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Tend Your Thoughts to Grow Your Goals

Fall is more than a change of color; it is a season of renewal. One of the goals I have made for myself this fall is to stand up for myself. For this goal to be supported, I need to foster an environment that will nurture it. In fact, creating a mental and emotional environment is vital for me to succeed. Think about it, we create other external environments in order to thrive, so why not create an internal environment for our aspirations to thrive? For example, when we think about being creative or getting our real work done, we may gravitate to a place that is peaceful or cheerfully sunny or an environment void of interruptions. For some of us, it may be a kitchen table or for others, it may be a coffee shop buzzing with chatter and warm bodies that gets our ideas percolating and our content created. Just as spaces shape consciousness, new shifts in our behavior need a welcoming thought arena, too, where they can blossom and thrive. A ‘thought arena’ is a place where we evaluate and process the thoughts we have.

So, I set the goal to stand up for myself. I have made strides through the years and know that I have come a long way. Looking back, I had a season in high school where I was too embarrassed to ask for a tissue for my runny nose and I would ask if I could ‘borrow’ a tissue. Of course, folks were quick to respond, “Why don’t you just USE the tissue…I don’t want it back!” Yet, now there is a renewed sense of needing to keep asking for what I need and what I want. So I revisit this goal with an appreciation for how far I have come in asking for what I want.

The first step in formulating a welcoming thought arena is to create a statement that triggers me to ‘stick with it’. The ‘stick with it’ statement becomes my guideline. Guidelines are punchy statements that start with a verb to get you to ‘act’ when you may want to quit. As Jinny Ditzler shared in her book, Your Best Year Yet, a guideline is the soil in which we plant our new goal. My guideline can be a phrase that I repeat to myself when needing to stand up for myself. The guideline or statement I have set my goal, ‘Identify and say what I want’ and it is a reminder to me when situations present themselves. This statement can also coach me into what ‘next steps’ I can take to keep going towards my goal. I can identify how I am feeling and what is true for me; then go on to speak about what is true for me in that situation.

The second thing my goal needs is a ‘judgment-free zone’. The term ‘ judgment-free zone’ is a place where folks feel comfortable to share what they are processing without fear of being put down for an opinion or a perspective. You might have heard of this phrase in the fitness industry as it relates to folks feeling at ease as they work out in a gym. But maybe you have not thought of it for yourself. We can be our worst critics. Even as I set the intention for this new goal, I found myself making excuses like – ‘Oh Michelle, it’s not a big deal…why rock the boat by speaking up?’ Yet, I know if I make the excuses now and blow it off, it will mean complaining later. There is a personal progression that happens in my world when the excuses start, I begin to hold secret grudges in my spirit towards that person or that situation in addition to holding grudges against myself if I don’t speak up. How crazy is that? I get mad at myself because I did not stand up for myself and this blame turns into grudges – grudges that I constructed towards myself.

The third thing necessary to accomplish my goal is the ability to remember my accomplishments. It is important for me to remember my accomplishments because victories, small or large, can help me in being bold in my new goal. Even as recently as 2 weeks ago, I was meeting with my hairdresser to go over the cut and color. I shared what I desired to change at the onset of our appointment. When we were done and closing out, I knew that one request had not been addressed – the change I requested at the onset. I kept thinking about what I would do if I allowed myself to go home without saying anything. I would start my complaining and I would have myself to blame. So I mentioned again what I had wanted and offered that I would be willing to stay after any other appointments she had in order to get what I had originally requested. Even this small stance would build momentum for how I can stand up for myself tomorrow. It is like these little wins of yesterday will help me find my voice for today AND tomorrow. I realize that tomorrow it may be a store clerk to communicate with or a team member in which I might need more information to keep a deliverable moving towards a milestone. It might even be a family member who made a curt comment that might warrant further clarification.

There is an environment we can create in which to plant our goals and intentions. That environment includes our thoughts – our thought arena. Knowing that the place to start in fostering success begins in our thought life, reminds me of the Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu, who shares, “Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny. What we think is what we become.”


Author – Michelle Santaferraro


About InteraWorks

InteraWorks is a global learning company on a mission to elevate the human experience at work. Specializing in professional development and performance enablement, we offer top-rated learning programs based on four defined conditions that must exist for individuals, teams including Effective Edge, Best Year Yet, and the Essentials series. Our integrated learning framework and online tools generate immediate and sustainable breakthroughs in performance. Through decades of working at all levels in enterprise companies across many industries, we’ve built a reputation for helping people and organizations harness their focus, mindset, talent, and energy to produce results that matter most. 


We’ve defined four conditions that must exist for an individual, team, or organization to be effective within the arena of performance and development; Accountability, Focus, Alignment, and Integrity. We’ll continue to explore these and more in our blog and look forward to your engagement and interaction with us. Stay tuned as we engage the edges.