The Tyranny of Goal-Setting

A combination of writing Learning Objectives at work, and hearing people talk about either NOT setting New Years resolutions, or HOW to create good ones has got me thinking about the tyranny of goal-setting.

I regularly use and talk about the SMART model in my work (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-Based, in case it’s a model you’ve not heard or have forgotten about it’s so old).

But sometimes that gets in the way of the big audacious, fuzzy, exploratory goals. So this year I’m going to make more conscious decisions about when they have to be precise, and when they have to be fuzzy.


Your job is to make the learner feel smart

I wrote that on my whiteboard in the early days of working here. I use it not to promote false platitudes, but to focus on learning and the development of knowledge and practice. Many of our learners are adult, professional and mid-career or changing careers. There can be some leaps of logic, some text anxiety, and instinct without structure.

Remind them of prior knowledge; tie in with the pre-requisites, or remind them of the professional knowledge and experience they bring to their learning.

Ask questions; that elicit knowledge, to guide them to a more complex understanding, to reinforce connections.

Experiential Learning in Yoga

I had a job interview last week, in which one of the questions was about experiential learning. My answer was incomplete, as job interview answers always are (seriously, I need Hermione’s Time Turner. Please?), but it go me thinking about Yoga.

I’ve been doing Yoga with some regularity for about seven years, and every once in a while, I realize how far I’ve come in terms of strength, awareness of my body and balance. But I digress.

My favourite yoga teacher at my favourite yoga studio is Emily. I’m on to her approach now: in an 80 minute class, the first two-thirds are poses that are accessible to intermediate students. Some refinement is needed, but these are poses I know. Poses that I practice, refine and improve. It’s familiar learning. And then sometimes at the end, she’ll point out that all that was in prep for a pose that is advanced; a surprise culmination of what we’ve been working doing.

What she’s done is broken down a complex and intimidating pose (a performative task) into smaller, achievable goals that we’ve already demonstrated mastery over. She takes all these successes and together they form a stretch goal (pun entirely intended). And sometimes I fail at the stretch goal, but I see how it fits together and how my building blocks are improving and how they fit into the developement of a more advanced knowledge and mastery.

So in conclusion to my interviewers; experiential learning is partly about breaking down a task in to smaller components, and then having the learner demonstrate mastery of those steps though repetition and refinement, until they can culminate in the practice of the summative evaluation.


Make a list

I’m reading the Checklist Manifesto right now, and you might accuse me of confirmation bias, but I’m totally right.

  1. Write a list
  2. with clear deliverables
  3. in the order they need to be done.

Every month I have to send out a newsletter for our organization, and it’s one of those routine things that I know I have to do. About a year ago, I was busy with other emergency tasks, and this one nearly fell off the radar, and I had to rush myself and my colleagues to get it out (nearly) on time. And that was silly, avoidable stress.

Every month I start with the deadline (when to send the newsletter), and work backwards. So simple, and entirely supported by the Checklist Manifesto, which calls checklists “quick and simple tools aimed to buttress the skills of expert professionals” (page 128).

Now I can spend more of my time with work-related puzzles like how to maximize our use of Google Adwords (AND explain it to my colleagues).

Monthly Newsletter list

Talking mental health and autism

The last two days were spent at Harbour Centre Campus in downtown Vancouver, where we hosted a two day conference on the topics of mental health and autism. The Executive Director at ACT brought together an excellent collection of speakers; international, adults on the spectrum, researchers, and practitioners. This variety of speaker provides many different approaches and understanding of the topic, and also reinforces the commonalities (one of ACT’s objectives is always to break down the silos, to get the researchers, practitioners and families talking to each other productively).

This was our fourth time delivering the conference via live webstreaming, and each time it gets a bit better:

  • I wrote stage directions to make sure that people stood where I wanted them to enable easier filming. This will result in a better video, too.
  • There was less online “chatter” during the presentations – I hope that means that people were simply paying attention and taking notes. It did make it easier to see the questions being asked (which were thoughtful and on topic).
  • I was posting links to references and support groups to our social media accounts as we went on, and that was popular amongst both attendees and the rest of our audience. The objective was to reinforce the learning for attendees (check) and to reinforce the importance and value of these events to those who did not attend. The resources that I was able to share extend our reach, and the communities lifelong learning.
  • The final panel of the conference was structured (and worked!) as an opportunity for reflection and tieing things together. The speakers referenced other talks as they discussed their own learning and practice, issuing challenges to the audience. Overall, it was a powerful way to end the conference.


Monday is more summation; we’ll be trying to collect more promised links and resources to send out. The conference may be over, but the learning, change and implementation certainly isn’t.

April 17 – 22


AdWords: Hurrah – the go-ahead to implement Google AdWords more intensively and try and maximize the monthly $10,000 in free ads we get through our Google Grant.

AGM: A Board Member commended me on the curated presence we have on Facebook, and my interpretation that our audience is not on Twitter.

Event Details: Marketing emails, filled up seats, webstreaming communications and management preparation, plus planning to edit the talks.

Newsletter: Drafting the newsletter begins, and scheduling my contributors.



Ohhhhh, I finished a fiction book (Island of Books) and started a new one (Invisible Dead – set explicitly and firmly in Vancouver)

Manage Up with your Boss



Job Search:

Making connections in LinkedIn:  I got a pep talk from a Board Member about connecting with people on LinkedIn. I thought that it wasn’t a platform that was well used, and so only a static landing page for me, but he thinks differently. I’ve been sending invites, which gives me connections, and I’m seeing more posts and comments as I connect with active users. A reminder that asking for help doesn’t have to be pushy.

I’ve got a few applications that are still “active”, and a couple to write up this weekend.

Connecting with the HR representative who offered to help: That’s this afternoon. The plan is to ask about the relative value of one-page versus two-page resumes, and keywords in case of machine scanning.



All about the running this week, as I prepare for the Sun Run (part of the Modo Car Co-op team) and look ahead to the June half-marathon.

Standing your Ground with IABC/BC

I went to IABC/BC’s signature event on Standing your Ground last night. My first event, it’s clear that this is a group with strong connections, and much to share. A few highlights:

From Steve Vanagas, Vice President, Communications & Marketing, TransLink – sometimes you just have to double-down on the truth, and ride it out.

From Clay Adams, Vice President, Communications & Public Affairs, Vancouver Coastal Health – make sure that the public face of your organization has some preparation for the tough questions. For being challenged in their message.

From Jehanne Marie Burns, Principal Ninja, Pocket Ninja Strategies – there is room for you to stand your ground, and letting others stand theirs (even in opposition). The value of letting people rant.

And of course, the good humour and super-hero capes of Catherine Ducharme and Peter Reek of Smart Savvy, who hosted the event.