As a young girl, I enjoyed watching The Art Linkletter Show, a television variety show which aired once a week.  One particular segment comes to mind when considering the many facets of working towards a goal.  During the segment, Art Linkletter introduced a juggler who proceeded to demonstrate an analogy applied to the audience.  No matter the profession, age, gender, culture, or socio-economic status, we can all learn from the juggler’s lesson of “The Spinning Plates.”  

To offer a brief synopsis of the lesson, the juggler first began by placing a dowel rod on the floor and balancing a plate on top of the rod.  He gave the plate a spin with this hand and stood back to watch as the plate, balanced atop the dowel rod, would spin around and around.  As the first plate was spinning, the juggler would set up a second dowel rod and plate.  This process continued until the juggler had twelve sets of dowel rods and plates spinning.  In order to keep the plates from crashing to the ground, the juggler had to constantly run from one spinning plate to the next:  spinning, spinning, running, spinning, running, spinning, and running again!  I was exhausted just watching the process.

The moral of the lesson is that no matter how wonderful you might be at spinning plates, you can only manage a certain number of plates effectively.  Add one too many plates and they may all come crashing to the ground.  The same lesson is especially true for those of us who are working towards a goal while busy attending to other responsibilities.  

There are many aspects of life which spin at the same time:  religion, family, friends, work, community and civic responsibilities, school, and the list continues!  With all of these responsibilities, it is no wonder that we find ourselves spinning and running just to keep our “plates” operating as they should.  Those of us who have chosen to extend goals, personal or professional, often feel overwhelmed and stressed.  

The juggler on the Art Linkletter Show knew that he could not possibly spin more than twelve plates at one time, or he would not be successful in his quest.  The juggler knew his limits.  I have also learned my limits and the necessity to set priorities in life.  This means setting SMART goals and sticking to them.  For those of you who might not have heard about S.M.A.R.T. goals, here they are:  

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

A SPECIFIC goal is more likely to become a reality than a general goal.  In other words, you would be SMART to ask the following questions:  Who?  What? When? Where? Why?  You can not manage that which you can not measure; therefore, your goals must be MEASURABLE.  The SMART goal setter will establish a procedure for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal that is established.  As we identify goals that are most important, we will need to determine strategies to bring them into reality.  In other words, our goals must be ATTAINABLE.  Often, this means that we have to develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach target goals.  A SMART goal must be REALISTIC and represent an objective toward which you are willing to work.  For the goal to be realistic, you must truly believe that you will be able to accomplish the goal.  The last SMART goal demands that you are TIMELY.  If the timeframe is indefinite, you will not be motivated to achieve your goal by a certain date.  A great deal of thought must go into your goal setting process – especially if you are S.M.A.R.T.!

As this article ends, I hope that you also learn from the juggler’s lesson.  You can not possibly spin all the plates in your life and keep them all operating perfectly unless you take steps to set goals and establish priorities.

That’s why communities like GCEA are so valuable. As a member of GCEA, you’ll get access to resources and networking opportunities that allow you to learn from others, up your game, and set better goals all while being surrounded and supported by others in the continuing education field.

Keep the plates spinning!

Penny Joyner Waddell