Go for the Goal Posts!

Do you remember that scene in You’ve Got Mail, where Meg Ryan waxes poetic over the smell of newly sharpened pencils in the fall? I think we all remember those days of fresh crisp books and new beginnings, so goal setting…it seems like a fitting topic. What better time to sit down and scope out where you’re headed and how to get there?

If it feels a little overwhelming, never fear. Free worksheets are a great jumping off place. Most organizational gurus suggest starting with broad brush strokes, thinking of the big picture. I more often begin with my daily list, however. When it’s a little too long, a few lines get relegated to a weekly or monthly list. I don’t know…I just find cleaning the basement a migraine in the making. I look at all the boxes and suddenly I am distinctly unwell. Unfit. Nope! Not happening. Opening a box is much more doable, and I can do that any Thursday. Monday’s no good. Um, Tuesday is a day of recuperation. Wednesday is so dismal. Yes, it’s definitely a Thursday thing. And thus my goals somehow transcend the unthinkable to become real things.

The bottom line? You can start from either the broad picture or the little item on a list, but start somewhere! Before you’re done, think of where you want to be in one year, and maybe five years. Do you want to be in the same field? Doing the same job? