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One of the most common complaints I hear from clients in my coaching practice is that they just don’t make the kind of progress they’d like when trying to turn their ideas into reality. I have found that these aggravating hurdles crop up when we are not yet clear enough with ourselves about why we are pursuing an idea and the way we are approaching it.

What’s your why?

It is easy for us to be attracted by ideas, dreams, or fantasies about what our future might look like, but all too often, we settle on a surface-level understanding of why we want to do something. For example, a common response I hear to the “why” question is, “to make more money.” That’s a perfectly reasonable response.

However, research has shown that after we have enough money to become comfortable, money begins to lose its luster as a motivational force. That’s when we need to dig a bit deeper and connect the goal to something that aligns with our values, allows us to tap into our strengths, or permits us to live a life we find fulfilling.

We need to go into “toddler mode” and keep asking, “why is that important?” What is it about money that makes us want more of it? How would we use the money? Having a solid “why” can reinforce each step of our progress and can help us sustain our efforts, which is crucial when life gets busy and things get in the way.

How to make progress on ideas

A commonly used technique for making progress on ideas is to have SMART goals. These are goals that are specific in nature and could be easily explained to someone else. They also are measurable, so you will know precisely when the goal has been met. While the goals may be challenging, they must be achievable in the sense that they are realistic and possible. Relevant goals relate to one’s values and to the “why” discussed above. Finally, the goals should be time-limited. They must have a specific time frame that is reasonable and that fits into one’s bigger-picture objectives.

Consider making someone else aware of the goal and the deadline you’ve set for achieving it. This goal confidante is known as an accountability partner. Having someone on your side who is expecting news about your progress can have a powerful impact.

For big, long-term goals, it can be particularly helpful to engage in backward planning. This process involves setting a reasonable time frame for achieving a major goal, such as leaving a current job and making a living by owning a business in five years. What kind of income does this business need to have in five years? Set a number and make that the goal. Working backward, what kind of target income would you set for three years from now to be on track? In one year? Six months? Then think about the steps that need to happen to reach each target and break them into SMART goals that you can track.

The next time you find yourself stuck or frustrated with a lack of progress on your goals, remember to closely examine why you’re doing what you’re doing and look carefully at how you’re going about it. Odds are that once you’ve done so, you will find your ideas will start to become real!

Everyone knows that wry saying about becoming a parent: You have to pass a test to get a driver’s license, but not to become a biological mother or father.

While that is still true, some Saint Leo students have had the option of getting some excellent grounding in the topic (with tests) through an undergraduate course called the Psychology of Parenting. It is a junior-level course, developed by Dr. Tammy L. Zacchilli, associate professor of psychology, after discussion among several peers in the discipline from various Saint Leo teaching locations. She has taught it four times so far, every other fall, at University Campus. The class typically fills up, or nearly does.

Dr. Tammy Zacchilli, a mother of three herself, has hopes of extending the course to more Saint Leo students by developing an online version in the near future.
Psychology faculty knew the course would help students who want to become parents at some point in life. Another group that stands to benefit are those who intend to go into teaching, social work, or another kind of helping profession, she points out. “Their jobs may require them to work with parents.”

For some reason, Zacchilli found there were only a few sound textbooks available on the topic—though she notes with caution for other readers that anyone can write a book on parenting without broad knowledge of the theories on how children develop psychologically. Still, she hunted until she found one and supplements the reading with videos, interactive assignments, speakers from child-related occupations, class discussions, and a required service project.

The class lends itself to being divided into three segments, she said. In the first part, the class reads and discusses what psychologists have written about parenting and discipline styles. Students are generally eager to talk about this and compare experiences. Even though most at University Campus have not yet had children, they think back to their own families and have positive exchanges about how different cultures and backgrounds play a role, she said.

“We have students from a lot of different places,” she reflects. Students from the Caribbean, for instance, may have experiences that contrast with those of students from the mainland United States.

The second portion of the course is devoted to understanding child development, and the third to special situations that include adoption, high-risk families, and same-sex parenting.

Emma Hutterli ’16 particularly recalls an assignment with a delicate prop. Students were given actual chicken eggs (with the inside liquid blown out) to carry for a week as stand-ins for infants, meaning they were not to leave the eggs unattended. It was “light-hearted, but the class took it seriously,” recalled Hutterli, who is now studying for the Master of Social Work degree from Saint Leo.

“We then talked about that experience: for example, how was it to ask for a babysitter, what was it like taking the eggs to class/home/the store, did any of the eggs break over the time period?” She still has her phone photo of her decorated egg.