Over the past 2 weeks I have delivered some talks as part of a Gifted and Talented Athlete program taking place in a local schools district. The program, for 10-12yr olds, gives the children a chance to develop their physical skills, learn about nutrition and lifestyle, learn some psychological techniques and, most importantly, have fun. I was asked to deliver the psychological elements, covering dealing with setbacks and goal setting. In the goal setting talk I ran an interactive session where we looked at why we set goals, what makes a good goal and what we can do to achieve them. I also supported all the children to write down a personal goal for them that they could take away from the program and work towards. There were some amazing goals being set – it was inspiring to see the kids daring to dream big and not be held back by limiting beliefs. Following this session one of the quieter boys came up to me and apologised as he said he’d done his goal setting exercise a little differently. He then showed me a piece of paper which has inspired this post today.
Rather than write out a goal using SMART or NLP principles this lad had chosen a more visual representation, using arrows to map out what it was he wanted to achieve and, working backwards, what he needed to do to get there. These arrows, he decided, formed the shape of a stone so he’d titled this piece his ‘Stone of Life’. I was blown away by this idea and have since decided to think about this for myself, I encourage you to do likewise.
One of the features of the Stone of Life was that it catered for uncertainty, this lad knew his end goal (to Swim in the Olympics) and he knew where he currently was (county level for his age group) and whilst he knew a lot of the factors required to join the dots between these 2 points he was ok with not having a page of certainties. Instead, he explained, he’d thought of the attributes he’d need to develop to keep succeeding and getting closer to his goal, things like having a great work ethic and a positive mind-set. These are things that he can work on and develop that will help him, even if he doesn’t know how yet.
Hopefully, at this point, you are as sold on this idea as I am and wanting to give this exercise a go for yourself. Here is what I recommend for starting it. First I’d take a sheet of A4 and at the bottom write down the things you are currently doing. At the top write where you want to be, your ultimate end goal. If you don’t have a huge end goal then that may be an interesting exercise for you to do first or you can choose a smaller or shorter term goal. In the middle of the page start writing out the hoops that you know you’ll have to jump through in order to reach that end goal - things such as qualifications, sporting achievements, performance outcomes, promotions etc. Once you’ve laid out the hoops work backwards to identify what you need to do to achieve those. At this point you may be wishing you’d chosen a bigger piece of paper. Once you have all these certainties mapped out you can start spotting the gaps, looking into these areas may provide extra insight and generate more ideas, if not you can move on to thinking about the attributes you’ll need to navigate your way through this map, jumping any gaps. Think about your strengths, what are the things you are really good at that you can use on this journey? What resources do you have at your disposal?
At this point it may be worth revisiting some of the basic goal setting structures. Is your goal specific and measurable? Is it relevant to you and do you want it for the right reasons? What time frame have you given yourself? Making sure your goal(s) fulfil these criteria strengthens it further.
You should now have a pretty congested sheet of paper. Depending on how visual a person you are you may want to write it up and add in colours. Regardless of how you present it the final thing that I, and the 10year old swimmer, suggest is that you either keep this piece of paper with you or pin it somewhere where you will see it every day. You have your Stone of Life so use it. Connect with what you want and how you’re going to do it every single day. This simple act will guide your behaviour and channel your energy in the direction you want it, ultimately speeding you on your way to achieving those ‘top of the page’ ambitions.
If you’re feeling brave then please share your Stone of Life through our social media feeds. I think this is such a good exercise that I’d love for others to hear about it and try it for themselves. If you find benefit from this task and want to know who to thank keep your eyes on the pool in 2020….