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.
I’m becoming more and more impressed with this blog. After reading only two posts I realize that the kinds of decisions I came to just 3 days ago, my first day of sobriety, mesh so well with the positive results being discussed here.
My children had come to me to find a way to express their concern for dear old Dad’s health. They didn’t want to push me into areas where they thought they’d meet with denial, resistance, anger…
Boy, were they surprised! My initial response to the mention of drinking was, “You’re right. I’m an alcoholic!”
We all then set forth to talk about plans to achieve my good health: activities, expectations, measurements, etc. For the most part I was driving that discussion, and it was predicated on my own experiences as a business consultant. Goal setting is extremely important, but I can tell you from my academic training and from direct experiences with customers that those goals must be reasonable and should never overturn the things that already make you successful.
Never forget that you can’t eat the whole elephant all at once. Cut it into little bites and take it at the rate that suits you.
And one more thing: involve as many relevant stakeholders as possible. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the plan can be achieved.
That is very true
“Surround your self by great people become great”
I just want to become a better person
The power of intention is what I used to get to the point that I stopped drinking about 60 days ago. It took about a year of intention (several years of finding the intention), along with starting the healthy habits (exercising, eating right, drinking tea, etc) before I stopped – I didn’t mind that I stopped, actually was relieved that I stopped drinking – something I couldn’t imagine a year ago. I’m still in the beginning, but feel strong. I’ve made it through dinner parties, a superbowl, birthdays, family gatherings and my teenage daughter at her worst – all reasons/excuses to drink. I was going to wait to focus on new intentions/goals, because I didn’t want to focus on too much and get through the hardest parts of my new found sobriety first.
I love the vision in Jean’s comment, “It reminds me to stay sober so that I can be a wise and admirable matriarch, not some sour sad old drunk.” Now that I’m not drinking, I want to live to be old and this comment sums it up.
My intention is to model sober behavior for my kids.
My intention is to give my daughter the space and support she needs to grow – I want her to be proud of herself, truly happy and find her productive niche in the world.
My intention is to find and nurture friendships that are non-judgmental and supportive.
I have many more, but this is enough to focus on for now – I’m still focused on the day to day and I have time to expand my intentions and goals – Thank you for the reminder!
Beautiful – congratulations on two months!
It’s funny how we just take things for granted. I love this post! I am going to get started on my list and I’ll blog about it. Thank you so much for opening my eyes today. I needed this! 17 days sober. 🙂
Appreciate your blog. I envy what you’ve accomplished. I’m always my best self mon-thurs… or sober at least.. most of the time anyway.. no real challenges due the the routine with work and caring for my toddler during the week so it seems to be much easier to turn off the craving. I read sober blogs, mind, body & spirit articles….then the wknd hits and all bets are off. As much as I know that steering clear will be so much better in the long run….. I am dealthy afraid of my feelings it seems… That’s when I want to drink most. Whatever it is, happy, sad, mad, anxiety…. Thanks for letting me share. Blessings.
Ah Christina, I feel for you.
It is so hard to get over that “hump” in the beginning – for some it is the weekend, for some it is family events, for others it is work-related drinking.
I strongly encourage you to set yourself up for success. Get out a sheet of paper and make a schedule for the weekend ahead – what will you do Fri/Sat/Sun that will support staying sober? Book time for coffee dates (so you’re not lonely), buy ingredients for some elaborate meal (making it is one activity, eating it is another!), get all the damn booze out of the house (obviously), binge on tv time, give yourself a mani/pedi — whatever your normally do that involves drinking, DON’T DO THAT! If you try and do the same stuff just without alcohol, you will miss it like crazy. Do things differently. Plan ahead.
Enjoy yourself and reward yourself with each day that passes. It is hard but do-able. I am cheering for you!!
