Goals, goals, goals: Expectations vs. reality

Published by Lori Pickert on January 2, 2010 at 04:38 PM


Setting and working toward goals is like traveling through the Fire Swamp. There are the fire spurts of distraction, the quicksand of despair, and the R.O.U.S.'s (Rodents of Unusual Size) of other people’s expectations.

The Fire Spurts of Distraction

We announce on Monday that we will be doing X from now on … but then we forget on Tuesday. We don’t think about it again until Thursday, by which time it seems like a lost cause. I mean, if you aren’t starting something new on the first day of the first month of a new year, what use is it? At least we should wait until Monday.

How can we stay focused?

Set yourself up for success: Write down your goal in your journal, post it on the wall, talk about it with your children. Celebrate your successes. When you backslide, set a good example for persistence — simply start again.

The Quicksand of Despair

Things aren’t working out the way you wanted them to. You stopped doing the things you wanted to do. The kids are veering off the path you wanted them on. In fact, they’re right back to their old routine. It’s obvious that you aren’t up to this, and you should probably just give up.

How can we stay positive?

Remember that your children’s best lesson for how to live a good life is the way you live yours. Be as supportive and encouraging of yourself as of your child. Remember that it’s only failure when you don’t get back up again. Set a good example for optimism and resilience — accept imperfection and keep working toward your goal.

The  R.O.U.S.'s of Other People’s Expectations

You don’t actually need other people to express their opinions; by living on the planet for more than two decades you have absorbed them through your skin.

Your goal for your child may be something entirely reasonable like “I want him to have friends.” They will whisper in your ear: “Why does he have so many friends who are girls? Shouldn’t he play with more children his own age? Relatives don’t count!”

Your goal may be to help your child work more deeply. They whisper: “Shouldn’t he be covering more material? Is that the only thing he’s going to learn about this year? Isn’t he a little obsessed with [dinosaurs/trains/Greek mythology/bugs]?”

How can we live our values?

Our goals are tied irrevocably to our values. When we make a goal or a resolution, we are stating out loud how we want to change our outside life to match our inside idea of what is important.

My boys love Aesop’s fable about the man, the boy, and the donkey. I reference it frequently.

A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: "You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?"

So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: "See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides."

So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn't gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: "Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along."

Well, the Man didn't know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said:

"Aren't you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours and your hulking son?"

The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey's feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.

"That will teach you," said an old man who had followed them:

“Please all, and you will please none!”

We need to recognize that there are many opinions and prejudices floating around, and we have internalized most of them. But we have taken the time and given careful thought to identifying our core values — and that is how we want to live, aligned with those core values.

Kipling said, “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too” … It is natural to recognize the opinions of others and the doubt they cast upon your choices. The important thing is being able to say, “But this is what I believe. And so this is how I am going to live.”

What are you doing? And why?

Your goals and resolutions are the what. Your values are the why.



Comment by amy on January 2, 2010 at 08:13 PM

It's definitely that last bit that hits home--the bit with the donkey. I think that applies to parenting in general as well. It requires an incredible confidence to not filter yourself based on what other people might think. I was having a similar thought process over on another blog about how mothers have a target on our back whenever we're out in public with our children, and how sometimes, that causes people to say or do things that they don't really believe in, in hopes of avoiding judgment (and of course, someone else will come along and judge you anyway).

Comment by MamaGames on January 2, 2010 at 08:39 PM

You picked one of our favorite movies! Hopefully your inspiration & that of others will help us get through the Fire Swamp unscathed. :) Thanks for the reminders to show perseverance and live to our values.

Comment by Claire on January 2, 2010 at 08:59 PM

Oh, perfect! Thank you.
Plus, everything goes down easier with Princess Bride metaphor.

Comment by sarah in the woods on January 3, 2010 at 02:09 AM

I have been sitting here reading and reading and thoroughly enjoying your blog. There is so much helpful information here. I have been thinking so much about the what and the how but forget to connect that to the all-important why. As I jot down the why I see that perhaps my what and how are not really headed toward that goal very efficiently, and I may need to rethink things. (I am ALWAYS rethinking things!) Thanks so much for all this food for thought.

