Category: Goals

Latest Greatest Hits

Happy Labor Day, and Happy New (School) Year’s Eve for many of you!

I’m actually writing this post in early August in anticipation of being pretty overwhelmed and without much time for blogging in early September, between starting my new job and heading down the final stretch of my dissertation journey.  Since I haven’t posted a rerun updated my “Damian’s Favorites” post category in awhile, I thought I’d link some of the items I’ve recently added:

Resume, Cover Letter… Blog?: My thoughts on how an online presence is at least useful, if not essential, in getting yourself a job in education these days, as well as my own story and some outlining of how and why I do what I do.

300 Miles: The more I learn, read, and hear about the importance of goal-setting, the better I realize it’s not just buzzy edu-jargon but (if done well) an essential tool in making progress.  This is one such example.

Don’t Break the Chain: More on meeting goals, but focusing on the journey there and how one comedian set himself up for success.  Simple and silly as it may sound, it has helped me enormously in my efforts to complete my doctoral dissertation.

What Will They Remember? #FergusonThoughts inspired by the death of Michael Brown and your students’ responses.  They will remember how you made them feel.

Whether you start tomorrow or you’ve been back for weeks already, my best wishes to you and your students for a fantastic 2014-2015!

Don’t Break the Chain

Dissertation work has been going swimmingly, thanks for asking.  If we’re connected on Facebook or Twitter you are probably sick of me posting about the minutiae of my progress each day, and you’ve also seen me hashtag my Tweets #dontbreakthechain.

The idea of “don’t break the chain” comes from an article I’ve seen pop up several times over the last few years but to which I never gave much thought until now.  This 2007 article from Lifehacker outlines Jerry Seinfeld’s clever method of motivating himself to continue writing new material:

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.

Did Seinfeld actually say this?  Who knows.  The Internet is rife with stories attributing profound ideas or sayings to celebrities that may or may not be true.  The principle behind it, however, is one that I’ve actually used before, although not deliberately, in setting and meeting goals:

  • Whenever I do my 365 Picture-A-Day projects, seeing the daily photos and dates lining up one after the other motivates me to not “break the chain”.
  • The “Archives” list in this blog’s sidebar motivates me to blog at least once per month in order to not “break the chain” of months (if you actually care to look, you’ll see I’ve only missed one month in seven years).
  • I have to lift weights three times per week in order to not “break the chain” of steady progression.

I’m now applying that principle to my dissertation work.  I returned home from vacation on 11 July 2014, so 12 July was my first day on the chain.   Since then, I have made a concerted effort to work on some aspect of my dissertation every day.  Sometimes it’s for 30-45 minutes, sometimes it’s 4 hours.  The point is, as long as I put some work in, I mark the day off.

You can use any kind of calendar, physical or digital, for this task.  I’m using a website called (of course) Don’t Break the Chain; they have a Chrome plugin that allows me to see and update my calendar right from the browser:

dontbreakthechainI’ve only been at it for about two weeks now so it remains to be seen if this will help me maintain productivity in the long run, but I can say that chipping away at this monumental task little by little every day has helped me to stave off the feelings of self-doubt and paralysis I’ve written about previously.  With deadlines fast approaching (I need to have Chapter Four done and submitted by 1 Sept if I have any hope of defending in November), I’ll use any trick and take any advantage I can get.

300 Miles

While my surgery to correct FAI is now nearly two full years behind me (December 2011), I continue to reap the benefits of goal-setting during the recovery process.

As I wrote last year, my long-term rehab goal was to get fit enough to run Tough Mudder Tri-State in October 2012 (exactly one year ago today, coincidentally).  I achieved that goal, and then continued to focus on increasing my running.  My follow-up goal from there was to run 300 miles in 2013.  As much as I enjoy running, I figured having that target to shoot for would keep me more motivated to keep at it even when I wasn’t feeling it as much as usual.

I’m happy to report that I achieved my goal of running 300 miles on 12 September 2013, a solid 3 months and change before my deadline:

300 mi 1

 

And here’s a breakdown of mileage by month:

300 mi 2

I’ve continued to run since then, albeit at a much reduced rate, as my fitness focus is now back on weight training.  I’m lifting four days a week and only running occasionally, but at least that’s by design (a conscious decision) rather than by default (“I don’t feel like running today… or tomorrow… or this week…”).  My son has also developed an interest in running, so we go out for the occasional mile together as well.  A mile with him at his pace doesn’t do much for me physically, but does us both worlds of good emotionally.

My educational leadership program is grounded in the Educational Leadership Policy Standards, which emphasize goal setting to guide growth and program implementation.  While I’ve done all the coursework and understand it all from an intellectual standpoint, nothing has driven the point home for me quite like the experience of setting, achieving, and re-setting my own physical fitness goals over the last two years.

