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Lessons from water-skiing: Set goals according to your own individual abilities


We’re on our annual vacation with extended family in Arkansas this week and, as usual, I got roped into water-skiing. As I wrote about last year, unlike most of the rest of my family, I’m not a great water-skiier. In fact, I have yet to successfully slalom, despite repeated tries to get up almost each and every year.

This year, I decided to play it safe and just water-ski with two skis. It doesn’t look anywhere near as sophisticated to water-ski with two skis, but at least it allows me to get up and stay up for awhile without having repeated crash landings and failed skiing attempts!

My goal for skiing this year was simple: get up on two skis, stay up, go over both wakes and back again, and drop the rope before falling. Yes, I know, it probably seems pathetic for those of you who are seasoned skiiers, but to me, accomplishing this was a fairly big feat.

As I was out there on two skis looking quite incompetent and uncoordinated trying to stay up on my skis and gingerly go over the wakes, I was reminded of how important it is for each of us to set goals that are realistic for us and our own personal abilities. My skiing goals and abilities paled in comparison to so many other’s skiing goals and abilities. And if I were to focus on how microscopic my goals were in light of someone else’s, I could easily become discouraged.

But I’m not someone else; I’m me. My talents and abilities are going to differ wildly from the person next to me. I can either accept and embrace this or spend my life feeling like I don’t measure up.

It’s the same with goals — whether they be financial goals, personal goals, or any other goals we set for ourselves. We need to set goals that are in line with our own individual abilities, situation, and strengths. If we set goals that are too far-fetched and unattainable, we’ll live all of our life feeling like a failure.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive for excellence or that we shouldn’t be constantly seeking to challenge ourselves to step outside of our comfort zone or think creatively outside the box. However, it’s vitally important that we remember own strengths and weaknesses, current circumstances, and personal abilities.

If I were to set a goal to be hired on as a professional water-skier next year, I’d be setting myself up for defeat. In the same way, maybe you aren’t in a position to pay off $5,000 worth of debt this year.

But we can all set at least a few realistic goals that we can work toward — and hopefully achieve! What matters is not how much traction we’re making or how well we’re doing compared to someone else’s goals, but that we’re giving it 100%!

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30 Comments

  • L says:

    Thank You, I have been feeling like that. Thank You!

  • Jessica says:

    Great post!!

  • Cassi says:

    Thanks for the great post-it is so easy to measure ourselves against others and get discouraged. Setting personal goals without making comparisons can sometimes be difficult. This post really reminds me of a conversation that I have with my speech students during our first conference-I tell them that they are not measured against their classmates but rather measured against their own progress because they all have different abilities. It is simply a good life lesson!

  • Sarabell says:

    This was such an important post for me to read right now. I have published my first two books this year and have had sales every month, but I’ve never reached the monthly goals I set for myself.
    I’ve been setting my goals based on another self-published author’s sales. That author has published several books and has had a lot of practice getting readers. I haven’t even been published for a year yet so it’s silly for me to set my goals based on someone else and not myself.
    Oh, and for the record, I’ve never water skiied before (but would love to!) and would definitely be on two skiis. Three, if there was a way to do that! =P

  • Leah says:

    Love, love this!!! 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      Thanks for your kind encouragement! And by the way, about the picture without a post last night that you commented on: I had a long post written to go with it and, somehow, when I uploaded the picture, the post disappeared completely! How weird is that? I think it was something to do with the internet hiccuping here at the exact moment that I uploaded the picture and posted it. Oh well!

  • Crystal, I can’t even swim 🙂

    And I don’t even want to learn!

    Our goals really have to match our personalities, don’t they? Today I learned how to Honeycomb smock. I’ve always wondered about it. I know how to do English smocking and honeycomb smocking is actually much easier and faster. I actually MIGHT make a smocked apron for a doll now 🙂 (or was it a petticoat? Whichever goal you said was not one of yours a while back. I usually reserve smocking for dresses, but your comment made me giggle and consider trying that one!)

    Last week I finally made a new cover for my ironing board. I always put it off, thinking it would be too hard. Mine finally tore, and it had to be done, so I tried it. It turned out to be really, really easy, and now I have the cover I’ve always wanted! (With the fabric I really wanted–and it cost me all of $3!)

    I remember that you said in April that you tackled something that you had been putting off for a long time, and when you finally went to do it, it took you less than an hour to take care of it. That comment made me rethink my goals. Sometimes I put things off because I’m concerned they’ll take a long time–or because it’s not a task I want to do. Your comment made me realize that it might just take less time than I thought and be easier than I thought. I’ve looked at my goals differently because of that, and I’ve accomplished more because of it. Thank you!

