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In Practice, As in Life, Be Specific with Your Goals


I’ll need to go through my bucket list and rewrite some entries to make sure that the goal I aspire to is as specific on paper as it is in my mind.

Sunday was the last game of my fall soccer league. There is good news and bad news. The good news is that I finally achieved one of the goals on my bucket list. I scored a goal! The bad news … I scored on my own goal. In my defense, I was trying to block the ball from going in with my leg but the wind was absolutely crazy and the ball bounced in. Luckily, it was not the game-determining goal, but all the same, a disappointing way to end the season.

It made me consider the other items on my list. The entry for my soccer goal was just “score a goal during a soccer game.” I guess I need to be more specific - I’ll rewrite it for next year to read “score a goal for my team during a soccer game.”

So, this week, I’ll need to go through my bucket list and rewrite some entries to make sure that the goal I aspire to is as specific on paper as it is in my mind.

This situation reminds me of a curious event that happened during medical school. Like all other medical students in my class, I was highly anxious preparing for Step 1 of the board exams. Our school allotted us five weeks to study solely for this one exam. That alone kind of freaked me out. Then there was the low hum of my fellow students sharing their certain knowledge - if you didn’t score well, you basically could kiss certain specialty options good-bye. Despite having no desire to go into dermatology, orthopedics, or neurosurgery, I was hesitant to close any doors prematurely so wanted to do really well on the exam.

My study partner was probably poorly chosen because he was even more nervous than I. We carefully prepared our study plan, allotting the needed and available time for each section. We also allowed for breaks -in the evenings after a full day of studying and also every Sunday. I was reading “The Power of Positive Thinking” during this time (I am a self-help book junkie). Norman Vincent Peale recommends fixing a very specific goal in your mind, believing that the more specific you are, the more your mind will seek to make that reality occur. So, the next morning, I met my study partner in the library room we had reserved and asked him his “ideal” score for the exam. He responded “220” - that would be a great score. I proceeded to write a giant “220” on the blackboard - a focal point we could use as we studied. He thought I was being ridiculous. I thought I was probably being ridiculous too.

Soon after, we parted ways. He was unable to stick with our schedule, succumbing to the overwhelming anxiety of not having enough time to study everything. I was unable to study on his schedule. So, I prepared for the exam on my own - still using “220” as my guidepost.

I’m happy to say that I stuck to my down-time schedule which I think helped both my mental health and my score in the end. Of course, I know you’re wondering about my score? I got a 220.

For more on Jennifer Frank and our other Practice Notes bloggers, click here.

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