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Apr 18, 2007

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Dreams, Goals, and Motivation

The Milkmaid and her Pail

One of the important aspects of motivation is knowing what
we want to achieve. Once we have that, we can go through a
series of goal-setting steps to state, define and execute our
goals. This first step of knowing what we want is by no means
simple. Try asking your children what they want to achieve.
You will get answers ranging from scoring the perfect grades
in their examinations to being famous. Ask the same of your
subordinates and you will hear the usual crap of wanting to
bring value to your company. The point is that these people
either state goals that are generally accepted by society or
are what they think you would want to hear. Self-fulfilling
prophecy steps in - after repeating these statements several
times, they find themselves believing that these are indeed
their real goals.


The Milkmaid and her Pail

The Milkmaid and her Pail
(Illus by Milo Winter)

Patty the Milkmaid was going to market carrying her milk in a
Pail on her head. As she went along she began calculating what
she would do with the money she would get for the milk. "I'll
buy some fowls from Farmer Brown," said she, "and they will
lay eggs each morning, which I will sell to the parson's wife.
With the money that I get from the sale of these eggs I'll buy
myself a new dimity frock and a chip hat; and when I go to
market, won't all the young men come up and speak to me!
Polly Shaw will be that jealous; but I don't care. I shall just
look at her and toss my head like this. As she spoke she tossed
her head back, the Pail fell off it, and all the milk was spilt. So
she had to go home and tell her mother what had occurred.

"Ah, my child," said the mother,

"Do not count your chickens before they are hatched."


Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.

Dreams do not lead to reality.

Do not be overconfident and assume success before you
know the outcome.

Quotable Quotes:

“To accomplish great things, we must not only
act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”
... Anatole France

“There is a powerful driving force inside every
human being that once unleashed can make any
vision, dream, or desire a reality.”
... Anthony Robbins

“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you
can dream it, you can become it.”
... William Arthur Ward

“The future belongs to those who believe in the
beauty of their dreams.” ... Eleanor Roosevelt

“You see things as they are and ask, 'Why?' I
dream things as they never were and ask, 'Why
not?'” ... George Bernard Shaw

“Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.”
... Langston Hughes

[browse collection of quotes and quotations]

Lessons in life:

This old cliché of not counting your chickens before they are
hatched has its merits, but I am not blindly accepting it.
Instead, I am proposing that counting chickens isn't a bad
thing to do, and dreams lead to goal clarifications, which in
turn drive and motivate us.

Let us analyze the fable a little. It is a common custom in
certain parts of the world for people to carry heavy items,
not with their hands, but by balancing them on their heads.
African women, for example, are known to carry on their
heads items that weigh as much as 70% of their body weight.
The milkmaid probably did this so often that she forgot she
had a pail of milk on her head. She went on to daydream and
make plans on things that might not happen.

Doesn't this ring a bell in us about what we are doing with our
lives day in and day out? Are we doing work that has become
so routine or mundane that we could sometimes forget that
we are at work? While we are staring at the computers,
attending meetings or classes, do we not let our minds wander
and daydream about more interesting things? Even when we
know that the things we dream about are unrealistic or
impossible, are we not happier just thinking about them?

“I have a dream ...” ... Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dreams and imagination are powerful tools which assist us
in understanding our purpose and direction in life, as well
as clarifying our goals. Those who have watched the movie
“A.I. Artificial Intelligence” by Steven Spielberg would recall
that the young robotic boy David (acted by Haley Joel Osment)
wished only to be with his human mother. At the end, his wish
was granted, and he spent one day doing ordinary things with
her. To him, that was his happiest and most perfect day he
ever had. Pose this question to the people around you – “If you
have a chance to live one happiest and most perfect day,
what would it be?”

