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Effective Goal Setting

Updated on April 27, 2012

My Shot Put Rock

My Dad Still Has My Shot Put Rock
My Dad Still Has My Shot Put Rock | Source

When you meet me for the first time, you would not think, “Now there is a shot putter!” But, little did you know, at one point in my life I did I have a successful shot put career. When I was in grade school, you could compete in track and field starting in 1st grade. My sister 7 years older than me and I were both on the track team. Our school competed in CYO, Catholic Youth Organization, against all other area Catholic Schools.

My age group was 1st-3rd graders. I had not qualified for the track and field championships as a 1st or 2nd grader. They only took the top 6 and I was more like top 10 as a 2nd grader. I was coming into my 3rd grade season and I decided that I was going to finals, going to win and going to break the league record.

My Goal Setting Plan

My Dad was aware of this goal. And as all good parents do, they help you achieve your goals. I was only 9 so I figured I would just keep trying hard and I would win. But, my Dad helped me break it down into a "can’t lose" plan.

Our Plan

We knew what the record was for a 6 lb shot put.

The width of the drive way was about 2 feet wider.

My Dad picked a rock that were mostly spherical. He weighed it, 7 1/4 lbs. Perfect!

So we had the distance marked and my rock to use. I knew where I need to start. I did my hop, hop, step and throw. It was soaring. I was anxious. It hit the side of the driveway and took out a chunk. I am not sure what my Dad told me but I do know that my next throw started on the driveway.

I practiced and practiced. Ultimately I was able to use the 7 1/4 lb rock across the driveway. I was consistently throwing it over the driveway each time. I kept practicing. I qualified for finals and I was excited. According to the semifinal distances, I should win, but I was not going to break the record. I kept practicing.

CYO Track and Field Finals

It was time for finals. I knew I had done everything I could. I knew I could beat the record. I knew I could win. I had practiced with a heavier rock and a longer distance. Our plan had been implemented. This was 30 years ago and I am not sure exactly what I threw, but I do know this for sure. I won the event and I beat the record by over a foot.

My Spelling Bee Plaque

My Spelling Bee Plaque
My Spelling Bee Plaque | Source

The Spelling Bee

Now with my first earned trophy and successful plan complete, I was onto my next goal.

This time, I decided to win the spelling bee. I was not old enough for the Scripps spelling bee, but we did have one for 1st thru 3rd grade. I had participated each year but never really studied.

I made another plan. We were given a book that had all the spelling words. I figured that I would just memorize all the words and win. I walked around with that book. My Mom quizzed me daily. I was confident. I had studied all the words. How could I lose?

It was the day of the spelling bee. I am not sure it occurred to me that my Mom was the bell dinger. I am unsure if the official name of the person who gets to ring the bell to tell you that you spelled the word wrong is the bell dinger, but that is what I call them. Not only was I attempting to achieve my goal, but Mom was the bell dinger! If I lost, my Mom was going to be the first to tell me and the whole room.

We went round after round until it was just 2 of us, Patrick and Me. I am not sure if he missed it and I spelled it or I spelled it and he missed it. I just know that the word was valuable and I won the spelling bee!

I was learning that if I tried hard and had a plan, I could achieve my goals.


I had always done well in school. Part of it was that I was probably smart. While I did study, I do memorize quickly. An even bigger part was that I was a rule follower. If you are smart, but you don’t turn in your homework or follow directions on tests, you will not get good grades. Sounds simple but all of us know smart kids with bad grades. So I am not saying that I am smarter than everyone. I am saying that I am a smart rule follower. I always studied for tests. I viewed extra credit as something you did just in case you made a mistake. Most of the time, you just end up with even higher test scores.

At the end of my freshman year in High school, class rankings came out. I was first in my class. I knew I was smart, but I didn’t think I had the best grades in our class. Someone said to me, “That would be cool if you could graduate valedictorian”. And the goal was created.

