We are rapidly approaching THAT TIME of the year. Tinsel, mince pies, reviews, new goals. People think about the next twelve months, what they want to do and be, and how they might get there. Last January I actually wrote my goals down. A copy is pinned up next to the computer. I’ve been looking at it out of the corner of my eye, and trying to pretend I’m not weighing up how well I’ve done, and what I might put for next year.
I did my best to make these goals SMART(1). It seemed a pretty good strategy, and in some cases it was. Learn two jazz pieces (big X). Run a group class (big tick). Straightforward.
But there are a few things that just were not ‘measurable’ in any fixed sense. Susan Barrett Kelly summed it up neatly, “One of the problems with SMART is that it can’t accommodate the evolving nature of learning or just getting better; it only marks arrivals.”(2)
Her alternative to measuring achievements is to identify the signs of progress: “What will I see, hear or feel to know that I am on the right path? How will I know when I achieve my goal? What will be different?”
This is an improvement on Measurable.
But not quite enough. It implies you can tell in advance where your learning will take you. It assumes you will recognise the place when you get there. Fine if you are, say, learning to speak French. Not so good if you’re learning a skill which takes you into wholly new territory. Something like, oh I don’t know, the Alexander Technique? In his last book, that is exactly how FM Alexander described his technique: ‘a signpost… to a country hitherto “undiscovered”.’(3)
The whole point of discovery is that you don’t know what you’re going to get until you get there. You can’t really say ‘I’ve got there’ because you don’t know what or where ‘there’ is. You may not even know until you’ve been through it and come out the other side, and can view it from a distance.
How do you even begin to measure that? How do you quantify personal discovery and exploration?
Well, for next year I’m going to try out three simple questions:
♦ Am I in the same place I started out?
♦ What’s different?
♦ Is this still consistent with my principles?
If you’ve got more any ideas, I’d love to hear them. I’ll let you know how mine get on a year from now.
Meanwhile, I wish you all peace and happiness over the festive season, and the very best of discovery and exploration in 2013.
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(1) Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant & Time-bound, depending on which version you choose. Wikipedia has a pretty good explanation.
(2)She has proposed a fascinating alternative measuring system:”Introducing the Five I’s” sbkandassociates.com/2012/02/08/how-to-develop-better-goals-introducing-the-five-is/
(3) The Universal Constant in Living p.519 IRDEAT edition