- Chapter 9 -
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS AND HOW
CAN I HELP YOU ACHIEVE THEM?
t has been suggested that every husband and wife, or good friends, or parent to child or child to parent should periodically, say once a year, ask each other, "What are your goals and how can I help you achieve them?" Some people are a little shocked at the thought; others are somewhat amused. The usual answer is, "Oh, I know what his/her goals are." But do you? You might be surprised if you started exploring the subject in depth. It might be even more surprising if each spouse sat down and wrote out what he or she thought the other's goals were, and then compared them to what each expressed them to be.
Recently I witnessed an illustration as to how wrong people can be about goals. Fourteen of us were on a retreat considering the goals and plans of a civic organization. The facilitator suggested an hour for us to consider our statement of purpose, as we had been presenting the same expression of goals for years. We all thought this could be polished off in a very few minutes. More than two hours later after an animated and sometimes contentious discussion, we had completely rewritten our statement of purpose, which is a description of our goals.
If that can happen in an organization with a relatively limited purpose, what about the many complications of personal life? What about: achievement goals? self-fulfillment goals? relational goals? desires for enjoyable activity? goals for children or other members of the family? spiritual goals? A common expression, after such an effort is, "I never knew you felt that way."
And why limit it to husband and wife? What about couples who are planning to get married? What about asking your children the same question? They would be thrilled. And what about your boss? After that surprised individual has been picked up off the floor, you might learn some very interesting things, and have a better relationship. It is especially important to ask your children (and other young people) this question with regard to a choice of vocation.
My effort has been to indicate to our children that I wanted to be their research person to help them in this. When he was 7, Bryan came to me and said he wanted to be a lion-tamer. What would I do for him? My reply was that I would buy him a whip and a box of Band-Aids. He went away perfectly satisfied. The lion-tamer incident indicated he felt he would get support for his future plans. Since then, I have often discussed goals with Bryan and the other children regarding vocations and similarly important matters.
(At a much later date he called me up and said, "I need a Band-Aid. It's spelled "m-o-n-e-y.")
Closely related to understanding the more important goals of others is the discernment and recognition of life's ordinary tastes and preferences, especially of those close to us. Commonly, we think that what we like, what we enjoy, what we believe is important should most certainly apply to others.
Thoughtfulness is not the same as sensitivity. An example of this involves a woman who planned a gift for her son. She researched the idea, one that she personally was enthusiastic about, and put in a considerable amount of planning. She was also prepared to commit a sizable amount of money. The son rejected the gift, because it involved a trip he did not want to take, with the result that there were hurt feelings on the mother's part, and it was harmful to the relationship.
What the mother did was thoughtful and kind, because it was her earnest desire to please her son and make a contribution to his life, but she was not sensitive or considerate. If they could have worked together to develop a plan which would have met the approval of both of them, involving a trip he wanted to take and which also would have been beneficial to him, the results would have been different.
In addition to inquiring about goals, there is another question which can be asked on an appropriate occasion, "What is hurting you? How can I help?" The hurt may be physical, emotional, or frequently a problem in relationships. And maybe the person does need help.
A recommended periodic plan is that of: 1) Inquiring what other people's goals are and helping them to achieve what is important to them, 2) Offering to help with "hurts", and 3) Trying to explore other people's desires with regard to likes and dislikes in the more ordinary matters of life.