With every new year comes a lot of talk about setting, pursuing, and accomplishing goals. With that talk usually comes a lot of questions: Have you set your goals for the year? Have you written them down? Are you working on your goals, even if just a little bit, each and every day? What time frames and deadlines have you given yourself for reaching your goals? I wholeheartedly believe that having goals is great and, yes, in order to be progressive and successful, having them is essential, but I have a confession. Sometimes, when I hear people talking about the importance of having goals and asking these kinds of questions, I can’t help but cringe. Having goals is obviously important, but it’s equally as important that they be attached and anchored to meaningful outcomes that we genuinely desire and envision for ourselves rather than be shaped and driven by the sake of just having them because we know they’re good and important to have.
Not long ago, towards the end of last year, someone asked me a few questions about my goals. I couldn’t figure out why at first, but the questions really nagged me. Then, I figured it out. After thinking about the questions and why they got under my skin, I realized that my answer to all the questions was essentially the same: “I have no idea!” In the moment, I really couldn’t pinpoint and articulate specific answers about my goals. What the questions helped me realize is that, on average, my days are pretty full, and in the course of my daily routines and making sure I’m handling all of what’s regularly on my plate, sometimes my time and attention are so occupied with things I have to do right then that I don’t have a lot of time to sit and think about any goals other than my goals of accomplishing whatever is on my agenda that day. My goals of making sure my kids get out of the house for school on time that day; making sure I have my morning cup of coffee with my husband before we go our separate ways that day; making sure that dinner later on that day will be healthy enough, will taste good enough, and will be ready early enough so that we’re not eating at 9:00 at night; making sure I make all the phone calls I need to make that day, send all the emails and text messages I need to send that day, and attend—and not just attend, but attend on time—whatever meetings I need to attend that day; and also making sure that I spend a little time that day, even if just a few moments, tapping into how thankful I am for life, health, strength, and everything else that I could so easily take for granted. Then, the cycle repeats itself, and tomorrow, “that day” starts all over again.
So, in terms of goals, sometimes, during certain seasons of my life, these are the only goals I can think about on a daily basis, but these are generally not the kinds of goals people are talking about when they tell you that you need to have them and ask you whether you’re working on them everyday. I’ve found that when people ask about your life pursuits, they often want to know just that: what are you working on and trying to do with your life? What milestones are you trying to accomplish? What grand and master plan are you working on for your life? What are you ultimately trying to achieve? People often want to hear our specific life goals, visions, and dreams that we can start feeling guilty and insecure if we don’t quite know, at some given moment, what those life goals, visions, and dreams are. And why may we not know? Because for some of us, it takes time—time to think about what we really want in and out of life. It takes time to think about what we want to achieve, accomplish, and contribute to our community, society, and the world. For some of us, before we set and make genuine, meaningful goals and plans, we have to give ourselves time to actually think about what we really want. We shouldn’t have goals just for the sake of having them. We should have them because they are directly tied to outcomes that we would like to achieve and see—a true vision. And in order to know what you would really like to see—for yourself, your family, your community, society, and world around you—it may take time and maybe a lot of time to meaningfully think about, think through, and adopt a clear vision of what that looks like and, therefore, what you really want. After all, what’s the point of setting and having goals if they’re not a means or a method tied to helping you get to what and where you want to be?
When I was in law school, I had a professor, who did something that none of my other professors did. For final exams, all of the other professors instructed the proctors to distribute at the beginning of the exam period the essay questions along with the blue books where we would write our essays in response to the questions. So, students received the questions and answer booklets at the same time. This other professor, on the other hand, did things differently. He added one hour to the length of his final exam periods and instructed the proctors to distribute only the exam questions for the first hour, and during this hour, we were supposed to simply read the questions and think—think about the questions and how we plan to answer them. That’s it! During that first hour, we couldn’t start writing any answers to the questions, but we were to use that hour to carefully think through the questions and how we wanted to construct our answers. Again, that’s it! Then, after the hour passed, we received the blue books so that we could write out and articulate our well-thought-out and thought-thru answers in response to the essay questions. Did this professor have to withhold the blue books for the first hour to force students to think before they wrote? No, but he knew that some students have a tendency to start answering questions without taking adequate time to think first and then write. I believe the same holds true for goal-setting.
Let’s not set goals just for the sake of being able to say we have them, and let’s not set randomly-rushed goals of no true significance that do not genuinely reflect who we are and who and what we truly want to be. Take time to think. Maybe even that is a goal worth setting: the goal of carving out time to think about what further goals you want for yourself. Here’s the reality: whatever goals you set regardless of why you’ve set them, if you’re an ambitious person, you’re going to go after the goals you’ve set for yourself. But here’s the point, don’t rush! Take time to really think about what you truly want and who you truly want to be. Then, let time and thought shape your goals so that they are genuinely and meaningfully attached and anchored to helping you achieve the vision that you truly want to achieve.
Like you, Katrina loves seeing people in healthy relationships (with themselves and others) that they genuinely enjoy and not just simply tolerate. This blog is dedicated to achieving that vision.