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Goal Setting
From The Ashes:
A Brain Injury Survivor's Guide

      The ability to set goals is essential to effective problem solving; and by default, is essential to self-management, and self-determination. A goal is a statement of general purpose or intent. 

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Letters From The Edge
  It can also be said to be a statement of desired outcomes to which effort is directed. As such, goals can be achieved only to the degree that their meaning is understood. This requirement points to the need for goal analysis. This section will present an overview of steps involved in goal setting and analysis; and then it will show examples of it in action. 

      Goal analysis is a procedure for defining goals and refining their meaning. This procedure will help you describe the meaning of your goals. It will prepare you to understand your own goals better, by helping you say what you mean, and mean what you say. Additionally, it will help you hold others accountable for what they say, and what they say they mean. Such a foundation will enable you to make better decisions about your goals. Additionally, it will provide a yardstick by which you can track and measure the results of your efforts toward your goals. 

Goal analysis will help you answer questions such as: 

1. How can I help them understand my needs? 
2. How can I motivate them to be more responsive to my needs? 
3. How can I increase their appreciation of the difficulties of my situation? 

Goals come in all shapes and sizes and are wrapped in all sorts of words. Some are stated briefly; others are not. One thing they have in common is that they tend to be stated in abstract or vague terms. Sample the following vague goals that were extracted from the questions listed above:

1. Deepen their understanding.
2. Motivate them.
3. Appreciate my difficulties.

    Once you have identified the problem and its major components; the next questions become what to do about it and why? If problem solving is to be successful there must be a connection between the problem and the solution. That is, you must carefully analyze the situation that you hope to change before selecting a remedy, otherwise, you efforts could be wasted. In that case the question becomes: what is the difference between the observed performance and the ideal performance? 

   Additionally, you must analyze your target audience and carefully assess their instructional requirements. Time constraints, learning styles, motivation, disposition, proximity, and attitude toward learning are important considerations in this matter. In other words, know your audience and respect their needs and plan accordingly. 

     In this regard it is important to cultivate an environment that is conducive to learning.  That is, one that allows for mistakes, provides interesting, and novel opportunities for learning, and feeds them useable information in digestible chunks.  Typically human beings are reluctant to move outside of their "comfort" zone.  That is, over the course of  time they have learned certain "comfortable" behaviors, notions and actions. In this regard, patience and sensitivity is key to success of your goals

        A essential consideration is motivation. Since many human behaviors are driven and sustained by emotions, it becomes important to get clear about what motivates your desire for change. Many people are unwilling or unable to confront the source of their problems, so they scapegoat innocent by-standers or other convenient targets. Consequently, the change or goal that they seek fails to remedy the problem. Do not fall into the trap of being led by your emotions. Effective problem solving requires the ability to honestly face facts, and to work diligently to conclusion.

   This section will prepare you to define and analyze your goals so that you will be able to identify your needs and have them met. If you follow the steps in this section you will: 

1.  Be able to identify statements that describe ideas or concepts. Ideas or concepts are things that are unobservable. Additionally, you will be able to describe those statements that describe actions or behaviors. Actions and behaviors are the specific, observable, components of abstract ideas or concepts. 
2.  Be able to describe behaviors or actions that represent your meaning of the goal. In other words, be able to describe observable behaviors and actions that, would represent your meaning of the goal.

        As a test of success with the procedure, select a goal, carry out the procedure, and then answer the question. If a person exhibited the behaviors or actions I have described in a way I have described would I agree that my goal  has been achieved?  When you are able to answer yes, you will be finished with the analysis. If you answer no, further analysis would be indicated. A goal analysis form has been provided to guide you, step-by-step through the procedure. 

      Because goals are commonly stated in general, abstract terms, they need to be broken down into specific doable, functions that represent your goals. Typically, goals are stated in abstract terms, that is they, are unobservable. As such, they are not measurable.

         The question then becomes how do you measure the unobservable? The answer is; you measure the unobservable by breaking it into its individual components. The next question would be, what are its individual components. The final question, the test of success, the litmus test is: the actual performance of the behaviors and actions described in your goal statement. The following list outlines components of goal setting. 

1.  A goal is a statement of general direction or intent. 
2.  An objective is a statement of desired outcomes or observable, behavioral changes that represent the achievement of the goal. 
3. An outcome is statement that describes the product, the result of the desired goal.
4.  Level of achievement - a statement that describes the quality of the performance. 
5.  Conditions of performance is a statement describing circumstances under which the outcome will be performed.  This might include limitations of time and other constraints. 

     To summarize, a good objective answers the following questions: 
1.  What will be different. 
2.  How will I know it when I see it.
3.  What is the optimum performance level. 
4.  What constraints, if any might affect performance.

Continued Below

Goal Setting
The best objectives are clear-cut and specific to the goal. Good objectives avoid using vague words or terms that are open to interpretation such as: 
appreciate experience listen to
attitude attitude attitude
familiar with realize adjust to
feelings for recognize capable of
capable of hear responsive to 
conscious of interest in think 
confidence in knowledge of understand 
However, if and when you use such words and phrases in your objectives, be sure that you explain what specific behaviors, represent their achievement. In other words, ask the question, what observable behaviors or actions would demonstrate my meaning of my goals 
You might want to use of more specific words and phrases to describe your intent such as: 
identify  operate solve
lists  recite, answer  promptly
describe  well modulated rate 
does not interrupt  explains  speaks clearly, and calmly
avoids jargon records responses accurately expresses empathy
avoids abusive jokes 
     The following is an example of goal setting in action. Working from one of the examples stated earlier in this section we will now demonstrate the procedures described in this section.   Blank worksheets in this section will allow you to test this procedure on your goals.

