Friday 6 March 2009

Wriggling around targets

Interesting things can happen when targets are set.

The intentions behind the target seem clear, but once the target is out there things can sometimes not turn out the way you expect. Whether you call it wriggling, or plain cheating, I guess depends both on the target and the degree to which the intentions behind the target are being stretched.

Whilst we are still in Lent, I’ll use my own example of giving up alcohol as an example.

Although I was brought up a Catholic, religion does not play a big part in my life today. It was a meeting of Toastmasters that raised the idea, and so I set myself a goal of not drinking alcohol during Lent. My schooldays was the last time I had done anything remotely similar (although then it was more likely to have been chocolate!)

As the first weekend arrived the idea of a pint was proposed. “I can’t” I said “I’ve given it up for Lent.” Then I thought – did I just promise to give up wine or the whole alcohol thing? Maybe I’m allowed a beer? I had to go back to my posting to check. You can bet your gin and tonic that if I had written wine in my posting I would have been enjoying a half with a pub meal.

I will admit to being slightly surprised at myself. I knew what my intention was, but I was prepared to look at the wording to see how much leeway I would allow myself. Crumbs! And it seemed so simple.

Then came the 40 days and 40 nights PLUS Sundays. Does that mean I can enjoy a glass on Sundays then? Again, I was looking for some sort of needle for my camels.

The target was so simple, the intention so clear. Yet once the realities of making an effort set in, I looked for various ways out.

I’m pleased to say that I am still on course and not missing the booze at all. But it does raise some interesting ideas about how easily goals can be distorted once they see the light of day.

Needless to say I have been noticing other people’s efforts a little more than I would ordinarily do.

The Church of England has suggested doing good over Lent, rather than giving something up. This interesting, and must be applauded. Yet it strays somewhat from the original intention of remembering Jesus’ fast in the desert.

Targets must be thoughtful, appropriate and possible to achieve. But even when all those are in place, I am still slightly taken aback at my own readiness to look for loopholes.


  1. Yes, I have the same problem of categorising what I have given up. I gave up eating biscuits for Lent, but do cakes count as biscuits too? It's killing me and I should have been clearer at the start. Cakes and biscuits have been given up, and booze during the week. Mission creep...

  2. Will - thank you - the second I hit the "send" button I had this awful thought that it could be just me... And for what it's worth - cakes are not biscuits! Whatever next? :-)

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