A few years back my husband and I hired a business coach to help us write a growth plan for our business. After nearly two decades of operating our company, we wanted fresh eyes to help us see new directions. The business coach gave us a number of written exercises to do, including listing our personal and professional goals.
“You probably already have these handy,” he said. “I assume you already write these out on a regular basis.”
“We own this business,” I replied. “There’s no corporate ladder to climb so I don’t need professional goals. I take opportunities as they come and run with them. I have been pretty successful doing it this way.”
The business coach was shocked. I was shocked that he was shocked. Goal lists were for beginners, in my not-so-humble opinion, not long-time business people like me. I was at the top of my game with the successful career I always wanted.
“If you don’t have specific goals you are missing opportunities,” he said with certainty. I was annoyed. Who hired this guy? What did he know?
“I’ll prove it to you. You mentioned you like cars,” he said. (Apparently he really was listening – I love cars.). “Are you familiar with the Audi Q5? There’s only six of them in town.” (We live in a smallish city that does not have an Audi dealer, so this fact seemed likely. I rarely if ever saw an Audi in our town, and certainly not the SUV model. In fact, I thought six seemed like rather a lot.)
“You probably see thousands of vehicles each week,” he continued, “so the chances of noticing one of six Audi Q5s among them is pretty slim. But I will guarantee you that you will spot one within the next few weeks.”
“I am not a fan of “The Secret”,” I protested. “I hate the idea that we just tell the universe what we want and poof, it delivers. I have gotten what I wanted through hard work and high expectations.”
Fortunately, we had hired a very patient coach. “Don’t worry. That’s not what I am saying at all. Let’s make a deal,” he said. “If you see a Q5 before our next meeting, you have to write out a goal list for me. Deal?”
I agreed, because I thought it seemed a little farfetched.
A few days later I was sitting at a red light and sure enough a Q5 turned in front of me. I burst out laughing, “Dammit!”
At our next session with the business coach, I confessed it had only taken a few days to see the mythical Q5. “But don’t tell me I made it come to me because I wanted to see it!” I warned.
“That’s not it at all,” he smiled. “That car would have passed you then regardless. It’s just that you noticed it because I gave you the goal of seeing it. That’s the power of setting intentions. When you know what you’re looking for, you realize when it is right there in front of you.”
As a stubborn person who enjoys being right and having the last word, I found this lesson humbling. I wrote my (stupid) list of goals and gave this fellow his due respect.
My newfound regard for acknowledging intentions came in handy as I embarked on a life of recovery. You may find that once you set a goal to stop drinking, you notice others who don’t drink. You start to see alternative beverages at the grocery store that never interested you before. You realize there are events in the evenings that don’t involve alcohol, and that people actually GO to these things and have fun without drinking.
I heard a great suggestion today and encourage all of us to give it a try (perhaps right here in the comments section if you’re willing). The exercise is called “Best Possible Self” and the instruction is simply to spend a few moments imagining what your future life would look like if things went as well as they possibly could and you realized your dreams. Write down how you see yourself in this vision. (Credit for this exercise goes to professor and researcher Laura King, with gratitude to a friend in the BFB for mentioning it today.)
In the words of Louis Pasteur, “Chance favours the prepared mind.” Sometimes I think I am lucky to have a happy life, to be sober, healthy, active and surrounded by people I love. Then I realize that these things exist because I value them and actively seek them out – they aren’t luck at all.