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I smell a weasel!

January 5, 2012

I ran across a new term this week.  It is “weasel words”.  apparently, it was first coined by Wikipedia to describe definitions that were descriptive but not definitive.  They can also be applied to ideas that might convey emotion but aren’t measurable.  Here are a few examples that are used ad nauseam during resolution season:  I am going to get healthy, I want to focus on me, I will be better informed, I will be smarter with my money.  See?  Descriptive and give you an idea about what the speaker means but certainly not something you can track progress against.

Anyone who has gone to nursing school has heard a bazillion times that goals should be measurable.  I had an instructor that used to say “If it isn’t measurable, it’s not a goal, just an idea”.  She also told me once that I was sinking like the Titanic, but that is a story for another day.

The context that I encountered Weasel Words was in a book my husband and I are reading about losing weight, gaining muscle and doing it in a way that defies some conventional wisdom.  It isn’t crazy, it just seeks to define the minimum effective dose–another great healthcare term that translates to most areas of life.  This book says if you use weasel words to define what you want or to set your goals, you will most likely not get there because we are motivated by what we can see progress and weasel words undermine that. A pretty fair notion.

I want to be successful in all endeavors n my life.  So much so that it is very difficult for me to attempt things in which I am unsure of my of success.  I HATE  TO FAIL. New Year’s goals are no different.  Chris and I try each year to define a small number of things that we want to accomplish each year in very explicit terms.  We want to go to Paris, we will by a house, we will have a baby.  Some of the things we identify get accomplished, a few of them fall by the side of the road, some of them get pushed to lower priorities and make it to the list next year.

I set my 2012 goals without weasel words in the mix and have since gone back and revised a few of them to be more discrete in the mathematic sense.  Easier to measure.

If you set New Year’s resolutions or goals, take a look at them.  Are you setting yourself up for success or are you setting yourself up to weasel out?

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