When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” – Confucius

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Goal failure: Teaching the cats to pick up their toys and put them away. 

I never learned about goals and goal-setting when I was growing up. It’s not a new discovery, it just wasn’t a priority when I was a kid. Be seen and not heard, check. Do your chores, check. Don’t talk back, check, brush your teeth, check, do your homework, check. Motivation on the other hand came from good old fashioned family fascism.

I’m kidding, the proper term for it is authoritarianism; not to be confused with authoritativeness, which is a much nicer way of managing people, be they family members or employees, but I digress. I learned about goals and goal-setting as an adult, during one of my orientation classes for Colorado Tech, for the AS degree.

We spent 5 and a half weeks in this particular class learning about American Psychological Association (APA) citations, avoiding plagiarism, navigating the virtual campus, reputable sourcing and research. We also studied goals and goal setting and the relationship between goal setting and motivation relevant to academic success.

Goal setting is intrinsic to motivation and relevant to not only academic success, but also to personal and professional success. It is relevant to any kind of success. It is basically a method of strategically planning success similar to what you see in project management. In fact the primary difference between the two is that project management includes additional elements necessary to ensuring project success and usually involves groups.

Goal setting by itself is usually an individual practice, or perhaps something one does with an academic adviser, professor, friend, relative, or job supervisor. It is a bare bones framework for a getting to point D by considering what points A, B, and C should be. So, one of the first tasks when I started school was to identify long and short-term goals. We had to assess where we were in life and where we wanted to be in 5 years; and in 10.

My initial goal plan involved getting my Associate degree in Business Administration because my end goal involved becoming an APA accredited Psychologist and owning my own practice. The first thing I needed to learn was how to run a business. My sub-goals involved learning how to be a successful university student in a virtual online program, mastering academic research and integrity, APA, writing, and time management.

At the time CTU did not have a psychology program so I expected that my plan would include changing universities so that I could continue to pursue my long-term goal of becoming a Psychologist. Toward the tail end of the Business Administration degree, CTU added a Psychology program concentrating in organizational behavior, and consumer marketing with a track into leadership development.

I considered the program and concentrations and chose Organizational Behavior because it furthered areas of Business Administration, specifically human resource management, change management, foundations of leadership development, as well as basic foundations of psychology, notably industrial and organizational psychology. The idea of an overlap between Psychology and Business Administration was fascinating.

So I incorporated it into my overall goal plan. My long-term goals included graduate school from the start though at the time I had no idea if my goals were realistic or not. My professor was quick to point out that long-term goals should be realistic and attainable; but she stopped short at criticizing my long-term goals of a doctorate degree. For myself, I was doing my best to keep an open mind on goal planning and setting.

I had no prior experience in it because it was not something my family ever did. They tended to capitalize on opportunities if they came up but there was very little actual planning for making those opportunities appear. The attitude was that hard work would get you noticed, and as a result, opportunities would be provided to you. This worked for previous generations of my family; it was what my parents knew, and what they taught.

I though this whole goal-setting and goal planning thing was akin to magical thinking. It sounded at first like it was some sort of New Age, metaphysical, pseudoscience at least until I started reading the research studies on it. But the planning made practical sense to me, and my short-term goals made my Professor very happy, and while I was not sure what to make of goal-setting, I was very serious about being a good student.

I chose to give it a try. It did not take long at all, as I attained each sub-goal to see how they pushed the attainment of a larger goal closer and closer. I saw how sub-goals were like little actions that manifested like rungs on a ladder. As you reached each sub-goal, you moved up the ladder until finally you climbed the ladder completely and you had reached a primary goal. Goals turn motivation into action; moving you along.

I reached my first and second short-term goals (3-5 years). These were that I would complete my AS degree in Business Administration and be about halfway through a Bachelor’s degree, as per the original goal-setting plan in my first class. I had identified another university with an APA accredited distance program for a Master’s and Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology concentrating in Violence Prevention and Control.

This made a lot of sense given that a strong focus of the curriculum for both of my degrees involved bad management practices, workplace bullying, and workplace violence. I had also previously worked in the field of front line security so workplace violence as a problem was not unknown to me. Active and rampage shootings had also been a frequent topic in the news media as well as academic study.

Halfway through my Bachelor’s degree however, I was called upon and agreed to take on the elder care of my Mother. Her health had been deteriorating for a few years so I moved to Ohio, went back to work in the security field, again as a front line security officer, and continued my studies while also caring for her and her needs. Unfortunately, my Mother’s health continued to decline over the next two years.

It became clear that I would not be able to travel or complete other rigorous requirements necessary to earning the Master’s and Doctorate degree from this other University because of my Mother’s health issues. Even if I had been able to leave her for a couple of days at a time, and up to a week once or twice a year, financially, I could not afford the travel costs. I decided to postpone this goal and look at other options.

I also encountered something I had never encountered before in a workplace. Without going into specifics, I discovered that adult elder care can be considered a problem for employers, and thus, for employees. If there is a possibility that elder care might cause a problem with an employee’s attendance, then the employee might not be considered for positions of any critical importance.

I continued working full-time at my job while caring for my Mother and going to school. I graduated with the Bachelor’s degree and then considered the next step. I could try to find a better paying job with more responsibility which might conflict with the elder care, or I could continue on with the graduate level at CTU. As much as I liked Organizational Behavior, I decided against continuing that track.

I had enough of a taste of leadership development to know that yes, I could do it, but it would annoy me. I do not have a corporate, professional appearance. When other people look at me, “leader” does not tend to be a word that comes to mind. I do have an ability to lead, but my physical appearance is a handicap especially in a corporate, professional setting. To be blunt, I look like an anxiety-prone Muppet.

Despite that fact, I have led online groups of people for short and long-term associations on a few different platforms. I started with message board and chatroom communities in 1999, to blogging platforms and back, up to the present. These are not experiences that can go on a resume because of their online nature; they are difficult to demonstrate in a workplace context. In the workplace, I just don’t look the part.

I switched majors to something that I felt would be more useful given the nature of the industry that employs me and the direction of current technologies. Given my previous degrees are in Business Administration and Organizational Behavior, both of which involve what amounts to the proper care and feeding of organizations, it made sense to add Homeland Security with a concentration in Cybersecurity Policy.

Organizations regardless of size or industry are affected by environmental issues and concerns including natural and man-made disasters and terrorism.  Certain industries are more likely to be targeted because of a domino effect that creates a vulnerability to the whole of U.S. infrastructure. All businesses strive to be as efficient and as successful as possible; they also need to be as resilient and as sustainable as possible.

The goal plan was extended to include the MS in Homeland Security, concentration in Cybersecurity Policy. Upon completion, I would seek more lucrative employment opportunities, preferably in a field that would allow me to make use of my education, knowledge, skills, and abilities, pay down some debt and then eventually return to school for the MS and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology Violence Prevention and Control.

That was the plan. It still is the plan. The only thing that has changed is that my Mother passed away last year, a few months shy of seeing me earn the MS in Homeland Security. Some might say the MS/Doctorate is a goal that cannot be reached. When I first started, I was not sure my AS degree could be reached. No doubt some thought the BS and MS degrees could not be reached and yet, they were reached.

I am not going to adjust the goal; just the action steps.

Thanks for reading.