Reading your post was helpful and brought me insight…I am here with almost 50 days alcohol-free, and I can’t quite put my finger on what my “best” self even looks like. I see a few elements of my best self: I do see my best self as sober, healthy and in control of my life. Responsible, a leader to my family and my community, someone who gives back to the world. Beyond that I’m not sure… Right now I’m happy where I am at because I am so happy to finally be at peace with the decision to be alcohol-free….right now, although I have about 10 different directions that my life could take (who knows…will I ever remarry? Finish my doctorate and be a professor? etc). My mind does seem to be all over the place…but the awesome thing is that I see myself alcohol free…which makes all the other things possible. I think as my mind and my life stabilize over the coming months, I’ll retry this exercise to gain clarity.
Hmmm Jenn, maybe the question to ponder is “what does it FEEL like?” – don’t get sidetracked by the details you can’t predict. Just focus on how you want to feel about yourself. Does that help?
Yes! That does help…immensely. I am good at focusing on outward goals, making a list then accomplishing the goal…funny how you picked up on my tendency to avoid looking inward. This is just the focus I need right now. Thank you Jean.
I was a business and life coach for 5 years. While I know all about goal setting etc, I’m great at avoiding applying it to my own life! I must get clear on my own goals! Thanks for this timely post 😘
That is funny! Isn’t it the truth tho, that it is so hard to look inward? Let us know how it turns out.
Just listening to the Bubble Hour’s Getting Unstuck and very relieved to say “I’m done”. No more giving up for a while, no more trying to moderate. I’m done. Forever. Thanks for sharing, not just you but everyone!
I have similar reservations about “The Secret” and all the manifestation stuff, for the reasons you talked about and also the flip side–the implication that anything bad that happens is brought upon oneself. And yet, there is something to all this, as your story illustrates.
There’s a sign on the wall in one of my favorite places. It says:
“What you practice gets stronger.
What you focus on gets bigger.
What you keep doing is who you become.”
All of which is very applicable to the sobriety journey, and especially the second line in this case! That business coach is good at what he does.
I love that quote you shared so much that I just put it on a graphic to post on my inspiration page and Facebook page. Thank you soberfire!
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Jean, I saw that you thanked me for the quote on Facebook–thanks so much for that! Can I ask a giant favor as a new anonymous blogger? Would you mind terribly putting my site address there in place of my “name?” In other words, http://www.soberfire.com instead of SoberFire? Or putting it in the comments? I hope it’s not too pushy to ask that. Thanks for the shout out on FB either way! (And I love the info graphic!)
Absolutely – happy to. (Look everyone! We speak up for what we want and it works out fine. Isn’t that amazing? And I bet the SoberFire felt a little uneasy asking but it is exactly the right thing to do!!!)
Thank you 🙂
I must say, having battled with my own addictiona issues as well I really connected with this blog post. You reminded me to not forget about re-evaluating and focusing on my personal and career goals – something that is exceptionally important for an addict.
Especially when you admitted that “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,” it made me realize that I’m not the only one that has felt that way!
Consider me a fan of your blog; I’ll definitely be back to read future posts.
Nice to *meet* you, Laura! Come back soon 🙂
My best possible self:
Will find a way to keep working but maybe have work be less draining.
Will feel love from my husband, even though he is not very expressive. I will accept that the love is there and I will chose to bask in it.
Will have an increasing power to connect with the present moment. To notice what is right here for me, and to experience that as bounty.
Will continue to enjoy my kids, who I adore, and I will help them foster independence and wings. I will not be afraid of their journey, even when it separates us. I will rejoice that I have played a part in these autonomous beings.
Will not have a recurrence of breast cancer. And should I have a recurrence (because that is not under my control) I will be brave, I will breathe. I will not let fear of a recurrence diminish me.
will connect with friends, I will listen.
will continue to love moving and strengthening my body.
Will learn to garden. Will plant a fruit tree in my new back yard and I will nurture it.
