A Long Way From Here To There: Goals That Are Too Big

The gap between where we are and where we would like to be can sometimes seem so enormous that it captures all our attention. We stare at the gap and strive to be somewhere farther down the road from here to there. "I want a relationship." "I want my husband to consider my feelings." "I want my wife to get rid of her 5,000+ tupperware collection." "I want my son to get passing grades."

Sometimes the gap is so big because the end goal is not realistic. Picture yourself lecturing your fifteen-year-old daughter to study her colors everyday because she can't tell them apart. What if the reason she can't tell her colors apart is that she's color blind. In that case, telling her to study her colors won't improve her color recognition. The repeated request (pointing out the gap) will only make your daughter feel hopeless and ashamed, while you feel let down and frustrated.

IF the goal IS realistic, saying "I want you to be over there" may still not be enough. What may be needed is more of a map, a strategy. "I wonder if this approach would help you get closer to the goal?" or "What strategy do you think would help you get through more of your homework?" Focusing on strategy is likely to be more helpful than repeating the end goal (and emphasizing the gap) again and again.

Make sure the goals you emphasize are realistic, and then focus on strategy rather than on the gap from here to there.

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