When I set a goal I focus on the end product. I can envision myself, my family, or a group I belong to achieving the hoped fordream. Sometimes the picture is so vivid, it is almost as if we are already there. I feel the energy and the satisfaction. I see myself fitting into that new picture of reality.
But achieving goals takes more than dreams. A quick guide to achieving your goals has four sections: dream, prepare, wait, achieve. One does not necessarily need to follow the steps in a linear sequence, but each part is crucial.
A clear vision of what you or your group would like to accomplish gives a focal point, and the motivation to do the hard work necessary for change.
Something as simple as anticipating feeling energized and relaxed when I finish exercising is a goal that motivates me to drag myself to the gym, put on my bathing suit and get into a chilly pool three times a week. If I didn’t have the vision to hang onto, I’d never go through the work involved in achieving that goal.
I like to call this stage The Dream to encourage us to think big and push the boundaries of what is possible. In the preparation stage, The Dream faces the challenges of reality, and sometimes needs to shift as a result in order to make the goal practical and achievable.
Dreams can be small and personal or they can be complex and communal.
Forming communal dreams often takes time as people share diverse perspectives and figure out which goal or goals will most benefit the whole group. Often forming a communal dream includes some of the preparation and waiting stages that are necessary to the end product.
Sometimes dreams need to be adjusted as people work towards them. This too can be part of the process of working towards the most beneficial future. But if a dream shifts without a clear, new vision developing, nothing can change.
Dreams can keep us motivated and focused, but no goal is attained through dreams alone. Goals also take hard work and patience.
Advent in the Christian tradition is a time of spiritual preparation and waiting for the birth of Christ. The goal in this case is to be ready for an important religious holiday. But what does it mean to be ready? It helps when churches give a clear picture of what that means, and specify the spiritual preparation needed to get there.
Without breaking down the process of achieving a goal into specific, measurable objectives and listing clear action steps, no goal can be attained. Creating this structured plan requires taking a realistic look at all the factors involved, and the possible obstacles in the way.
If a goal focuses on changing one’s behavior or attitude, preparation can include identifying things that hold you back, reaching out for support and trying out new behaviors.
Making a goal become reality takes careful planning, attention to detail and hard work.
Waiting involves both knowing that achieving a particular goal will take time and hard work, and doing the reflection needed to make new patterns a life time habit. We often don’t see results from the initial hard work put into reaching goals. If a synagogue looks for a new rabbi, it can takes months and months of research, interviews and prayer before the new religious leader joins the congregation.
Sometimes waiting simply involves patience. Sometimes it takes prayer, journal writing, or conversation with a close friend, colleague or therapist. Sometimes waiting involves personal reflection that takes place after an intense meeting, or after struggling with changing one’s own behavior.
This waiting period is not a time of emptiness, but a time of integrating the work that has been done, and making it a part of your daily life.
The Congogram Process
All four of these steps are central to the Congogram Process. The Congogram process works towards specific goals related to improving the emotional health of a congregation.
Choosing the vision to aim for takes a lot of work. In the process of identifying the goals which are most beneficial to a particular religious group, some of the preparation for achieving those goals takes place.
Waiting and self-reflection are built into the Congogram Process. Each part of the Congogram process is spaced out by two to four weeks to give time for both structured and unstructured reflection on the understandings and perspectives that have been shared. The end goals can only be achieved when participants take the time to integrate new understandings and perspectives into their lives and into the life of the congregation.