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Take the First Step

OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. -- I am honored to pen the first Commander's Comments article of 2014. What more appropriate topic for this article than the subject of resolutions? What is a resolution? Answer: A goal you set for yourself and abandon in a few weeks. So this year, don't make a resolution, instead, set goals and take those important first steps that will set you on your way to achieving your objectives. What has worked for me in achieving my goals is taking a concrete and nearly irreversible first step. It has been said that a journey of a thousand miles starts with just one step. Taking that first step is critical. Like the Nike commercial says, "just do it." What I have found is that once I get started and locked in, straying or quitting is less likely. Being that we are all in the military, we all have a few "type A" personality traits. Namely, we hate to leave anything unfinished. We all have that innate drive to accomplish the mission. That is why "starting the mission" is so important. Once you get started, it is not in your DNA to let yourself quit.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that "once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen". I believe this to be true. I think it has to do with the power of positive thought. The simple act of setting a goal means you believe you can accomplish it. I think the majority of people appreciate a person with goals and will strive to help you achieve them. I am reminded of that new television commercial where a drill sergeant is screaming at new recruits, asking why they joined the "world's greatest army?" When a recruit answers that he joined to become a graphic artist, the drill sergeant hesitates for a moment and responds, "OUTSTANDING! Now here is a man with a plan." Goals give us a direction and as long as we have them, they give us a sense of purpose. While I am not a psychologist, I think waking up in the morning and having a sense of purpose is a great way to start the day.

The other benefit of having goals is, in the process of striving to achieve them, we learn about ourselves and evolve as a person. The simple act of trying to achieve a goal changes us as a person. Henry David Thoreau once said "What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals." At the risk of revealing my inner geek, I share the following story to illustrate my point.

Recently, my family and I were moving into our new house and I began unpacking a box of assorted sweatshirts and things. Upon digging, I found a nearly brand new sweatshirt from college. I proudly went to the other room and presented it to my 13 year old son, (foolishly hoping he would think that wearing a sweatshirt from his father's alma mater would be cool). He lifted it and saw the emblem of my college debate team. He laughed and not so politely declined my gift. I protested, and said proudly that I was the captain of my college team. He said, "ooooohhhh dad, you were king of the geeks!" Needless to say, I put the sweatshirt back in the box. So why am I telling you this story? Goals... The simple fact of the matter is if you knew me in high school, you never would have imagined me on a college debate team. However, during college I set a goal for myself to go to law school. Other than the expected prerequisites for law school (LSAT scores, good grades, etc.), I needed to find some ways to make myself a more attractive candidate in the application process. I looked around and discovered the debate team. I joined the team, bracing myself for the inevitable boredom. What I discovered was that competitive debate was not only interesting, it was actually fun and my team and I were pretty good at it. This is the unique nature of goals. In setting my long term goal and seeking out ways to accomplish that goal, I discovered something about myself. In discovering something about myself, I became more confident that I could accomplish my long term goal. That belief in yourself is something no one can take from you and it will take you a long way.

So, go ahead and set some goals and start working to achieve them. I wish you all a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2014.