  • Jena says:

    Enjoy Arkansas!! We live in central Arkansas 🙂 just moved here last summer from the east coast~

    • Busy Mama says:

      Just in time for the wonderful heat and drought we are enjoying!

      We are also transplants to central AR, originally from the upper mid-west. We’ve been here 12 summers now, and I still struggle with the high temps; however, I love December, January, and February!

  • So True. We all fall into this trap from time to time.

  • Jenni says:

    Thank you for the encouragement. I think it’s important also to ask why a particular goal is not being achieved. Sometimes it is a matter of the goal being unrealistic, and sometimes it’s a matter of trying different tactics to get there if one tactic is not working.

  • April D. says:

    I so needed to hear that! Thanks for the uplift today.

  • Kim says:

    Great post!! I’m finally realizing that God doesn’t want me to meet everyone else’s goals/expectations for me. He wants us to obey Him. He will never put more on us than we can handle (but people will!!) My pastor preached Sunday on being a God pleaser rather than a man pleaser. As he put it, we’re miserable trying to be or do something that man is telling us to be or do. There’s so much freedom on just obeying God!!!

    As for slalom skiing, it’s ok if you never slalom. But if you ever want to try again, I’ll give you tips that helped me. I used to water ski. I wasn’t a great skiier. I was always nervous crossing the wake. When I first learned to slalom, I felt like the whole lake was blasting me in my face. I was letting go of the rope to soon. I had to hang on longer than I thought, past all that water in my face, to clear the water. Once you clear water (the entire ski is on top of the water), stand up. I was always told strong leg in back, but I learned with my strong leg in front. That was easier for me. If you think you’ll want to try in the future, you can practice doing squats ahead of time on solid ground, one foot directly in front of each other (like on a balance beam). It’s a balancing act on one ski, which makes it harder. It also puts more pressure on your lower back–strong abs/sit ups help that (altough I already know you’re in shape!!) Most of your weight is on the back foot & you steer with the front. But it’s perfectly fine to never learn to slolam. Hope this helps!! I so appreciate this blog!!!!!!

  • Thanks for sharing! I went water skiing once and it was one of the worst experiences ever! I was a teenager, and by the end of the day I was bruised, scratched, rub-burned, wind-burned, sun-burned, and more. I was hurt, angry, my pride was shattered, and I felt like a failure. I’ve never tried it again (or had the opportunity). Good for you for continuing to try despite your failures!

    I had to remind myself of this same lesson yesterday. I wrote a blog post about “9 mini home improvements” I did on our home over the past few weeks. Later in the day I was looking at a magazine and Pinterest and began minimizing my accomplishment. Instead of feeling proud of the work I’d completed, I felt like a failure for not having a home as pretty as so many others. As the quotation goes, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Thanks for the reminder to set goals according to my own personal strengths and weaknesses, current circumstances, and personal abilities. 🙂

  • Too funny! I just blogged about the importance of setting specific attainable, attainable goals too. In my case, I am working on losing 121 pounds. That’s too big of a goal to focus on, so I set mini goals so success never seems too far away. It’s a really great strategy for maintaining momentum.

  • Anna says:

    You must be from the South, where we all know that skiing is done on water, and the other kind is called Snow Skiing. 🙂

  • deborah says:

    Crystal, you are always so encouraging and positive. Bless you.

    Water-skiing sounds fun. I did it a long time ago. I wasn’t great at it, but I really enjoyed it. I need to try again before I get too old! 🙂

  • Terese says:

    I’d like to ask you a question. My husband makes a decent amount, enough that if we are super careful we would be fine, but low enough that we do receive some aid. I stay home with our four young children. We have a ridiculous mount of credit card debt, so much that we cannot afford gas or groceries if we pay all our bills. We currently pay for cable Internet, and we have a Netflix account. Both my husband and I have smart phones with Internet. I would like to cancel our cable Internet and the Netflix, at least until we have our credit paid off. They are the only “extras” besides the phones that we currently pay for, we don’t eat out, or go to the movies or do anything that costs money right now. My husband is against canceling them. He enjoys watching tv much more than I do, but I think it is extremely foolish to be paying for these things when we are payng for Internet on our phones. How can I convince him to cancel Internet and Netflix, at least for awhile?

    • Aimee says:

      Hi Terese – I’m not Crystal 🙂 but thought I would share a few things I’ve done when my husband has not been on board the frugal train. I really try to separate what *I* can do from what we could do. For example, I am quite possibly the only person I personally know who does not have a smart phone. I am too cheap to pay for the data plan but my husband has an iPhone with the data package. My husband treates water like it is a neverending resource. I can’t make him change but I can make other changes such as reusing the water from our kids’ bath (not even kidding) and catching shower water in a bucket which I then use to water outside. I feel like we as women have a tremendous opportunity to be frugal in ways that our husbands may not even notice, let alone mind. Please know you aren’t the only wife trying to be frugal with a husband who isn’t necessarily supportive. 🙂 Also, check out The Prudent Homemaker’s website and Facebook page for ideas on living more frugally. She’s been a HUGE inspiration and encouragement to me.