Now that I’ve hit my goals of completing Tough Mudder, running 200 post-surgery miles in 2012, and 300 miles in 2013, I’m still working on a goal related to my weight training.  My short term, “interim” goal is to make linear progression on all lifts 2.5-5 lbs per session, but I know that will only take me so far.  Once I figure out my long-term lifting goals, I know that having a target to shoot for will further help motivate and energize my fitness regime.

2012 By The Numbers

I don’t know if it’s my school psychology training or the ZOMG DATA craze that has gripped all facets of public education in the last few years, but I’m becoming increasingly interested in looking at the role numbers play in my life, specifically in terms of goals and accomplishments.  Dan Meyer and his readers have been doing their annual reviews visually for the last few years, but I’m not quite there.  I’m just going to throw out a few numbers that played a role in my life in 2012 in boring old text:

  • 208: Miles run since hip surgery and physical therapy
  • 1: Tough Mudder completed
  • 13: Pounds lost via Intermittent Fasting (in a 10-week period)
  • 950: Pictures taken (and kept) in my family digital photo album
  • 3: Edcamps attended and co-organized
  • 1: Cruise taken with my wife, kids, and parents
  • 1: Nationally syndicated game show recorded featuring a relative as a contestant (to air in Feb 2013 – more info soon!)
  • 6: Doctoral courses completed
    • 8: Doctoral courses completed in total
    • 8: Doctoral courses to go
    • 0.6: Doctoral thesis left to write
    • 4,060: Approximate mileage traveled from work (Lawrenceville, NJ) to grad school (New Castle, DE) to home (Perkasie, PA) (not even gonna tally the tolls paid; too depressing)
  • 5: Years I’ve been blogging (as of 1 Aug 2012)
    • 199: Total blog posts published as of 31 Dec 2012 (I published #200 on 1/1/13; this is #201)
    • 25: Blog posts published in 2012
    • 0: Months in 2012 in which I didn’t post at least one blog entry
    • 1: Months in the last five years in which I didn’t post at least one blog entry (damn you, November 2008!)

In 2013, I’d like to keep track of these:

as well as whatever else happens to catch my fancy.  What numbers were important to you in 2012?

Mind Over Mudder

Much is made in my ed leadership doctoral program of goals: organizational goal-setting, alignment with vision/mission, monitoring progress, etc.  Though I hadn’t originally intended to blog about this recent life event*, when I think about it in terms of goal-setting, it seems to parallel much of what my coursework has focused on.

After my surgery to correct femoral acetabular impingement late last December, I set myself both a short-term and a long-term goal for my rehabilitation.  My short-term goal was to run a post-surgery 5K on Memorial Day weekend.  The annual Doylestown (PA) 5K holds a special place in my heart, as we owned our first home in that town and lived there when our first child was born.  It wasn’t my fastest time, but on May 26, 2012, I did it (and have done a few since).

My long-term rehab goal was to get fit enough to run Tough Mudder, a 12-mile obstacle course through incredibly muddy terrain (“incredibly muddy” doesn’t begin to cover it; check out their website or Facebook page for pics).  The two nearest TM events to me took place in Poconos, PA in May, and Englishtown, NJ in October.  Being a Jersey boy born and bred, I chose the October event (that it would give me another five months to work on healing and conditioning was also a factor).

While I can’t say that having goals made me heal better or faster (that’s anatomy and physiology, as well as the dumb luck of having avoided any major cartilage damage), it was incredibly motivational for me during PT, especially before I was able to run on the treadmill and I was just doing basic stretching and resistance exercises.  Thinking that this (boring exercises) was what I had to do in order to get to that (running) helped get me through the tedium and focused me, even when my attention wanted to be anywhere but in that rehab room, side-stepping or squatting.

Even as I wrapped up PT and started running again, having the specter of Tough Mudder over me pushed me to increase my mileage, even as I was becoming complacent and satisfied with my times on 3-mile runs.

So did I meet my long-term rehab goal?  A picture is worth a thousand words:

Up next: my first 10K on November 3.  Once I get comfortable with that distance, I think the next logical step has got to be the half-marathon, which will basically be like the Tough Mudder minus the electricity obstacles and freezing water, right?  I’ll keep you posted.

Speaking solely as an individual, setting goals did motivate me to persevere in my rehab.  I would have done it anyway without the goals, but I feel that having an endpoint toward which to work fueled and charged my work (PT) in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.  Once the goals were reached, you move the goalposts back a bit further – not so much so that it becomes discouraging, but just enough to encourage growth.

Reflecting on this experience, I’m starting to get a better sense of how organizational goals (ideally should) charge our work as members of the organization… IF the buy-in is there.  As for me, I was as bought-in as I was going to get, what with my physical well-being on the line.  Now, if it was only as easy to get unanimous organizational buy-in…

*Shout-out to childhood friend, Dirty Birds teammate, and OG Tough Mudder Dan Staples, who, as we were catching our breath and staring down yet another obstacle, asked me, “So, you gonna blog about this?”  Yessir, Dan.  Yes, I am.