Hi, I facilitate Leadership seminars which include goal setting for individuals in their personal and professional lives. I can say that the times in my life where I really do set goals, turn them into daily affirmations are the times where I have accomplished the most! Thought you might like to know that the “secret” you referred to is actually called reticular activation (activating the retina) . Thought the more scientific term might take some of the vodoo out of the concept for you:)
Keep writing, I so value your contributions!
Two thumbs up! Cheers with my Sleepytime Tea!!
Oh how I love that! I am in contemplation stage and ready to leap. Tender and hopeful. Sleepy time tea sounds safe and lovely.
I find myself saying, why not me instead of why me….. Sobriety and recovery has helped me discover the real me and all that goes with the real me. Self awareness is not always easy but it certainly beats the way I used to live! Thank you for the awesome post!
I’m going to work on this!
I saw your answer on another blog and it was wonderful!
But I need extra time!
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Yes! My friend Anne wrote a post about how this exercise was upsetting to her because she so loves where she is today (https://ainsobriety.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/fear-of-moving-forward/) and I responded with the following:
Hi Anne. Here is the beauty in the exercise I proposed – it isn’t really a matter of what you need to change, but what does it look like to keep being you as time passes? Hold all the core values you’ve developed and see them played out against the aging of our faces and bodies, our relationships with our children as they become adults, the winding down of our careers. The strengths you have developed as a sober woman who accepts herself and treats her body with respect are characteristics that serve you well in both the short term and long term – this is at the heart of the exercise.
My “future Jean” is a woman who moves thoughtfully through the world and fully engages in what’s before her at any moment. She isn’t checking her emails while babysitting the grandchildren, she is on the floor with them rolling out home made playdough. Future Jean skis into her 80s, meditates, volunteers at the hospital, and can afford to travel once or twice a year, although her favourite adventures are close-to-home camping trips in the old VW with the grandkids. She has natural wrinkles and great hair. Her style is current yet age-appropriate. She is trustworthy, respected, and well-informed. She is not a burden to others; she is strong and independent and a pleasure to have around.
That woman I just described, I am on the right path to be her as I age. When I was drinking, I had the same aspirations for myself but knew that getting drunk every night was not leading me there. My vision reminds me to stay active so I am healthy enough to live the life I envision. It reminds me to plan my finances so I can afford to travel. It reminds me that I don’t need a tummy tuck not matter how much I wish my stomach was perfect. It reminds me to stay sober so that I can be a wise and admirable matriarch, not some sour sad old drunk.
The goal is not to redirect you away from all you are, but to clarify what’s on track. You are wise to push against ideas of perfectionism and future-tripping – those are not the purpose of this exercise. The question, really, is whether you are heading in the direction you want to go. I think your answer is “yes”.
Amazing post! It speaks so much to the fact that we can steer our ships in the direction we choose. Thank you!
Excellent! This could apply to any obsession or addiction. The world is seen differently when the view is cleared of its repetitive sameness.
As usual, timing is impeccable.
My best possible self would have way less possessions and a variety of more true friends and a possibility of a potential significant other, someone special who was first of all a great friend and confidant. My best self would not overeat to disguise painful emotions and would get more exercise in spite of physical limitations to what exercise for me used to look like. My best self would be honest with me and others, would be supportive of me and others in healthy ways. My best self would have values and integrity that assure me its ok to be me and to allow me to allow others to see the real me.
Oh my gosh, what can I say except yes, yes, yes! I love this blog Jean. Thanks for the post.
I have done plenty of research on my worst possible self; now it’s time to look for the best possible one. Thank you for inspiring me always. Annie x
You and me both Annie! Wanted to give you a hug when I read your comment. Then realized I felt much the same. So corny as this sounds….I’m sending you out one and giving myself one! : ) Rach
This is brilliant! Such a simple concept and yet it makes so much sense… Thanks for this!
Love it! Thank you! I’m currently a little into ‘The Secret’ because it somehow seems to work but this explanation makes a lot of sense! Thank you! 🙂
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a fantastic post. thankyou!!!!!!!!