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All About You: The positive force of goals

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

Goals can be tricky. Sometimes they inspire us to improve our lives. Other times they’re discouraging. If you set a major goal and don’t achieve it, you’ll probably feel down about it – even if the failure was out of your control. And if you’re not enjoying your life right now because you’re waiting to reach a goal, you’re draining your daily happiness.

“After I lose 60 pounds I’ll be able to do the things I enjoy every day.” “Once I retire I’ll start living the life I deserve.” “When I become the EHS manager, I’ll like working here.” These types of thoughts can dominate your mind and greatly affect your emotions. I’m not saying you shouldn’t set goals. On the contrary – they can be a powerful positive force that inspires you to achieve things both in your personal and professional life. And you can eliminate their potential downside.

Be flexible

Goals are a planning and motivational tool. Being flexible with this tool can make it work better while causing you less distress.

Sometimes another person or group will be part of your goal-setting process. You and your spouse may set a mutual goal, such as buying a new home. Or your supervisor may work with you to set professional goals. These are scenarios in which you may not have complete control over the goal.

However, individual personal goals, such as passing a certification test or changing careers, are completely under your control. Remind yourself that you set the goal and that circumstances always change. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure if you redesign or eliminate a goal. In fact, being flexible with your goals shows you are sensible. Remember, all of us change, and the goal you set two years ago might not be what you want now. A common flaw involves sticking with a project because you put a lot of effort and resources into it – even though the best course is to let it go. (A few of my goal changes have become a major blessing!)

Don’t give up easily on your goals; pursue them with vigor, especially if they are heartfelt. But also use your head and evaluate your goals, yourself and your circumstances from time to time.

Enjoy the reaching

When I was in my late teens, I listened to a radio interview with the members of one of my favorite bands, Styx. The band was extremely popular during the ’70s and had several hits. What the band members said about fame and “making it” has influenced me for nearly 40 years: Fame and fortune hadn’t brought them happiness. At times, the band members said, they would reminisce about – and miss – the days when they were working hard and struggling to become popular. It’s not uncommon for famous people and great achievers to look back longingly at their “struggling” times.

Research literature shows that progress toward a goal is what improves your moods and well-being. Therefore, to get goals to work for you, you need to enjoy reaching for them instead of waiting to feel good when they’re in your hands.

Find creative ways to work on your goals

Another way goals can be frustrating is when work and family responsibilities leave you feeling that you have no time or energy left to work on a major goal. However, with planning and imagination, you may be able to find ways to do things to get you closer to realizing any goal – even with a hectic schedule.

When I set the goal to become a professional speaker, I was working full-time with two small children at home. I would come in a few extra minutes before my shift started and read books on speaking. On the drive to work I listened to famous orators. I also memorized funny short stories and practiced telling them to friends and co-workers. Although becoming a professional speaker may not be one of your goals, I’m sure you can find creative ways to work on your goals while living your day-to-day life.

Goals may be tricky but are often worth striving for. May you enjoy reaching yours.

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Richard Hawk helps companies around the world create more vibrant safety cultures by showing them how to make safety fun. As a professional speaker, author and musician, he also inspires employees to focus better and enlightens safety leaders about ways to increase their influence. To learn more about Richard, visit www.makesafetyfun.com.

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