remain shadowy and vague. Writing creates precision. I prefer to do my initial reflection and journaling in long-hand in a special notebook I purchased for this purpose, then to compose and store my final written statements on my computer.
  4. Find a Cage Opener or two, and share your dreams with them. New-born dreams are fragile, and must be protected. Share your dreams only with people whom you can trust to nurture them. A few Cage Openers can be a tremendous source of support and encouragement. Cultivate your relationships with the friends, relatives, neighbors, associates, co-workers, and others who build you up.
  5. Reduce your contact with Dream Squashers, and learn how to neutralize their toxic comments. You cannot, of course, completely avoid Dream Squashers. Sometimes they are parents, children, bosses, old friends, or co-workers you want to or must associate with. But you can prevent the comments and attitudes of negative people from locking your dreams away.

Five Suggestions for Reducing the
Impact of Negative Comments

How can you do this? Here are some ideas.

  1. When possible, avoid negative people.
  2. When appropriate, tell Dream Squashers you do not want to hear their negative comments.
  3. When you cannot avoid a person or insist he/she not make negative comments, refute the downer thoughts in your own mind. Most often negative comments are not accurate evaluations of your skills, determination, and preparation to achieve–they are thoughtless, “knee-jerk” responses to anything new or different. Treat them as such.
  4. Focus on the positive. Think about what you are actively doing to realize your dreams. Give yourself three affirmations for every negative comment you receive.
  5. WHATEVER ELSE YOU DO, AVOID BEING PRACTICAL AT THIS TIME! Dreams were never intended to be practical. Dreams deal with potentials, not realities; with the untried, not the proven. There will come a time to evaluate your dream and develop an effective action plan to achieve it. Let thinking about what is practical wait for that step. Don’t try to sneak it in prematurely.

Your Action Challenge for the Next Month

During the next month I challenge you to:

  1. Set aside some time each week to reflect on your dreams. Give yourself permission to think about what you really want, deep down on the inside, without considering wheteher it is doable or practical.
  2. Make a commitment to spend at least one hour a week on this task.
  3. Find a quiet spot free from distractions for this activity.
  4. By the fourth week, write down on paper or in electronic format a description of at least one dream. Make it so vivid that another person who reads it will be able to picture your dream as clearly as you do.
  5. If (and only if) you have a person in your life you can trust to protect your dreams, share one or more dreams with that person.