Sample Goal Analysis Questionnaire

1.  State the problem:   "How can I help them understand my needs?"
2.  Performance Analysis -- answer the question: What are the differences between the existing situation and the changes I want to see?  Rank and prioritize.

  A.   From their behavior toward me it has become painfully clear to me that they do not appreciate the difficulties that have resulted from my brain injury. I want them to be less critical of me; and more patient with me. Among other things I want them to realize that I now need more time to do things that I used to do with little or no effort. 

3.  Q.   Describe those differences, and the changes you want to see. What information, instruction or other course of action would bring about the desired changes.

  A.   "I feel that no one understands my needs, and that I'm not being heard. Information and instruction would be appropriate."

4.  Q.  Who or what caused the problem? 

  A.  "Brain injury caused the underlying problem; insensitivity and lack of information caused secondary problems."

5.  Q.   Needs Analysis — why are the targeted behaviors, or actions different than they should be? Do they know what is expected of them?  Have they received appropriate education and information. 

  A.   "I believe, that they do not know what to do, they have not received any training. My head injury was sudden and unexpected, even then none of my doctors has suggested that family education might be necessary. 

6.  Q.   If they know what is expected of them why don't they do it. What steps will you take to overcome their resistance and motivate them to make the desired changes?

  A.   "They don't know what is expected of them, I will rely on our mutual regard and love to motivate them to change.

7.   Q.   Have you told them what you expect of them in terms that they could understand?  Have you provided them opportunities and materials for learning and continuing education that are suited to their learning needs and styles.

  A.   Not yet.

8.   Q.    Have you created an atmosphere that is conducive to learning — one that makes allowances for errors and is tolerant, and not overly critical. Are you open to compromise or do you insist on "having your way?"  What do you do to accommodate them and their concerns and fears? 

  A.   Not yet, but I plan to employ humor and flexibility in my efforts to educate and sensitize them. I will be tolerant of their mistakes and gently correct them. I plan to look for teachable moments and keep a variety of materials or hand to facilitate learning. I intend to be sensitive to their learning styles and act accordingly. I will make a point of extending myself to them in matters that are important to them. I will continue to keep up with relevant developments and share that information with them. I will remain open to constructive criticism from them. I intend to continue to work hard to manage my impairments and carry my share of responsibilities. On the days when I am bedridden I will explained to them that such episodes are temporary and that I will be able to resume my normal activities.

9.    Q.   How are you affected by the problem?  Be specific.  List concrete ways in which the problem affects you.

  A.   Their lack of empathy is destroying our relationship, and damaging my self-esteem.

10.   Q.  When did the problem, start?  Has it been a long standing problem?  Is it worse at certain times?

  A.  It began shortly after I was released from the hospital following my brain injury. It becomes worse when we are tired, and when we are under pressure.

11.   Q.  What kinds of changes would solve the problem? Think of several alternatives. Task analysis — describe the observable behaviors and actions that would solve the problem.

   A.  They would allow me to work at my own pace and in my own style. They would give me more lead time to meet deadlines. They would present realistic and balanced criticism. They would avoid ridicule and abusive joking. They would commit to a set number of hours each week to provide the help that I need. They would allow me to determine the quality and quantity of help that I need. They would participate in training and maintain productive working relationships. They would identify and present new opportunities for learning and growth. And, they would engage in open honest communication.

12.    Q.  Performance Level— Describe the manner and extent of each action or behavior that represents your meaning of your goal. How much, how often, and under what circumstances — these questions address the level and quality of performance. 

   A.  The behaviors stated in question 7 above would become the norm, they would be permitted only occasional transgressions.

13.    Q.  What has been done to address the problem so far? What happened as a result of this? Should this be continued or does something else need to be tried?  What? 

   A.  Crying, whining, shouting and withdrawing have been tried before without success. It is time to take a different approach. "This time I will attempt mediation and negotiation. Additionally, I will engage a knowledgeable advocate, one whom they respect, to help me prepare for this process. Then I will learn and practice self-advocacy skills to enforce the changes.

14.   Q.   By what date should the problem begin to be resolved?  How long should this process take?

   A.  The mediation has been scheduled for next week, I expect to see the implementation of the desired changes immediately afterwards."

15.   Q.  If the problem is not solved, how will that affect you? 

   A.  It will destroy our relationship and result in substantial emotional upheaval."

16.   Q.   What are the specific components (objectives) of your goal.  Which observable behaviors, would represent the embodiment of your goals.

   A.  "See number 11 above."

17.   Q.   Identify your audience and analyze their attitudes toward your goals, their instructional needs, and acceptable levels of performance. What objections might they express toward your goal? How will you persuade them to support your goal? 

   A.  My audience is my family members. They need to learn more about Post Concussion Syndrome. Their objections will be based on out dated notions regarding brain injury and will be reinforced by their normal resistance to change of any sort. I will rely on their compassion and feelings of mutual respect as well as my right to self-determination to persuade them to support my goal.

18.   Q.  Litmus Test — If you observed the behaviors or actions you have described in your goal statement, in a way you have described them, would you agree that your goals have been met? 

   A.  "Yes!" 

Click here to go to a blank:  Goal Analysis Questionnaire
Information on this page Adapted from, 
Goal Analysis, by Robert Mager, with permission from Center for Effective Performance,
Atlanta, GA 30338

National Institutes of Health  Traumatic Brain Injury  Rehabilitation Consensus Statement, October 1998. Download from the internet, or request your free copy by toll-free telephone  888-644-2667.

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