What a 4th Grader Taught Me about Accomplishing Goals

22 Jan

Action Changes ThingsLondon hated to see me coming. She was a fourth grader who attended the first elementary school I worked in. In fact, I remember my first day on the job when a colleague introduced me as the new teacher’s assistant in town. London turned to me, greeted me with a dead-pan expression and in a monotone voice blurted out “BLAH.” From day one, London was not a fan of mine.

But as with all my students, I put in the extra work to build rapport with her. And by the middle of the year, she would at least ask me for help on her assignments.

On one particular week, London’s teacher introduced a new topic called “find the missing number”. I was actually surprised at how engaged London was in the topic. Each day she solved the math problems with relative ease and even asked me for help when she needed it.

Until Friday…

On Friday, London’s teacher threw the class a curve ball. First, she wrote this problem on the overhead projector:

36/___ = 9

London raced to fill in the number “4” on her paper.

On the second question she wrote:

72 – ____ = 64

London wrote in “8”.

Then her teacher threw the curve ball:


A hush fell over the room. Suddenly I saw a lightbulb coming on for London and I just knew that she got it. Her eyes grew to the size of silver dollars and with a look of panic she blurted out

“I can’t do that…THAT’S….ALGEBRA!!!!”

London panicked!

A topic that she excelled at all week had turned into something different with the introduction of one letter – a variable. London was fine as long as we were finding the missing number. But as soon as a variable was introduced, she her entire perception of her abilities changed. London had silently convinced herself that she could not do it. She closed herself off to the possibilities of attempting algebra. What London failed to realize is that she had been doing it all along. London had been doing algebra all week!

Dreams and goals are the same way. We don’t just pick random goals to achieve. We pick goals that flow from our passion and our interests in life and in places where we have experience. And we do these things for our bosses, pastors and families. But when it comes down to doing it for ourselves we say like London said “I can’t do that…that’s algebra!!!” our in our case, “I can run with everyone else’s dream…but this one is MINE!!!”

Dealing with variables – or changing situations –  is one thing that accomplishing dreams and solving algebra problems have in common. The key to dealing with change is knowing the right steps to take. And the correct sequence in which to take those steps. Life coaching is designed to help remove the fog and bring focus to a changing situation. So many things are vying for your attention. And change is the new norm. A coach can partner with you to define your top priorities so that when things change around you, you can still focus on what’s most important.

Eventually, London mastered algebra. Just like she mastered algebra, you can make day-to-day life changes to make room in your life for your dream.

Thomas' Headshot (Jpeg)


Thomas E. Anderson, II is a credentialed life coach who enjoys motivating and equipping individuals to pursue their dreams.



*”Action Changes Things” graphic courtesy of http://www.dannywallispt.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Change.jpg


One Response to “What a 4th Grader Taught Me about Accomplishing Goals”

  1. Julianna Thursday, 22 January 2015 at 10:24 AM #

    Love the pic: ACT. Yes!


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