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Accepting and Embracing Reality

It’s ok to see a positive future. But it’s not ok to dream far and beyond one’s potential. By that, I mean it’s great to have goals, but it’s not constructive to have aspirations above and beyond what you are capable of (say, being 4’ tall and wanting to play in the NBA), as that sets you up for failure. Dream – dream big – just don’t dream the absolute impossible.

Just remember that “baby steps” is the name of the game – and who knows? Maybe you will get that pie in the sky someday. Behind achieving every lofty goal is a lot of sweat equity, setbacks, and incremental goals set and achieved.

Here is where I’d like to introduce SMART goals. (If you know this acronym, go ahead and groan; others may find it helpful.) SMART stands for:

S – Specific (be as specific as possible)

M – Measurable (make sure it’s quantifiable)

A – Attainable (is this something that can actually be achieved?)

R – Realistic (can I actually do this?)

T – Timely (can I accomplish this in the relatively near future?)

Here’s a personal example. As I’ve discussed in previous texts, I have a confidence issue when I ride my horse. It was s-l-o-w-l-y getting better, but today I had a setback, which raised my frustration. I need to be kinder to myself, as my demons (the part of me that screams “worthless, useless, hopeless, failure’) are out in full force. The Beast that is suicidal ideation is reveling in my despair and wants to come out and play. I need to cut myself a break, something at which I absolutely suck.

So, what do I do when I want to pursue a goal without involving the Beast (or keeping the Beast from becoming omnipotent)? I don’t always think about SMART goals (though maybe I should), but when I do, I’m usually glad I did. Here’s the SMART GOAL I devised:

S – I want to jump Queenie a canter before the next show

M – I either will or I won’t!!

A – within the realm of possibilities (not unrealistic, we are trotting jumps)

R – with my level of anxiety, maybe, maybe not

T – there is a definite timeline of two weeks

So, my SMART goal is set – the only thing remaining is to see whether I can achieve my goal.

As the title of this post is “Accepting and Embracing Reality,” I need to explain where reality comes in, as for me, reality is the hardest part of SMART goals. My SMART goal above ­is possible and is within the scope of what I am capable of achieving – pushing the limit of what I can achieve – but possible.

Now for the reality check: did I achieve my goal? Not in time for that next horse show. In fact, not in time for the next horse show after that. Was I mortified? Somewhat. Was I heartbroken? No. Was I really being realistic, setting a goal to be achieved less than two weeks before a horse show? Absolutely not!!! Here’s where I recognized that I was setting myself up for failure.

So, what did I do with two weeks to go before the NEXT show? I could have reset the same goal, but instead, I took a step back and revised my goal to trotting jumps at the next horse show. I wound up winning every class and being champion in my division. So, what’s my next goal? I have a goal of cantering jumps before my next show (and I have well over a month to achieve that) … after the confidence boost of the show, I feel energized and motivated to try to achieve this goal – different than feeling scared and over-faced as I did when I originally made it.

I realized that you cannot make goals in a vacuum. I mistakenly made my goal without considering my mental state. Being terrified of doing something probably means you need to be taking baby steps (smaller steps than I was taking). Just wanting to canter jumps doesn’t necessarily mean I was ready to canter jumps. And don’t get me wrong: wanting to do something is a major incentive for achieving a goal – it’s just not everything. (I could want to go to the moon, but my ability to achieve that wouldn’t exactly be real.) And I have remembered that the most important goal for my riding is to have fun!!!

Whatever your goal, I hope you achieve it, and I hope you keep reality in mind and accept and embrace it. Not doing so just invites the Beast that is suicidality into the room, and nobody wants to do combat with the Beast. Consistently making goals that aren’t realistic feeds the Beast and makes it uglier and harder to do battle with – do yourself a favor and circumvent the Beast by being realistic with your goals. And remember, there is no crime in making more and smaller goals; in fact, doing so may make succeeding easier, safer, and more realistic both for your success and in battling the Beast.

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Liz OBrien
Liz OBrien
11 Tem 2023

Thank you for sharing! This is such a great reminder for me. I am in a new role at work, and this is exactly what I needed to hear to help me overcome some of my own personal challenges. I appreciate you! Liz

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