    • Angie says:

      I would do what we do:

      1. Cancel the cable or get the most basic cable possible, but keep the cable internet, and if necessary, keep the cable phone if you have it or old-fashioned land line. (we don’t get good enough cell service at home to get rid of a land line).

      2. Trade-in at least one of the smart phones for an Ipod touch (if it’s possible to trade down) and get a prepaid cell phone for emergencies. This way you can cancel or reduce your data plan. I’m not familiar enough with data plans to know if you would need to cancel both smart phones or only one phone to save enough money. The Ipod has a lot of the Iphone’s features, but does not have the 4G network, which means you need wi-fi to use it. However, with the Ipod touch you don’t need an expensive data plan. This may sound archaic, but would save you a bit on the data plan.

      3. Keep the Netflix – streaming only for 7.99 a month. And rent DVD’s from Redbox if possible. With Redbox it only costs .99 a night to rent and sometimes you can get this cost down with discount codes.

      Keeping the Netflix but canceling or downgrading cable allows your husband to still get some TV shows, and if you cancel one of your smart phones I think you should have enough in your budget to cover the 7.99 for Netflix. Hopefully this way your husband doesn’t completely lose out on his TV.

      My husband thought he would never be able to live without cable, but he is used to it now. And because we mostly watch Netflix, we watch more TV more purposely and mindfully, because mindless channel surfing is difficult with just Netflix.

  • KimH says:

    Hang in there!! I tried forever & a day to learn to slalom but just couldnt get up with one ski. I never had any problems when I would just kick a ski in a cove somewhere…
    Another thing I never could do is get my foot that kicked the ski tucked into the back boot/slot. As soon as I inched it forward, down I went in a spin… I solved the problem by just placing my foot on the ski where it was comfortable and had a good balance… I was good to go for a long long time.. until I was just exhausted..
    Sometimes, you just definitely gotta do things your own unique way!!

  • Toby says:

    Those of you who are physically able take much for granted. To be able to water ski AT ALL, would be a wonderful thing. I’m looking forward to heaven when my body will be perfect. With that said, maybe you should not compare yourself to other accomplished athletes. Making goals without comparison…….I LIKE that idea. Just challenge ourselves.

  • Wendi says:

    Thank you for this reminder!!
    Our family has already made one huge goal–me being able to be a SAHM. Cutting enough debt and expenses to be able to do that was significant. But in order to accomplish our other goals (to build a tiny house, to pay off our second mortgage, etc) is taking SO MUCH LONGER because there is very little “extra” since we only have one income.
    We still plug away at it, but there isn’t much for us to cut. We will get there! Small things. Smaller goals. Just keep at it!

  • Angie says:

    I’m not even sure what “slalom” means. I’ve never been water skiing in my life. I have tried snow skiing several times. It seems like a requirements since I live in New England. My snow skiing is hardly impressive. It took me like 3 years (I could only afford to go 2-3 times a year so I guess you could say 6-9 attempts) to graduate from the bunny hill. Maybe had I kept up with it, I would have gotten out of my pathetic “pizza pie” stance. But then I got married and had kids, and truthfully, I just didn’t have the interest anymore.

  • Great post, and I completely agree. I just posted our snowball plan to get out of debt (including our mortgage) in about 6-7 years. To some, this may seem like forever, and not a worthy goal. But, with our very low income and tight budget, it was an awesome, encouraging thing to realize the possibility of that.

    I used to get so discouraged seeing the people who saved or paid off $85,000 in 6-months and similar stories…with our salary after taxes, it would take us 3-4 years to even EARN that much (and, of course, we still have to LIVE…lol).

    I remember begging someone, anyone for “real” advice for a person on a low income and never received any responses. Finally, I was able to let go of that discouragement and create my own plan. Is it going to get us out of debt in 6 months? No, for us that isn’t possible. But, 6 years is a lot better than 20 🙂

  • Carol says:

    Many years ago before my children were born we had friends that had a lakefront home. I tried every summer to ski. I would get up and then immediately flip sideways and fall. I tried over and over until my legs would completely give out from fatigue. I never accomplished skiing. It really doesn’t give me heartburn! I have learned many skills, many of them classified as “man” skills, mostly out of necessity. Also I am proficient at many of the “old world” domestic things that females just don’t learn anymore. We do the best we can. In today’s world there are too many people with the wrong priorities and the wrong world view. Focus on what God feels is important! It’s not always fun but it will be more meaningful and rewarding in the end!

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