What’s the Word?

I get reflective at this time of year, whether it’s the inviting specter of a brand new year, the cold days of winter with plenty of time to think, or the impending anniversary of my birth –  which is definitely enough to give anyone pause.

This year I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to DO.  I’ve been writing more, and recalling how much pleasure and satisfaction comes from taking a snippet of thought, puzzling it out, and putting it into words.  I’ve been thinking about expanding some of those snippets into a longer piece of writing (dare I call it a book?), and have been exploring some options in my head.  But I’ve also been mourning the lack of music in my life right now.  The other day, a Facebook friend posted that “there was a hole in her musical life big enough to drive a truck through.”  I feel the sadness behind the flippancy of those words.

So I’ve been wishing, and hoping, and daydreaming about new ventures.  As often happens, something I read seemed to speak directly to these thoughts.  In Words to the Wise, life coach and Oprah Magazine columnist Martha Beck wrote about the power of words in shaping our goals.  “Stated goals are magical,” she says.  “They dictate our attitudes and behavior and where we put our energy.”  However, caution is required in conjuring up these dreams.  Sometimes, what we think we want isn’t what we really bargained for.  And sometimes, what we really want has been with us all along.

When it comes to successfully naming our dreams, it all comes down to word choice.

“The difference between a dangerous goal and a safe effective one has everything to do with parts of speech,”  Beck asserts.  “Most goal setter use mainly nouns and verbs (“I want my business to succeed,” or “I want to have a baby”). This frequently leads to either outright failure or the kind of success that doesn’t make people nearly as happy as they expect.”

According to Beck, we need to focus on the “quality of experiences we want to have,” rather than on a situation we aim to create, and choose the adjectives which best describe that experience.  Here’s the process in a nutshell:

Pick your dream, your most outrageous dream.  Imagine the best case scenario of your life when that dream has been fulfilled.  Go into your soul and imagine how you’re feeling…fulfilled, energized, important, delighted, valuable, nourished… choose three of those adjectives which best describe your emotions.  Write them down.

Go ahead.  Go daydream for a while and then come back.  I’ll wait.

Okay, got your dream words?

Now look at those words and see how they relate to your life right now.  Are there things already happening in your life that make you feel that way?  How can you expand on those areas, creating more happiness in your present life while perhaps drawing yourself closer to your fantasy goal?

If I look at one of my fantasies –  being part of a small, successful chamber music group – and imagine myself rehearsing and performing with three or four really talented musicians who also become my friends, I would expect to feel creative, and proud, and valued.   If those feelings are my goal, if that’s what I want to experience more of in my life, how can I come closer to that state of being right now?

It’s an interesting way to look at things, isn’t it?  It turns the process of stating goals on its ear.

And makes me think about the power of words in a whole new way.

How about you?  What adjectives did you come up with?  Is that experience manifesting itself in your life right now?


10 thoughts on “What’s the Word?

  1. Very, very interesting approach to goals – I’ve got tomorrow set aside as a retreat day to think about some goals for this year, and I’ll definitely take it into account. It didn’t take very long for my words to come to mind: content, peaceful, valued.

  2. I do like this approach — it’s thoughtful, but very directed,and sometimes we need that. My words were secure, joyful and inspired. And often, I feel that way. While I feel there is never enough time to do the things I want (and I have trouble focusing — write the family stories and cookbook? Really concentrate on my art?) I also know I sometimes don’t budget my time so well and motiviation can be a factor. (You write all day at work; coming home and sitting at the computer isn’t exactly high on my list!).

    Right now, things feel “right” in that they are moving in a way that I don’t always anticipate, but feel good about. But I really like Martha Beck’s approach. I need to process this a bit more — see where it takes me. Could be an interesting journey.

    • Jeanie, you radiate joy in your writing and art, and although we’ve never met, I’m betting your personality exudes joy as well. So something in your life is going right already!

      I always feel as if there’s never enough time to do the things I want to do…seems that was a lyric in a song from my youth 🙂

  3. I’ve read this three times last night, and just couldn’t formulate a response. This morning, I wandered through with my hands full of Christmas cactus trimmings and thought: “production”.

    I wasted spent a good part of my life concerned with “process”. Now, it’s “production” that’s my word.

    (…and we’ll see if I’ve learned how to do a strike-through, or not)

    • Funny, “production” never occurred in my list – makes me feel downright lazy and self -indulgent!

      (…and yes, you produced a perfect strike-through)

  4. What an interesting way to view goals. It gives a different perspective, doesn’t it?

    vigorous, content, valued

    The vigor is obvious. I want to be as vigorous and stay as healthy as I can for as long as I can. I am content much of the time, but who wouldn’t want more of that? Valued? Hm. That one is a little tougher. I suppose we’re sometimes guilty of undervaluing ourselves more often than others do.


    • Vigorous – that’s a good one. And I can see why it’s appealing to you, after your year of health issues. I hope you can experience that feeling for many, many years to come!

  5. Ah, goals. At work, I have to list them out for my team for the year, with a deadline next to each. Oh, it’s a dour task and itself, has a due date.
    Just as journalism does.
    So my goal (and I fear I yammer and rant about it all to often on my blog) is simply to write without deadline, only according to my inner one and ultimately, produce something. ( I think I know what that is but am not worried about it.)
    Write. Create. Compile.
    Those are my goals. Hadn’t really thought about it ’til now and must thank you for bringing me along on a big step. A very big step, on this snowy Sunday a.m.
    Funny…I feel better! Excited.

    • Yay! Those are great goals!

      I’m not a good goal-maker, and if I had to do it at work I’d probably fail miserably. I’m more of a “let’s just see what happens” person I guess. But I can relate to this idea of “how do I want to feel?” in one year, or five, or ten.
      That seems to make sense to me.

      Now just gotta figure out how to get there!

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