Last week my family and I went to my kids’ school playground. My nine-year-old daughter Elizabeth, six-year-old son Seth*, and I played tag. There are very few games in which I’ll intentionally let my kids win. I often handicap myself to level the playing field, but I typically won’t let them win. Tag is the exception, though. I’m [presently] faster, more agile, and more skilled, so I’ll often move at a little slower speed.
Typically, I’ll know when to slow down. My kids will stop pursuing me and will instead chase each other. But this day was different. I noticed my daughter chasing my son less and me more. Instead of slowing, she kept coming.
In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for her to chase me once, maybe twice, around the playground equipment. But she didn’t stop at once or twice. She kept after me. We went ‘round and around and around.
I’m not gonna lie, I began to get winded. My heart rate increased, my breathing became a little more labored, and I began to sweat. And I loved it!
I think my son grew bored. He yelled to his sister to chase him, but she replied he was too easy to catch.
What happened next made me so proud—she tagged me. It wasn’t so much that she tagged me, but what she said after tagging me. She said that she knew if she kept chasing me, I’d eventually get tired or give up. (Now that I think about it, though, maybe I should’ve been insulted?!)
She and that game of tag made me think about achieving my goals. I’m sure there are a few things I’m missing, but this is what I got out of it.
It wasn’t meaningful enough for her to tag her little brother, she wanted to catch me—her big papa**. (I love it when she calls “me big pop-pa, throw your hands in the air if you’re a true player”.)
Before you can really get motivated to accomplish a goal, you must choose a personally meaningful goal. Without meaning, it’s unlikely to happen. You’ll just go back to chasing your little brother.
It wasn’t a big enough challenge for her to catch her brother. Does it require some effort on her part to catch him? Sure, but it’s something she’s done before and knows she can do again.
In goal-setting theory (which apparently is a thing), researchers cited, “high, or hard, goals are motivating because they require one to attain more to be satisfied than do low, or easy, goals.”
It wasn’t enough to chase me around the equipment once or twice. She had to keep going. I don’t know what she was feeling, but I know I was working hard to keep from her. I know it would’ve been a whole lot easier for her to quit, but she didn’t. She persisted.
Your goal’s not gonna run to you: it’s gonna keep from you. You’ve gotta keep chasing after it. Your legs may tire, your lungs may burn, but you’ll need to persist if you wanna catch it.
Although she kept chasing me ‘round and around the playground, I’m pretty sure if she stuck with that strategy we’d still be at the playground . . . and dizzy.
Because of my size, and at the risk of crushing my head, I abstained from running under and through most of the equipment. Although I was a little too big to comfortably and effectively maneuver myself through the equipment, she was not. She used her size to her advantage. She used what she had available to accomplish the task at hand—to tag me.
Have you been doing the same thing? Have you been going ‘round and around, making little progress in pursuit of your goal? Maybe you need to change your plan of attack, duck under the bridge, and cut through the monkey bars, figuratively speaking.
Apparently, I’m a one-trick pony when it comes to juking my kids in tag. In addition to her persistence and changed plan of attack, my daughter said she knew which way I was going to go.
I don’t know how many times I speak with clients (answer: a lot!) about how they had a “bad” week. Reasons include, but are not limited to:
Things happen, but how many of these things could’ve been anticipated? I’m gonna say all of ‘em. Most of the time we can anticipate upcoming situations and plan for them, if only we care enough to.
I hope in my lifetime I teach my kids more than they teach me, but on this day, I was reminded by my daughter what I need to do to catch my goals.
* This post originally appeared on coachadamlee.com. My daughter’s now eleven, my son eight.
**My daughter has never once called me big papa. I was simply taking some creative liberty. R.I.P., Biggie.