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Friday, 18 February 2011

Break goals into manageable targets : Ask Our Counsellor Q&A Column - February 10, 2011

The following queries answered by me, appeared in the Deccan Herald Education Supplement dt February 10, 2011

Dear Madam

I am a Class 12 student. I got very good grades in my Class X exam but my grades dropped in Class XI. Since then I have become careless. I tend to waste my time using Facebook and Twitter. I have large goals in my mind. Please help me out.

Distracted Student

Dear Distracted Student,

You say that you have large goals in your mind. The only way to achieve them is to work towards them. Sometimes, when the goals are too large you tend to get overwhelmed by them and in the process tend to get distracted easily. You may feel that what you are chasing is too large and too difficult, and you don't know how to do it. It seems easier for you to take a break for a while, or rest for a while, with your distractions (i.e. your online activity). If that is the case, I suggest you break your goals into smaller, more manageable targets which are easier to achieve. As you achieve each target you have a feeling of success and satisfaction that motivates you to move to your next target.

Let me illustrate with an example. If your goal is to get to the top of a mountain (like Mt. Everest) you may feel overwhelmed at the thought. Where do you begin? How do you do it? etc. However, if you break this goal into multiple smaller goals, the task appears more manageable and less overwhelming, For example your smaller goals could be - join a regular trekking club for local treks around Bangalore; join a group trek going up to the foothills of the Himalayas; get physically fit; raise enough money; trek up to the Everest base camp at 17,600 ft from Lukla; scale the Khumbu Icefall to reach Camp 1 up to 19,500 feet; reach Camp II at 21,300 feet; scale the Lhotse Face and climb to Camp III at 23,500 feet; climb to Camp IV at 26,300 feet; finally reach the summit. Breaking the large goal into multiple smaller goals gives you a roadmap of the path you need to follow. You can then focus on the path and not feel lost (quite like if you were trying to reach an unknown place without a map).

Having this map helps you stay focussed, and gives you a sense of accomplishment after every step. This propels you towards achieving your next step. Now's the time for you to stay focussed. There is plenty of time for distractions later. Identify what is overwhelming you and break it down. All the best.

Dear Madam

My son is in Class XII. He has been doing well academically so far and was focussed about wanting to become a doctor. Now suddenly, he has lost focus and is keen on pursuing a career in photography. How do I steer him back on course? He is going to waste his life and doesn't see any merit in what I am saying.

Anxious mother

Dear Anxious Mother,

What would it mean to you if your son took up a career in photography? I would like you to think about this, before answering. Would it mean that you have been a failure as a parent because you have not been able to steer your son towards a traditionally accepted career. Had he chosen to become a doctor, would you have felt more validated as a parent? The important thing is to be able to steer your child towards a path of excellence in whichever career he chooses. Would you rather he became a doctor, hated it, and remained miserable all through his working life, because of a wrong career choice (made for him by you). Or would you rather, he became a top-notch photographer, loved his work, and enjoyed every minute of his career. If he chooses his path, he is not going to hold you responsible for his success or failure at it. If you choose his path, he is going to hold you responsible for his failure at it (should it happen).

As parents we have anxieties about our children’s future success (as we define it). I think it is important for us to deal with our anxieties and learn to handle them, so that they don’t colour our relationship with our children. Your unresolved anxieties don’t need to be passed on to your child.

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