Welcome officially to the New Year! Since you are reading this it is a good sign that you made it through all of the various holidays that closed out 2018. As hard as it is to believe the year certainly sped by as they all seem to do anymore. I hope you all had a good close to 2018 and my hopes are you have a prosperous and safe 2019!
Let’s talk about goals in this edition. It seems about the end of one year and the beginning of the next many of us jump up and make noises about one thing or another to improve ourselves either through better eating, more exercise, more education or other similar endeavors. While all of these items are admirable, are they realistic? Oh, we all say they are and we have the best intentions, but a short time into making that modification in our lives something always seems to come along and derail us. Before long we sink in to that funk that perhaps we are a borderline failure or just somehow don’t have the required discipline to stick to our goals.
This issue can extend beyond those personal expectations we set with the best of intentions and spread into our work or even family lives. We sometimes set goals that many times for reasons beyond your direct control fall short and we once again start sliding into that funk. Eventually we reach a point that we just don’t care anymore and give up on trying to do something positive with our lives or careers and just start going through the motions to exist. When this happens it can lead to many negative results if left unchecked.
As we all are painfully aware the rate of inflicting personal or even fatal harm is high among the public service fields and the fire service is not exempt from these statistics. There are many resources available to help us deal with the little failures we face which are added on top of the many horrific things we are exposed to on a daily basis both in our profession and in our personal lives. When was the last time you watched the news and didn’t learn about a murder down the road or a mass attack on a group of individuals or even a country? When was the last time you can remember not knowing someone suffering through a fatal illness or losing a family member? All of these things add up.
So back to the original topic, goals. When looking at the preceding paragraphs is there a way to help hedge our bet on failing at our goals? I would propose to you that there are ways and the most fundamental and simplistic is to set obtainable goals. Some of you would argue that any goal is obtainable, but you just have to put the extra effort in to making it happen. I would argue that a better approach would be to really take a hard look and decide what is really possible. Let’s say you decide you are going to eat healthier and start working out. Perhaps you should take small steps and make some minor alterations in your eating habits. At the same time perhaps you could just start walking a little more than you normally do. In time you will see that you reached those goals, a much more positive mindset, and then you can set additional goals to build upon those successes.
When you look at your career you can take the same approach. Whether you are a volunteer, paid-per-call or full time fire service personnel you can set obtainable goals. Start out small, I hate to tell you this, but it is not very common to be a rookie fire service individual today and the next day get to be Chief. So if your end goal is to promote up during your career set those smaller, obtainable goals early on. You could do the small steps like gaining additional training, mastering a certain skill or achieving some level of certification. Build your new goals on top of the goals you achieved because you set obtainable goals to begin with. If somewhere along the way you fall short of a goal, embrace the failure as a building block toward your overall goal, step back and reset and then get back on track. If you look at most of the “successful” people in our profession and industry in general you will find all have had some goals that they did not reach to begin with, but because they continued to realign their goals with what was possible they were able to build that foundation that supported their ultimate goal and the recognized success.
This goal setting concept is one that should be applied in the fire service by management in all strategic planning. I have worked for people in the past that presented you with a goal for the company or perhaps for you individually that was literally something that was not achievable. I can tell you the extra stress that was added to try to meet an unachievable goal did nothing to enhance the work experience. I have never understood why some management appears to purposely set goals that cannot be achieved as it leaves the employees with a sense of “failure” when the group or individual falls short. I am not saying that we have to soften up where we want our organization to go, but I am saying that perhaps as management we should consider laying out a path of obtainable goals that can be used to build toward the end goal. No one likes to be set up for failure, so why should we manage our organizations in this fashion?
Take some time and evaluate where you are, where you want to be as an individual or an organization and the steps that are required to get to that point. Then you can develop realistic goals that give you or those you work with direction to follow to reach the ultimate goal. Keep in mind goals are not a bad thing and truthfully everyone needs some goals, just remember to keep them manageable and keep your successes or those occasional failures all in perspective.
If I can be of assistance to your or your agency please let me know.