The most crucial aspect of our work isn’t the finish line – it’s the aim. Goals are often designed with good intentions but poor technique. The Wedge is a free and open-source programme to aggressively enable the fire service with the tools to orient ourselves correctly toward making things better.
Most times, when you listen to a motivational speaker, you can feel the surge of action and the waves of wanting more crashing within. If you really pay attention, you can actually feel it swell.
The problem is – and you know this too – the feeling goes away in short order but what remains is the same mottled ship you set sail with.
To make a change, you must know where to steer. Fundamentally, that statement seems trivial but the truth is, it holds the secret to a very steep challenge. To aim correctly is to create an objective that is meaningful and responsible. With that objective, more often than not, comes a great deal of struggle that needs to be met with the same tenacity you promised yourself you would have at the end of that motivational speech. When we voluntarily accept the burden that comes with that additional responsibility, we transcend ourselves.
That statement, that we may become something more, is easy to read as one of the lofty promises a fitness coach might cast toward us. It’s predicated on real-world science, however. In a study conducted in 2018 among medical students in America, researchers theorized the process of creating goals using the SMART system served as a primer for the execution of goals.1 That’s an important note that is often overlooked – just the process of aiming correctly toward a valued end state constructs the foundation for the work required to make it happen.
SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-sensitive. If you jump into some work without an objective written with these values, it’s much easier to get hung up on obstacles, confused or dismayed from the thing you’re actually reaching for.
The Wedge is an applied technique for staging goals correctly. In three domains, separated into the categories of the physical, the mental and one’s craft in the field, the programme is designed to create the opportunity to aggressively pursue progress. With objectives that are properly designed, participants spend exactly one month working toward the completion of those objectives.
The programme is written so that any crew, station or department can print it out and run it in a low-slack or no-slack peer environment. Each member should be held to the standard they’ve promised themselves. With time, effort, pace and cadence, any group can use the Wedge to actually measure the amount of progress they are capable of making.
At the end of the month, a time is scheduled to take on the ENDEX – an end-of-exercise group workout based on rucking where those participants that volunteer should expect to be pushed physically and mentally to new places well outside of where they are comfortable. Performed as a team of participants who volunteer to take it on, the ENDEX is an opportunity to proudly carry the weight of our duty to the public. When hardship is taken on voluntarily and met with the type of mindset the Wedge is meant to inspire, we actively transform into a more capable version of what we once were.
Another hurdle that plagues the fire service is the budget that departments must operate within. Equipping their members with the best tools possible within the confines of a mandated financial cap is a task met by this programme. Being free and mouldable to department-specific objectives, the Wedge encourages participants to be resourceful. You don’t need five-star exercise equipment where bodyweight exercises can be performed on the apparatus floor. You don’t need community partnerships to be established with training providers where catalogues of online courses exist. Finally, nobody else can make better the participant who lacks a certain skill set in the fire service but the participant themselves.
The third domain where participants will design a goal is focused on an element of the fire service where sharper skill is needed. With honest reflection, most firefighters will know the skills that could stand to be refreshed. For some, this may be deploying hoses or forcible entry. For others, this may be an administrative task or refining knowledge about hazardous materials.
There is no shortage of work where progress is concerned.
The Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health notes the process of keeping a journal is a ‘game-changing’ activity toward improving coping mechanisms and general mental health. Built into the resources for this programme are two structured models for starting to write about progress. Additional resources included are a compilation of fitness, nutrition, mindset and organizational tools to help participants form a systemized approach to working on their goals.
Participants are encouraged to check in with each other throughout the month, too. With a few noted prompts for discussing some of the obstacles met through the process, talking about the challenges we meet and the strategies we’re building to overcome them should be open and approachable. The Wedge provides a platform to practice talking about adversity without the stigma of traditional mental-health concerns attached.
At the core of it, the programme is about improving goal-setting techniques. Correctly attending to the process of building goals is building the foundation for aggressive work. There is such a thing as an incorrect aim – it’s the plan that misses the mark. Without studying the path of his arrow and fixing his focus on the bullseye itself, the archer wastes his shot.
Dopamine is the hormone in our body that makes us feel good. We used to believe that it was released when we accomplished something or received something we valued. In the neuroscience journal Neuron, a deep study conducted on dopamine revealed that it is actually released before the win itself and is responsible for regulating our drive to achieve.2 If we plan our route correctly, it is the pursuit of our goals that makes us get that rewarding feeling from the work involved, not the finish line itself.
Further to the idea that drives this programme forward is the constant pull of our community. First responders are tasked with working in situations that others call us to. We’re trusted to perform at a level that supersedes the work set out by other fields. The selection process behind our recruitment implies this – you are among the uncommon. That premise ought to help define your aim.
Attend to the best possible version of yourself by first deciding to commit to the work required. Next, direct yourself toward the actionable tasks that would manifest your vision. Plan the future with a system that is proven and you’re capable of executing on.
Then, show up and step off.
For more information, go to www.timeandeffort.ca
- Aghera, A., Emery, M., Bounds, R., Bush, C., Stansfield, R. B., Gillett, B., & Santen, S. A. (2018). A Randomized Trial of SMART Goal Enhanced Debriefing after Simulation to Promote Educational Actions. The western journal of emergency medicine, 19(1), 112–120. https://doi.org/10.5811/westjem.2017.11.36524
- John D. Salamone, Mercè Correa. The Mysterious Motivational Functions of Mesolimbic Dopamine. Neuron, 2012; 76 (3): 470 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.10.021