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!

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.

Write It Down, Make It Happen

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

Denis Waitley is quoted as saying “the reason most people never reach their goals is that they don’t define them, learn about them, or even seriously consider them as believable or achievable. Winners can tell you where they are going, what they plan to do along the way, and who will be sharing the adventure with them.”

Much of the thrust of my coaching is in assisting clients to define their goals, learn about them, and come to believe that they are achievable. You also need to develop specific plans of how you will accomplish each goal.

Writing your ideas down is essential to making them happen! Seeing your goals in black and white makes them come alive. Writing down your goals and a plan of action for achieving them creates a “road map” to guide you on your journey.

The following exercises can provide a tremendous boost toward success. Choose the statements you believe will help you achieve your dreams, then write them out. Your primary tool for creating these vital personal statements will be your own personal reflection. In addition, I will guide you through the process with open-ended questions, selected readings, inventories, and checklists.

  1. Your Passion Statement (a listing of your most prized interests and concerns).
  2. Your Personal Gratitude List (a list of everything you can think of that you are grateful for).
  3. Your Personal Creed (a statement of your core values).
  4. Your Personal Vision Statement (a clearly stated sketch of who you are and where you want to grow).
  5. Your Personal Mission Statement (detailing your purpose in life).
  6. Your Dependable Strengths Profile (a statement of the strengths you have demonstrated in your lifetime).
  7. Your Personal Preferences Profile (an outline of your preferences in important areas of your life).
  8. Your Personality Profile (an outline of your personality traits).
  9. Your Personal Development Plan (a detailed plan of how you will develop the skills you need to succeed, including long- and short-term goals, persons who will assist, resources that will be required, and a time for completion of each task and objective).
  10. A Force-field Analysis of the restraining and propelling forces in your life (the barriers to your success, and the positive influences around you).