In this three-part set of posts about goals, I explore the general concept of goal setting and action stepping, and I drill down more specifically into my school’s new vision statement, Learning for Life, as well as my own professional goals for the year, which are a part of my school’s Faculty Assessment and Annual Review (FAAR) Plan.
For much of my life, I played soccer. I was a goal keeper. Growing up, being a goal keeper was a major component of my identity. For whatever reason, I never really liked the term “goalie.” I far prefer “goal keeper.” I do wonder sometimes if my strong self-concept as a goal keeper has anything to do now with my strong feelings about keeping goals.
What are you goals? Do you practice the habit of setting goals and establishing action steps to achieve those goals? Do you enlist support from a circle of friends – a team – to help you reach your goals, or do you tend to go it alone? Do you choose your goals carefully and thoughtfully so that you feel the energy to achieve your goals – an energy referred to as creative tension?
In Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization, Senge explained the concept of “creative tension.”
But the gap between vision and current reality is also a source of energy. If there was no gap, there would be no need for any action to move toward the vision. Indeed, the gap is the source of creative energy. We call this gap creative tension (Amazon Kindle App location 2430 of 7726).
In fact, we often take for granted how goal-oriented we actually are – closing the gap between a current reality and a vision confronts us countless times everyday in simple, as well as complex ways. Consider just a few of the simple cases:
- When we look in the mirror in the morning to comb our hair or apply makeup, we are comparing our current reality to a vision we have for our appearance. We attempt to close the gap by grooming and primping. Feedback from our reflection in the mirror becomes critical.
- When we run or bike, we have a current location, or current reality, and we seek to change our location to achieve our goal, or vision, destination. Some of the best runners and cyclists in the world choose hundreds of intermediate goal or vision locations along the way – “I can make it to that next telephone pole or tree in x seconds.” Feedback from our biology (breathing, muscle ache, etc.), and from our will power, becomes critical as we strive to reach our goal.
Of course, our professional learning takes on similar paradigms, albeit in more complex ways, as we attempt to alter our current reality to reach and achieve our goal or vision. Perhaps we have been practicing assessment plans that are more summative in nature – we have developed habits of testing at the ends of units to record a grade in a grade book. Maybe we want to utilize more formative assessment in our strategies to assess student learning, so we set goals about learning more about balanced assessment systems. We may establish action steps to achieve our goal, like reading about formative assessment and practicing more formative assessment strategies with our colleagues and with our student learners.
As we work to achieve our goals, the gap between our current reality and our vision becomes the source of learning – it is in the gap that we can explore creative ways to stretch ourselves toward our set vision. Again, in The Fifth Discipline, Senge reasoned:
Imagine a rubber band, stretched between your vision and current reality. When stretched, the rubber band creates tension, representing the tension between vision and current reality. What does tension seek? Resolution or release. There are only two possible ways for the tension to resolve itself: pull reality toward the vision or pull the vision toward reality. Which occurs will depend on whether we hold steady to the vision.
The principle of creative tension is the central principle of personal mastery, integrating all elements of the discipline. Yet, it is easily misunderstood. For example, the very term “tension” suggests anxiety or stress. But creative tension doesn’t feel any particular way. It is the force that comes into play at the moment when we acknowledge a vision that is at odds with current reality (Amazon Kindle App location 2440 of 7726).
Often times, if not EVERY time, a first stage of dealing with creative tension is just trying something new. In the following, short TED talk by Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days, Cutts encourages us to shrink the change (a la the Heath brothers in Switch) by running a 30-day experiment in which we change our current reality by striving toward a new vision for ourselves.
But are there points of advice for becoming successful in striving for and reaching our goals and new visions? Of course! The points of advice can be found in myriad, countless sources, and they are virtually innumerable. One of the best sets of advice, in my opinion, comes from Richard St. John in another short TED talk, Richard St. John’s 8 secrets of success:
In part 2 of this three-part series on goal keeping, I will post Westminster’s new vision statement, Learning for Life. Additionally, I will remind or reveal to readers the developing Faculty Assessment and Annual Review (FAAR) Plan, which is designed at its core to help us reach our vision as individual and interdependent professionals…and as a school. I am hopeful that other education professionals, as well as student and parent readers, may share their thoughts on our vision, FAAR plan, and my professional goals. Also, I am hopeful that other educators and professionals may share their systems for goal setting and vision accomplishment. To make our current reality snap toward our vision, we must all be goal setters, goal strivers, and goal keepers.
It’s about closing the gap between our current reality and our vision. It’s about exercising our creative tension. It’s about a growth mindset. It’s about learning.
Senge, Peter M. The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization. Currency-Doubleday: Random House, 1990, 2006. Accessed via Amazon Kindle App.