“The Herculean work you do with kids.”


Yeah, yeah, Herculean is definitely a stretch, but this line which came in an email from a friend/professional contact who knows my work, has kept me going for weeks.


It’s all about the little victories. We are sitting in the shade on the grass by our practice area at Sonoma Golf Course and I’m talking to the girl’s golf team about achieving small goals, my new panacea for living the good life.


I was feeling especially ineffective this week, a student who was making the behavioral turn that I love to see at my alternative high school made a bad choice, the day’s headlines were especially depressing (as they kinda always are), my Fall self-loathing was growing, and I keep on injuring myself in ways that make me feel old.  But I knew that at 4:00 I’d be sitting on a golf course doing what I love. Guess which one of these situations I focused on.


Achieving little goals releases dopamine, not a lot but enough so that your brain says, “yes, I like that”, and searches for ways to achieve more. Winning at solitaire, cooking a delicious meal, reconnecting with old friends, finishing a good book, washing your dirty truck, even writing this blog and releasing it into the world produces that little shot in my brain that says, “Good, now more of that”.


I’ve always been a big goal guy but now I’m also a little goal guy. Achieving little goals might not make you rich or beautiful or confident but it starts you moving in that direction. And one of the many reasons I rail against phones and social media is that they often do the opposite.


Want to feel bad about yourself and your life? Then check Insta or Facebook and see if those pics of that person on the beach in Hawaii makes you think, “well, why not me?” Because that question leads you down the rabbit hole of self-loathing where you aren’t making enough money or looking right or living right.


I’m here to tell you right now, YOU ARE LIVING RIGHT and if you think the photoshopped influencers are where you should be. Think again.


My wife and I spent a day at Waimea Bay in Oahu this summer (excellent dopamine-producing environment) and at one point we looked over to see a twenty-something blond woman take a stick out of her backpack, extend it and stick it in the sand with her phone attached at the top. She then spent the next hour flipping her hair, posing, splashing in the water, and totally ignoring all the confused and disgusted faces around her.


This is not normal behavior! I wanted to scream and I should have but it has become normal behavior and so I didn’t. Also, there were two ten-year old brothers who were splashing and photobombing the influencer, creating a general nuisance and bringing a huge smile to the faces of those watching.


So, if you track this influencer on Insta and you see her life at Waimea, you think, “wow, my life kinda sucks because I’m not her” but the reality is that this woman was focused on all things superficial and even though I try not to yuck other people’s yums, her behavior was comedically offensive and should be called out as such.


But let’s get back to the little goals because, well, honestly, we all need a little good feeling these days.


Think about your day, if you’re like most people you have a job which you like parts of and don’t like other parts of. You don’t mind going to work because you see the need to pay rent and eat but you also wish you didn’t have to work so hard to feel so poor (maybe that’s just me).


So, start your day with a little victory. Could be a great breakfast, stretching as the sun comes up, a quick walk with your dog or partner, or riding your bike to work. Then make a plan if you haven’t already, find some things at your job which give you hope. Need a list: finish difficult or neglected projects, engage another human in conversation, eat healthy, go for a 20-minute walk at lunch, stop and appreciate nature, create a kudos file where you put all the little appreciations over time like when somebody calls your work Herculean.  Little things that you can go back to and feel like you are doing good in the world.


And if you’re in a thankless job where you can’t even think about achieving small victories then maybe it’s time to work on a career change. Start with an interest profiler (cacareerzone.org) then set a goal and start doing what you want. Remember you only get one ride on this rollercoaster. Also remember, it’s progress, not perfection.


The girls work on their chipping then do the three-ball drill to improve the feel of their putting (drive for show, putt for dough). One hits two out of three balls in and screams, “Oh my gosh, I get it.” She gets a high five from the girl next to her as the coach smiles.


Little victories.







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