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Wheeling my shopping cart down the aisle at the supermarket this week, I was forced to take notice that it was, indeed, football season.
With my attention distracted by a flashing soda display, my cart crashed into the corner of a miniature football field, constructed entirely out of beer cases.
Untangling my cart (and trying to shove the cases back into line before anyone noticed that I'd creamed the goalpost), it occurred to me that I could learn a lot about goals from football players.
First, a football team's goal is clearly defined. Goalposts dominate the end of the field, capturing players' attention and serving as a visual marker for the team's efforts.
How many times have my goals faltered because they were too vague or undefined? For example, I might resolve: "I want to do something about my appearance!" (Definition of "something": roll over and sleep for another hour so my hair is flattened on both sides of my head.)
Instead, I need a clearly defined goal: "get up twenty minutes earlier to shampoo and blow-dry each morning."
Second, a football team always faces the goal; all their efforts are directed toward driving the ball into the end zone. No matter what may be on the minds of the players before the game (new contracts, last night's party, what a jerk the coach is), during the game, there's only one thought: "Reach the goal!"
Me? Even if I managed to come up with a defined goal, I was usually guilty of scattering my efforts, not directing them.
It's not enough to set a goal--you have to face it! Does each day, each week include a step toward the goal?
Third, a football team always knows where they are in relation to their goal. Each section of the field is clearly marked to show distance left to reach the goal. Look down! Only twenty yards to go!
By contrast, I often set goals that bore no relation to where I was; is it any wonder that the path to the goal was always unclear?
Football players know that to reach a goal, you must chart a course. Divide a goal into daily, weekly and long-term steps--and each day, review your progress.
"First and ten!" isn't just for game day!
Finally, there's a place for the Monday Morning Quarterback when setting and reaching goals is being considered! A football team's actions and performance are always analyzed afterward--and coaches and players try to learn from their mistakes.
Admittedly, it's a lot more fun to set goals ("This year, I want to vacation in Hawaii!") than it is to dissect one's failures ("Hmmm. I said this last year, but lost my $300 deposit when I couldn't come up with the rest of the money on time. Maybe I'd better save the money BEFORE I book the trip this year!")--but those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.
A clearly-defined goal.
Knowledge of where you are in relation to the goal--and a well-marked path to achievement.
Efforts that are directed toward reaching the goal. The willingness to learn from mistakes and apply that knowledge to future goals.
Much as I hate to admit it, the game of football has some striking lessons for the game of life.
This month, my husband enters that state of euphoria known as "the playoffs." For the uninitiated, this means dawn-to-dark television watching from the security of his "wallow": his favorite chair, ringed with stacks of newspapers, beer cans, curdled dip and crumbled potato chips.
The sweetie in question does not shave until the conclusion of the weekend, he wears the same rumpled, comfortable clothing until the bitter end (for luck, he says), and it takes several minutes of patient effort to pry the channel surfer from his contorted fingers on Sunday night.
But maybe, just maybe, this sports fan knows something I don't. Pass me a root beer! While we root for the team, I'm going to think about goals!