Consider these scenarios:-

An office administration manager, self-professed 'happily
married' family man with three kids: “Wake up to a beautiful
morning in my luxury yacht, with two sexiest ladies on my
side. Hang glide down the Alps. Picked up by my private jet
for a date with Paris Hilton. In the evening, my Chelsea
football club plays the deciding match and wins the League
Cup for the sixth consecutive year. I celebrate with my team
managers and players at my Gordon Ramsay Restaurant.”

For a married man not to involve his wife or family in his
happiest day dream speaks volumes about his marriage. We
get the feel that he likes adventure and outdoor sports. A desk-
bound job seems like a mis-fit unless he separately indulges in
outdoor activities during his leisure time.

An IT consultant who has been with the company for 16 years:
“I own a chain of the world's best restaurants and eateries. This
day, I received news that another of my restaurants is given a
three Michelin stars rating, making it the fifth in my chain.
Journalists from all over the world are here for the press
conference. I am whisked away after that for a private lunch
hosted by the President ...”

Let's pause here. Notice how there is no mention of IT,
computers, internet or anything of that sort. His aspirations
are to be a boss, and to be famous and successful in the food
industry. He should be looking for a suitable opportunity in that
industry, or at the least a managerial position.

After several rounds of chats, you may come to realize that in
our perfect day, most of us crave for wealth, fame and attention.
Families or current job scopes are almost never featured in our
ideal world. This explains why a lot of us never seem to be happy
with whatever we do – either we have yet to discover our real
goals or are not doing anything to achieve those goals.

Very few of us can afford to give up our career to pursue our
dreams or goals. Often, for the sake of earning a living and
supporting our family, we have to keep doing the mundane or
mindless job. This is where short-term and long-term goals
come into conflict. There is no universal solution to this
problem. However, both the management and employees can
work together to find ways to resolve the differences and
bridge the gap.

1. One easy to implement step is to give acknowledgment and
recognition wherever possible. When people talk about wanting
to be a famous celebrity or to receive awards, they are
essentially seeking attention, praise, and approval. If this can
be played out in the course of work, it will be a powerful
motivator to these people. Give them the credit for having a
new idea, or doing a great job. Praise them in public, give them
special awards at the company's annual functions.

2. For those who dream of being their own boss, they would
enjoy power, control, and independence. When you have
projects or committees that require people to take charge,
consider assigning them to these people. Involve them, give
them some responsibility and authority to make decisions.

3. A number of them may look forward to experiencing things
they have never tried e.g. extreme sports, adventure, art,
dance, and modeling. Encourage them to pursue their hobbies
or passion either through company welfare schemes or
subsidies for alternative lifestyle programs. Honor their
achievements in these areas in the company's in-house
publications or noticeboards.

4. We can moot about the real motivator behind “Fear Factor”
and all that, but the fact remains that people who are motivated
by money may not mind doing almost anything to attain it. It is
often difficult to retain such employees because the moment
they find a better paying job, they are likely to jump ship. All
that the management can do is to ensure that the company's
reward and incentive system is in line with market practice
for that industry.

To quote Edgar Allan Poe, “They who dream by day are
cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only
by night.”
Dream away and you might find the real motivation
in your life.

Related Articles:

Set realistic goals
Incentives give the extra push to succeed
Higher Purpose and Job Satisfaction

Books worth reading:

Wondering how you can wriggle out of your dead-end job or
difficult relationship without taking drastic steps? Barbara
Sher's book, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What, has
most of the answers, with exercises you can try to make the
necessary self improvements to live your dreams and clear
those road-blocks that can be in the path of your success. Her
follow-up book, Live the Life You Love: In Ten Easy Step-By
Step Lessons, outlining a step-by-step program to make
impossible dreams possible is also an interesting read.

From none other than leadership expert John Maxwell, his
book, Dare to Dream . . . Then Do It: What Successful People
Know and Do, will take you through a process of making your
dreams come true.

© Business Fables and Management Lessons

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I've enjoy reading your post, my favourites are Quotable Quotes..:)

Best wishes,
Project AGLOCO

Anonymous said...

Great post. I was going to write something similar. Will check this blog more often I think.


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