Comment by cordelia on January 3, 2010 at 04:28 AM

Owww. best you not be prodding these tender ribs of mine... :) So not ready to think about this. Still, in the meantime, everyone should try "Storming the Castle" a princess bride game.
BTW, who, or what, gets to play the shrieking eels?

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 3, 2010 at 03:31 PM

amy, oh good, i was afraid i might be mixing too many metaphors. ;^)

so true — even when you decide to play it “safe” and try to avoid conflict, you just run into someone else’s judgment!

thank you, mamagames — it’s one of our favorites, too. ;^)

claire, exactly! have fun stormin’ the castle! ;^)

sarah, thank you so much. connecting it to the why … that is the part we need to keep reminding ourselves to do. (i’m always rethinking things too! ;^)

cordelia, ooh, i hope i’m only hurting your ribs because you’re laughing. :^)

i had no idea there was a princess bride game, but i’m on it.

i’ll have to think about the eels … lol …

Comment by estea on January 3, 2010 at 09:11 PM

thank you for this encouraging post.

~ a recovering pleaser

Comment by Alice on January 3, 2010 at 11:22 PM

Dear Lori,

Happy New Year, and glad to see you back.

I am still thanking you for reminding me some months back to follow my heart and not others comments. My daughter is three and pretty happy to be at home with me.

Todays post reminds me of this;

I think we are more and more used to instant results - I plan to start something on Monday - we'll keep at it every day - and within a day/a week/or whatever, I'll start seeing results.

My life just doesn't seem to work that way. But if I look back over the years that are passing, I can see that we really are getting somewhere.

I am not a great planner or journaler, like you Lori, and we're not homeschooling. But we are gradually working our way three life, at our own pace, finding time to do what interests us.

And yes, it feels good to know that if I sit down and read a book, or sit down at the piano (as badly as I play, it doesn't seem to matter), or write an article or speak at a conference, or sew a piece of clothing - that I am do something important, as an example, for my girls.

Thanks for reminding me,


Comment by Dawn Suzette on January 4, 2010 at 02:03 PM

You always seem to know just what I need to hear! Thanks Lori!

I just talked to the kids this morning over breakfast about making new journals... one of our projects today!

Comment by Amy on January 5, 2010 at 03:00 AM

Thanks so much for this post! I've been struggling with outside expectations lately. This post puts it all into perspective. And kudos for best PB metaphors. Awesome!

Comment by Deirdre on January 5, 2010 at 05:58 AM

Brilliant! Glad I didn't miss this one. My brain is still mush from overdosing on hot cocoa, but I want to get in this mindframe. More, more more! ---as Nolan would about all he says, besides ma and dad!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 5, 2010 at 05:01 PM

thank you, estea ;^) xo

alice, thank you — setting your own pace is key, i think. and taking the time to reflect on how valuable those things that you do are in your family life … they are so often the things that just flow by and don’t get the recognition they deserve.

dawn, wonderful — i can’t wait to see. :^)

and thank you, as always!

thanks, amy! those outside expectations can be tough. :^)

deirdre, lol, hot cocoa sounds like just the thing to overdose on, especially over the holidays. i guess i’m trying to set my mindframe for ’10 too!

Comment by Jess on January 5, 2010 at 06:23 PM

Thanks your post was just what I needed for the new year! I have been struggling with homeschool and have now set new goals for this year! Thanks again! By the way when does your book come out!:o)


Comment by Lori Pickert on January 5, 2010 at 08:08 PM

hi jess :^)

i am still doing the final edit for the book but hope to have it out the first half of this year! :^)

good luck with your goals & happy 2010 to you & your family! xo

Comment by Jill on January 6, 2010 at 02:31 PM

There really is a book coming, Lori??? Oh joy! xx

Comment by Kit on February 4, 2010 at 08:21 AM

Hi Lori,

Thank you so much for this post! What will your book be about? BTW, do you still have an online study group? I would love to join it if possible :)

Comment by Emmalina on December 31, 2012 at 07:12 PM

Inconceivable! Another great post ; )

Comment by Lori Pickert on December 31, 2012 at 08:51 PM


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