By Anne Stanton
Have you vowed to never make another resolution, knowing that youre
quite likely to fail?
The problem with New Years resolutions is that theyre more about
what you dont want to do, as opposed to dreaming up a vision that
puts a smile on your face.
So says Marsha Barber Clark, the author of Ponder Picture Prosper, who
has made achieving goals a lifestyle.
Resolutions and goal-setting are two different animals, she explained.
A resolution typically means dull sacrifice, while setting a goal is
more like coming up with a picture of life that gets your blood
pumping. And when Clark says picture, she means it literally. For
each of her goals, she cuts out pictures, glues them on a piece of
paper, and compiles the pages in a three-ring binder.
Clark said that a typical resolution involves not doing
somethingsmoking, drinking or eating junk food. Clark suggests
looking a little deeper into your negative wish and find the positive
thing youre actually looking for: For those who want to stop smoking,
picture breathing better, running up a hill, and living to be an
upright old woman (or man). For those who want to start living within
their means, picture going to sleep peacefully without money worries
tormenting your dreams at 2 a.m. Picture a trip to Hawaii with all
the money youve saved from bringing your lunch to work.
Clark said she and her family put dozens of goals in their goal book,
even those that seemed unreachable, such as traveling around the
world. That particular goal was achieved in 2001.
Heres an interview with Clark, and her advice on how to make a
picture book and bring it to life:
NE: When did you first start your goal book?
Clark: In 1987, when my children were 6 and 4, my husband and I made a
list of where we would take our children. We felt that travel was the
university of the world, that it was a great way to teach our
children. We didnt make a plan; we just made a list of about 15
placesthe Grand Canon, the ocean, Washington D.C., New York City. We
cut out pictures of each place we wanted to go and glued them onto a
piece of paper and put them in a notebook, and then we looked at the
notebook every day. We worked full-time, but eventually we made it to
every place we listed by 1994. We also began expanding on where we
wanted to go: the Sahara Desert, Kenya, the Great Barrier Reef. And
every single trip has a story with itwe dont go to travel agents and
I think that makes the trips better. One year, we went to Europe and
bought a Euro-Rail pass. If youre willing to backpack and be casual,
stay in tourist hotels, you can make the money stretch.
So once we started with the goal-setting notebook, we realized how
powerful it was. We usually have five trips planned at one time. We
dont put a date on the goalwe wait until theres a bargain or an
opportunity. In 1996, we put down Ireland as a goal, but that trip
didnt work out until 2007. Before 9/11, we found trips that were
incredibly inexpensiveits been harder to find great deals since
NE: So did your two sons adopt this goal-setting?
Clark: Oh yes. Kids can start goal-setting as early as the age of
seven. Theyve set goal times for their running. What grades they
wanted to achieve in school. What kind of college experience they
wanted. Earning masters degrees. Now theyre both working on their
doctorates and thats the result of goal setting. Shane wanted to live
in a foreign country so hes studying in Scotland. Brendan is 28 and
getting a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. He wanted to work with
patients suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and is
currently doing his residency in a VA hospital doing just that. Its
Ive kept written goals since I was a child. In third grade, I wanted
a suitcase that cost $13.95 plus tax. I got 50 cents a week for
allowance, so I just kept saving my money. I was ready to travel! My
family only went to Indiana and the U.P. on trips, we werent a
traveling family, but I knew then I would spend my life traveling. My
mom had a book, Around the World in a Thousand Pictures, and I would
read that book, look at the pictures and imagine myself in those
places. You wouldnt think that book could be dangerous for a
7-year-old, but I obsessed about that book and going to all those
NE: It sounds like most of your goals involve travel.
Clark: A lot do. But weve set other goals as well. To own 40 acres.
To pay our kids college, to save money for retirement. Were not
materialistic, so we dont have a lot of goals about buying things.
NE: Do you make happiness a goal?
Clark: I have a section in the book that lists three kinds of goals.
The first is a core goal, such as happiness, health or love. The
second is an event goal that will reshape your life, such as a new
job, a wedding, or even a divorce. A continuation goal is what you
want to happen after the event goal. So many people plan a wedding,
but dont give much thought to what happens after the wedding. A lot
of people are focused on getting a new job, thinking it will make them
happy, but they dont think beyond the thrill of getting the job.
NE: Right, like I used to think Id like to write a book, but when it
came down to it, when I really had the chance, I thought, wait, I
really dont want to work for months alone on a book, and then have
the job of promoting it. Was your book hard to write?
Clark: No, it came out of me like a volcano. Because Ive lived this
way for so long, it was very easy to write. I had a lot to say.
NE: Most people say they cant travel because they dont have enough money.
Clark: Well, it depends on what you make your priority. I worked as
the CEO for the Girl Scouts, my husband is a teacher. So here you have
a teacher and a nonprofit workerwe never made a lot of money. We had
to save for the trips and look for bargains.
NE: Do you have a budget?
