Throughout our school days, we learn about the importance of setting goals and taking the necessary steps to achieve those goals. But then, somewhere along the line as adults, life happens and our goals often take a backseat to fussy babies, the 9-5 workday, and home repairs. Once things quiet down a bit, we may realize that the goals we had before don’t match our current situation; we are no longer the people we were mentally, emotionally, or physically. When we do take the time to reassess, we need to be flexible and modify goals because of the changes we’ve undergone over the years.
Making a goal is much more than just declaring that you want to do something, especially if you actually want to attain that goal. “When I help someone set a goal, I have them close their eyes, imagine their ideal life, and get them in touch with their number one value,” says Paula Kommor, Chief Energizing Officer at Dynamic Wellness in Louisville. This visualization helps an individual get some distance from their life so they can more objectively see what their goals are.
When thinking about any goal, it is important to consider the mnemonic device SMART which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Anyone can make a goal, but if the goal isn’t specific, can’t be measured, isn’t realistically achievable, isn’t relevant to your value/goal, and doesn’t have a realistic end-date, it is unlikely the goal will be achieved. By setting small, actionable tasks, we are more likely to achieve success. “Success snowballs; [it] leads to more success,” Paula says.
Goal-setting demands some deep reflection because if a person isn’t really ready for change to happen, all the goal setting in the world will not result in goal-achievement. A person who has only just begun thinking about a possible change or is using lots of “maybes” and “I don’t knows” is not anywhere near the point of making change occur in their lives.
Put a pin in a goal
Despite our best-laid plans, sometimes bad stuff happens. You get a divorce or one of your children gets divorced and needs help for a period of time. An economic downturn means an earlier-than-expected or later-than-desired retirement. Maybe a cancer diagnosis derails everything. Paula says the most important thing to do if and when this happens is to pause. “Put a temporary hold on the goal and rise above the weeds,” she says. “You’re not going to be able to fully work toward the goal unless you’re taking care of yourself.” It may become necessary, too, to modify a goal because of changes in one’s physical health or economic circumstances.
Whether to seek a coach
There is no definitive point at which someone should consider hiring a coach, although if an individual generally tends to set goals and not achieve them, it might be in their best interest to find a coach who can help them learn to recognize what the problem is. The goals might be too broad or the timeline too far into the future.
We often have habits of mind we’re not even aware of that can make our goal-fulfillment plans harder than what they have to be. For example, a person who messes up or doesn’t meet a deadline may tell themselves that they’ve ruined everything when they have done no such thing. “It’s normal to relapse and is part of the learning process. It’s not trial and error; it’s trial and correction. When we do fall off or don’t meet a goal, we ask what got in the way and how can we work around that next time,” Paula says.
We don’t have forever
Growing older is both joyous and sobering, and this may help distill people’s values.
Peter Tremain, 79, of Kansas City, Missouri, who has family in Kentuckiana, has spent a lot of time thinking about his goals as he approaches his eighth decade. Many of them are focused on his health, such as learning German to keep his brain active and gaining muscle mass to ensure his strength. But many of his other goals are existential: “I spend time thinking about the great questions: Why do I exist? How do I fit into the universe? What lies out there yet to be discovered? My goal in this regard is to stay open. I have lived long enough to see answers come and go. Put simply, my goal is to remain fully alive, engaging each moment as it comes, no matter what it brings with it,” he says.
The dual goals of staying open to ideas and physically healthy helped him make a big life change. “I recognize the health benefits of community. I have purposely moved from a suburban to an urban setting where there are people everywhere, especially young people. Interacting with young people forces me to maintain some relevance and not lose touch with what is going on. Just trying to follow their conversations exercises my brain, even though I sometimes struggle to keep up and don’t always know exactly what they are talking about. (Who knew that “dope” and “sick” could be good things),” he says.
By Carrie Vittitoe
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