I am not sure I honestly approached anything differently, but I always have this in the back of my mind. This goal was bigger than the spelling bee and I was going to do my best to achieve it. Year in and year out, I did my best. I signed up for all the Honors and Advanced Placement Courses I could handle. I continued to study and follow the rules.

I graduated first in my class. The only other person to do this in our family is my Mom.

Achieving Goals: A Family Tradition

I am from an athletic family. My older sister received the Broderick, now Honda Broderick award when she was a senior in college. According to Wikipedia, “The Honda Sports Award is an annual award in the United States, was given to the best collegiate female athlete in each of twelve sports. There are four nominees for each sport, and the twelve winners of the Honda Award are automatically in the running for the Honda Broderick Cup award, as the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year.”

She received this honor as the top volleyball player in the Nation at half time when her basketball team was in the process of winning the National Championship. She only scored 40 points that game.

I was in 1st grade. This seemed normal to me.

When another sister received a full athletic scholarship to play volleyball, we were checking out the awards at the arena. There were multiple cases full of awards. In one case was a Honda Broderick award that another athlete had won. I said, “Oh, we have one of those at home!” I wasn’t bragging. I was a little kid and I was just making an observation.

NCAA Athletic Scholarship

When you are surrounded by achievement, you tend to achieve. I was also talented enough to achieve and for this I am thankful. I decided in high school that I wanted a full athletic scholarship, too. Why not? In addition to being athletic, and a rule follower, I am a hard worker. When our coach would say, “Right now someone is doing the same drill as you are AND they are doing it better!” I would be motivated to speed up or do better.

Encouraged by my high school coach, who was also my Broderick Award winning sister, we practiced during winter break. Volleyball was out of season and basketball had the gym. We would be at school, have the net system set up, have practiced for over an hour, and have the equipment put away before the basketball boys could stink up the gym at 8 am.

This might seem crazy, but I know that I am not the tallest or fastest, but I was going to be the most well rounded. Fortunately, this plan fell into place as well. I had a few offers and was able to pick a large Division I school for my college career.

Setting Achievable Goals

Goodness No! I cannot sing. I have no rhythm. I am not stylish. I can’t even back my car out of the garage if another car is in the driveway! I don't practice the latter. That could be one expensive mistake!

Trust me on these things!

What I am saying is that I learned early how to set achievable goals.

Lessons In Goal Settings

1. I was surrounded by over achievers. I knew no difference. As a result I never knew limitation.

2. Early on, my parents helped me understand how to develop a game plan to achieve my goals.

3. My parents helped me understand what I was good at. I mentioned playing an instrument once. My Mom kabashed that quickly.

4. As a result, I know what I am good at. We learned early to recognize our talents.

5. I worked hard. I didn’t set a goal and then hope and wait. I made a plan. I followed my plan. As a result of being prepared, I was often successful.

6. I choose my goals wisely. If I am not passionate about it, I will not complete the goal.

7. I never limit myself. Someone asked me the other day if I have run a marathon. I said, "I walked one, but I haven’t run one yet." If I get the itch, I am confident that I can.

8. My parents always encouraged me to do my best. Not sure how they did it, but my parents instilled in me confidence and a strong work ethic. I aspire to do the same for my kids.

9. My goals are challenging, but attainable.

Talents: God's Gifts To Me

Growing up in Catholic schools, we often discussed the Bible verse, “For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required”. My parents made sure we knew that God gave us our talents. Not using them is wasting a gift from God.

As I have gotten older, I recognize different talents that I have. I have evolved into a more well-rounded adult.

My focus now is my children.

I intend to bestow that same confidence and work ethic to my kids.

I encourage my kids to practice and work hard. When they have goals, I help them understand if is is achievable and then to identify a plan to achieve it. I help them celebrate their successes and understand their almost successes.

I don’t care if they are ever THE BEST at anything. I care that they work hard and are THEIR BEST.

There is a difference.

© 2012 Karen Lackey


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