What Moses Can Teach Us About Setting Goals

Written by Behrman House Staff, 03 of January, 2017
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What can Moses teach us about New Year's resolutions?

Our annual good intentions so often fall apart before they ever really begin, and perhaps that's because our self-created barriers of "can't" and "won't" get in the way. 

In her book, Oy Vey! Isn't a Strategy: 25 Solutions for Personal and Professional Success, author Deborah Grayson Riegel suggest that confonting "can'ts" goes back to biblical times. "When God asked Moses to lead the Jewish people and transmit God's message to them, Moses claimed a "can't." He described himself as a poor orator, afflicted with a speech impediment, and pulled in his brother Aaron to become his mouthpiece. I'm a big Moses fan (I have all his books), but I think his "can't" was really a "won't."

"While "can't" is about ability, "won't" is about lack of motivation and confidence. He didn't want to speak because he didn't feel confident and his speaking - and perhaps even lacked the motivation to take on such a public role. ...But while Moses may not have been the most gifted speaker, he could speak if pressed to do so, as is evident many times in the Torah."

...I can't say that I blame Moses. He had a tricky childhood, he was shouldering the responsibility of an entire people, and he had a boss who managed by death threats. ...Where the costs for facing our "can'ts" are likely lower, it's worth considering whether we're really, truly unable to do something or entertaining the slight possibility that we're making Mount Sinais out of molehills." 

If it feels like you're climbing life's Mount Sinai, it's useful to come to terms with what you really need to get motivated about, and why. Knowing your core values (such as achievement, recognition, contribution, or even fun), and aligning the process and outcome of an activity you'd rather avoid with one of those values you'd rather avoid can sweeten the experience and help you get over the "won't" hump.

Download this worksheet from Oy Vey! Isn't a Strategy to help you identify your goals and the can'ts and won'ts that are holding you back from achieving them.  

For more of Deborah Grayson Riegel's insights and tips, visit the Oy Vey! Isn't a Strategy home page

Discover how to improve your interpersonal relationships, find happiness at work, and overcome procrastination and perfectionism. Oy Vey! Isn't a Strategy will help you adjust your perspective - with good humor, practical insights and a little wisdom from the Jewish tradition - to get you moving in the right direction.

Remember, if Moses could overcome his "won't," so can you. 

Happy 2017!