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A Goal-Setting Group for Friends

I want to tell you all about a cool1 thing I’ve been doing lately with my friends. This past winter I started a “goal setting and reaching, and also having fun” group for about a dozen female young adult friends of mine. I started it because I noticed that my friends and I have some beautiful dreams and goals but we struggle with taking steps toward accomplishing them, which often leaves us feeling pretty2 stuck.

I remember Harvey3 saying that happiness has been defined as “overcoming of obstacles on the way to a goal of one’s own choosing.” I thought that my friends and I would be more effective at reaching our goals if we felt actively supported by each other in overcoming the obstacles. I was also inspired by an RC class I’d attended on goal setting and a meeting of our Regional4 young adult support group that I’d led on goals.

Shortly after the New Year, I sent out an e-mail inviting about a dozen young adult women in my life to a potluck to talk about forming a group about actually accomplishing some of those resolutions we’d made on New Year’s Eve. Half of the people I invited were close friends of mine; others I knew a little but wanted to know more. Most lived nearby; a few I invited to “Skype in”5 from other states. The group included people from a wide range of class backgrounds and sexual identities and ranged in age from twenty-three to thirty-one. Almost everyone responded back enthusiastically. The people I didn’t know well were actually the most excited about it. They felt honored to be included. (So much for my feelings6 that they wouldn’t like me or would think the group was stupid!)

In our first meeting, after a lot of eating and hanging out,7 I had everyone go around and say one thing they were looking forward to getting out of8 a group like this and one thing they did not want to have happen. People said great things. Although everyone was excited about the group, people were also way9 more scared about it than I had realized they would be, which was interesting. We also came up with10 some ground rules. These included confidentiality, no judging the content of anyone’s goals, and remembering that everyone is always doing their best.

Then I gave a little talk (I called it “Emma’s Inspirational Speech”). I was most nervous about this part. However, even though I was worried that my friends would think it was totally bizarre and presumptuous, I decided to do it anyway. I talked about young adult oppression and women’s oppression and how they can get in the way of going after11 what we want. I talked about the importance of having goals and dreams and how we never have to settle for anything less than everything. I told them how much I liked them and said that whatever their goals were—they could be anything—I wanted to be a part of helping them reach them. I talked about how as young adults in “radical” circles, we sometimes have a tendency to disengage from society and think that’s a way of being radical when often it is colluding with the oppressive society, which is happy for us to disengage (that was the scariest thing to say).

Afterward people clapped! We discussed what I’d said. Then we did some brainstorming and journaling about our goals and did another go-around in which we shared some goals we’d come up with. I asked people to think about goals for themselves, for their communities, and for the world (as Harvey does in The Necessity of Long Range Goals12). They shared different, but all really awesome, goals. A lot of what they shared was a clear contradiction to their chronic material.13 I felt like I got to know them better really fast.

Here’s how the group has continued:

I had envisioned it meeting every month, but people were so enthusiastic that we decided to try meeting every two weeks. At our second meeting, we set up “goal partnerships”—everyone got a partner and committed to checking in with her, over the phone or in person, about their goals at least once between meetings. We had to do a lot of laughing about this. Everyone had feelings about people not wanting to be paired with them, or their not wanting to be paired with certain people. After a lot of laughter, we decided to pick names out of a hat (with the caveat that if we picked someone we were in a romantic or roommate relationship with, we had to pick someone else). We also decided to switch partners after a few months. I reminded them that all of us would be great people to pick and encouraged us all to keep laughing, which we did.

The goal partnerships have been awesome. My “partner” is someone whom I didn’t know well before, but now we meet at a coffee shop once every few weeks (at least every month) and take turns telling each other about our lives, encouraging each other, and helping each other strategize. At one meeting, I told her, as an aside, that I had been meaning to send in my excise tax bill for weeks and had kept forgetting. She walked me to the post office so I could send it! For the first time in three years I will not pay a late excise-tax fine. We also started texting14 each other after accomplishing certain things. I had a goal to learn Spanish and go running regularly, and I texted her when I set up a meeting with a Spanish tutor and contacted a running buddy about going running every week. She wrote back, “Yayyyy! You’re so amazing!” I wrote back similar texts to her when she did things she had wanted to do. Most people are happy with their partners, and many don’t want to switch when it comes time to do that.