Clark: Absolutely. We live absolutely by a budget. We ran our house
like you run a business. I was a CEO for a nonprofit, so I know all
about budgets. We made a list of our fixed expenses, money we needed
to set aside for college and retirement, and the rest we could use for
our goals. One reason we had more money, is we never got into credit
card debt. Another is, we made it a policy to put our raises into a
tax deferred fund for retirement. We were already living without it,
so why make it part of our spending? The kids put finding scholarships
for college as part of their goals, and they found them, although not
for graduate school. They had to take out loans to cover part of their
grad school expenses.
NE: Do you use pictures for a budget?
Clark: No, but we use them for what we want to own. We have a picture
of a roof. If money comes in, it goes toward a new roof.
NE: Do you make resolutions right about now?
Clark: Not resolutions, but we do set new goals at New Years. What
you want instead of what you dont want. We also make goals throughout
NE: Do you find that married couples sometimes have conflicting goals?
Clark: Ah, yes. Chapter 7, goals and marriage. Some goals can be
compatible while others are clearly not. Sometimes it can be hard for
someone to give up a goal or accepting another persons goal when it
means youll have to lose your own. When I was younger, we lived in
the Detroit area, and I had a goal of moving up here. When my son was
three months old, the perfect job opened up with Michigan State
University. I would have loved that job, but I had made up my mind not
to work while my son was young. So I had to tell them no.
NE: Have you ever had that one elusive goal?
Clark: Well, Ive always had goals and I make it a point not to give
them deadlines. Once you do that and miss your deadline, then that
sets you up for failure. You have a lifetime to achieve your goals.
When I was growing up in the 60s, we landed men on the moon, and they
often said they could recognize the Pyramids and the Great Wall of
China from space. I asked my Dad, Did you ever see the Great Wall of
China? He told me he was in China right after World War II, but he
wasnt able to do that. I just had to right that wrong for my dad. If
you remember, foreigners werent allowed into China during the 60s and
70s, but then Nixon opened it up. Forty years after I made that
promise, I walked on the Great Wall of China with my own family. There
was this feeling inside of me that I find impossible to describe. I
was in awe.
NE: Does setting goals make you happy?
Clark: It keeps you excited about your life. We never go on vacations.
We go on adventures. We learn so much about cultures and other people.
We very rarely take tours, so we get to know the native people, what
we have in common, what our differences are.
NE: I have to say that cutting out pictures and gluing them on paper
sounds a little corny.
Clark: You know, it would to me too if someone told me what to do.
But I came up with it myself, and its just been so powerful. We look
at the goal book every day. We have it on the table and we flip it to
pages we want to look at. I even have goal pages for my children. I
hope Shane finds a scholarship. When you set the goal, youre more
open to it becoming a reality.
NE: But why cut out pictures?
Clark: When you think of something youd like to do, but you dont set
a goal, your mood can change, you can forget about it. Youll talk
about it in the abstract. But a picture forces you to visualize what
you want. When its there in black and white, you really must consider
if its what you really want.
Sometimes I dont know what I want. I once was very unhappy in my job,
so I glued in a picture of a woman who looked like she was having a
great time at work. I didnt know whether to quit my job or try to
make the job I had better, but every day I just looked at the picture.
A couple of months later, I received a bonus and a lot of praise for
my work, gratitude for what Id done. My attitude changed. I didnt
know what I was looking for, but I wanted happiness and I found it.
NE: Do you make fitness goals?
Clark: I imagine what a healthy person looks like and the exercise I
like and the healthy food I enjoy eating. I like dancing so I put
pictures of people dancing. I dont put in people exercising in a gym
because I dont like to do that.
NE: I want to take a bike trip around New Zealand, but in the
short-term, I could go for a cleaner house.
Clark: You could put in a page for that, but you have to have a family
that helps make that happen. It has to be their goal too. You can
have a goal page for everything. Since Ive written this book, Ive
received so many emails from peopleI just got one from France. A
woman wrote to me that her 9-year-old wanted to go to Rome, and within
a year, an opportunity came up for the family to go there, and he was
their little tour guide. Because he had prepared to achieve his goal,
he knew everything about it.
Another woman I met used a treadmill and the running bothered her leg,
so her doctor told her to get an elliptical machine. She didnt have
enough money, and hadnt told anyone about her need. Much to her
surprise, someone at work had one, and offered it free to a good home
and she quickly said, Yes! I think all of this means that you need
to accept theres a higher level of something working in the world.
NE: Speaking of a higher something, isnt this a little bit like prayer?
Clark: Funny you ask that. I wrote about that in my book. A goal is
something you set for yourself, a prayer is the relationship between
you and God. When it comes to setting a goal, I often think, let the
universe work out the details. It sounds a little New Age-ish, but if
you know what youre looking for, you can see how the webs weave
together to give it to you.
My husband and I have a goal to be happy and grow old together. Over
the years, weve had discussions like, If you take that job right
now, its not really compatible with our familys goals. Its not the
same as saying to the other person, Im rejecting you. Youre
saying, Im rejecting that goal. We consciously think of having a
happy marriage, and this goal book is a tool that has forced us to
talk to each other about whats on our minds and in our dreams.
Marsha Barber Clark is an author and motivational speaker. To find
out more about her ideas, go to www.ponderpictureprosper.com. The book
is available from the website, Amazon.com, and Horizon Books and
Higher Self Bookstore in Traverse City.