Sunday, January 06, 2008

Attainable goals

We've all heard the stories about folks paralyzed in accidents who, despite all odds, regained use of their legs.
Well, I knew a guy several years ago that got his neck broken in a street fight. His legs and lower abs were paralyzed but he retained use of his arms, lungs, and upper abs. He was remarkably lucky to have that sort of function. His therapists set goals for him to strengthen his arms, shoulders, back, and abs, to improve bed mobility and independent transfers to and from from his wheelchair, and to be able to drive his manual wheel chair himself. Those were his therapists' goals for him but his personal goal was to walk again. He didn't care that the doctors told him he could never walk again. He didn't focus on the positive things that he still had going for him. He was fixated on walking.
One day he came into the clinic and told his therapist, "Look Doc, I can move my legs!" The therapists watched, incredulous but interested, as he sat on a mat table and, using his hand he picked up his leg and dropped it and it bounced several times and quivered. His therapists had to tell him, "Sorry, what you just saw was a muscle reflex caused by stretching your leg muscles suddenly." He wouldn't hear it. He was sure that since he could induce some reflex motion in that leg, then he could relearn to walk. "Sorry," the therapists had to tell him again. "But there is no communication going on between your legs and your brain. You cannot re-teach your brain to control your legs when the wiring between them is destroyed."
This guy never did very good on the goals that the therapists had set for him because he was focused on an un-attainable goal. His therapists, being pros, had set him realistic, attainable goals but he mostly wasted his time in rehab half-heartedly doing the exercises and fantasizing about walking. He would have done just as much good setting a goal to grow wings and learn to fly.
When you are setting goals, you want to make sure your goals are attainable. Sure, you don't want to settle for mediocrity, but you also don't want to set goals that are simply impossible to fulfil because that is a waste of your time and a recipe for frustration and disapointment. So, aim high, but don't bet on a miracle.
Don't forget the Call for Submissions for Carnival #5. The theme for this month is related to non-violent resolution of conflict.

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