Starting with the third meeting, our groups have followed this format:

We each share recent “goal successes.” This is kind of like a “new and good” but specific to our identified goals (people have told me this is their favorite part of the group, that in between meetings they save up “goal successes” to share). Then one person (or two, depending on the time) gets “workshopped”15 (we are still trying to come up with a better word). She thinks out loud for five minutes (I set a timer) about a particular goal-related issue in her life for which she’s looking for support. Then the group has a chance to ask clarifying questions. After the person being workshopped feels confident that everyone understands what she’s said, all the group members have two minutes to respond with their thoughts. Everyone speaks once before someone can speak twice. After everyone has responded, the person being workshopped has a chance to add anything or ask an additional question. Then the other people have another (shorter) chance to respond. The whole process ends up taking forty-five minutes to an hour. Once we’re done, one or two people volunteer to be workshopped at the next meeting.

Then we do “show and tell.” People get to share their successes, and we get to cheer them on. One friend’s main goal was to “have more fun and joy in her life” (she works at an extremely draining social-service job). She used the show-and-tell time to show off new songs she’d learned on her banjo. Another friend who wants to get into the fashion business showed us a music video she had designed the costumes for. One of my goals was to live in an environment that reflected beauty and order. After I spent two full days cleaning and redecorating my room, I took pictures of it and showed them to the group. My visual-artist friend finished a short graphic book and we got to see the first copy.

A lot of wonderful things have come out of this group. For one thing, all of us get together every two to four weeks (in practice, it varies) and talk with each other about real things going on in our lives. That in itself is a success! But I have also heard from people that the contradiction16 of the group has enabled them to do things they didn’t think possible. For example, my visual-artist friend is terrified of promoting her work and being visible. We workshopped her last month, and she asked if we thought it would be a good idea for her to start a Kickstarter campaign17 for her next artistic project. We all said yes and helped her think through concretely how to do that. She put together a Kickstarter, which will go live next week. She says that without the goals group she would never have taken that step. Her art is amazing, and I am excited for the world to see it.

Last week I got to be the one workshopped. I just graduated from a master’s program and am trying to decide what to do with my life (you know, no big deal). I laid out three directions I thought my life could go in and said that I didn’t know which way to go first. People asked good questions and gave good thinking, which made it clear that they knew me well and were thinking about what would be best for me. While it’s of course super useful to discharge in RC about feelings of not knowing what to do with my life, and get counseling input from my counselors, there was something so sweet about getting input in a somewhat formal way from my closest friends—who also know my material, although they wouldn’t call it that. I didn’t come out of the meeting knowing exactly what I wanted to do, but I felt like a lot more was possible and I felt more excited about the future.

The group has also helped our individual relationships. Although we each have only one official “goal partner,” it’s been easier for me to ask any member of the group for her thinking about something, and vice versa. We’re starting to see each other as resources in a way we didn’t before.

The group has met seven times since late January, with no fewer than six people at each meeting. I’ve had feelings come up about the group—like that I was the only one committed to it, that organizing these flaky18 people was impossible, that no one would ever get the hang of19 the timer, that I wasn’t being appreciated enough, and so on. All nonsense. As someone reminded me at our last meeting, this group is actually the most successful sustained endeavor that most of the people in it have ever been a part of.

My next step is getting these people into RC! Three of them went through a fundamentals class before the group started but didn’t continue. I’m hoping that when I get certified to teach I can get them back in. In the meantime, the group is a way for me to lead my friends outside of RC, and encourage them to lead each other. It’s amazing what people’s minds can do with just a little information and a little aware encouragement and support. It’s been a re-emergent project. I’d recommend it!

Emma Roderick
Northampton, Massachusetts, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion
list for leaders of young adults


1 “Cool” means fun, fantastic.
2 “Pretty” means quite.
3 Harvey Jackins
4 A Region is a subdivision of the International Re-evaluation Counseling Community, usually consisting of several Areas (local RC Communities).
5 “Skype in” means communicate by voice or video over the Internet.
6 “So much for my feelings” means it revealed that my feelings weren’t true.
7 “Hanging out” means spending relaxed, unstructured time with each other.
8 In this context, “getting out of” means receiving from.
9 In this context, “way” means much.
10 “Came up with” means created, thought of.
11 “Going after” means pursuing.
12 A pamphlet by Harvey Jackins that is also a chapter in
13 “Material” means distress.
15 “Workshopped” is a term usually used in writing classes, where it means members of the class providing feedback to a writer about his or her piece.
16 Contradiction to distress
17 A “Kickstarter campaign” is a campaign on the Kickstarter website in which an artist can raise funds for a creative project from many individual donors.
18 “Flaky” means unreliable, erratic.19 “Get the hang of” means understand how to use.


Last modified: 2020-07-02 14:27:35+00