Overcomplification Series (3 of 5): Accidental Accomplishments of an Inadvertent Goal Setter

Check out Part 1 and Part 2

How the mind works is by making connections. It creates shortcuts in memory, usually through narrative, between ideas. It would be impossible to manage all the inputs and stimulus encountered in a single day if your brain didn’t have a system in place to process all of it. Anything that is new or isn’t familiar to your brain gets related to something that has been experienced. So, for example, if you are traveling in another part of the world, filled with new experience and stimuli, your brain processes these sights, smells, sounds and language by accepting what is familiar first. A train is a train, a street is a street, and a cow is a cow—anywhere you go— which makes the new experiences more manageable.

When I got in trouble four years ago, launching myself into a career that I wasn’t completely prepared to handle, it wasn’t surprising that my mind reflected on a similar experience. As I discussed in part 2, I had my first full-time job in social services before I had earned my degree. I had to sign a contract saying that if I became a counselor than I would graduate that semester. Managing the immense pressure and demands meant fanatically managing my time. It meant working with my brain and maximizing overlap.  Everything became a cycle. This was my life as a feedback loop.  I learned something in the classroom or textbook and I applied it to myself. Journaling the results, discussing it with my clinical supervisor, introducing it in session with my kids, the experiential learnings informed me in a way that just reading alone never could. Then, I wrote of these counseling sessions and the results for class assignments. Every experience fed everything else in my life.

Using this same approach as a grant writer, I found myself weighing in on a program design by applying curriculums to my own life. In a tattered notebook, another feedback loop life was created, working through multiple professional development exercises. In the weeks the program director and I went through this mini-accelerated course, we learned business communications, conflict resolution, anger & anxiety management, goal setting, and personal (& personnel) motivation techniques. We had made the deadline and I chucked the notebook in a drawer.

I was straightening up when I noticed it. Purging messy piles, tidying the office, when the discovery hit me. On a wrinkled spiral page in a rumpled spiral notebook, per those exercises, I had written out a list of goals. As if by magic, in three months time, every one of them had come true. I felt as if I was holding some fantastic grimoire in my hands and had become a supreme Mage with powers to manipulate the Universe itself. Seriously. As a result, I did something that I never thought I would do. I sat down and wrote a year worth of goals. By year end the replication was successful. I landed a better gig with more loot that I’d have believed was way out of my league. I accomplished some of the most far-reaching objectives I’d set to writing. A door had been opened.

In Part 4, we will switch gears a bit and bring it back to the Tao by talking about handling big projects. Initially, this section was actually going to include a “how-to” on goal setting, but I recently stumbled across Chris Guillebeau’s “Brief Guide to Global Domination,” which so eloquently expresses everything I would have on the subject that I have decided not to reinvent the wheel. Personally and professionally, I spent the last four years devouring hundreds and hundreds of pages on the subject (the job I landed at year’s end was working for the national leader in transitional workforce development, creators of the best-practice curriculum) but still think Chris’ book is the best thing I have ever read on goal setting.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Chris Guillebeau
    Jan 23, 2010 @ 17:08:28

    Just wanted to thank you for your kind words on the manifesto. I’m really glad you liked it, and I appreciate you passing it on.

    And now, good luck with your own world domination plans. It seems you’re well underway.

    All best,



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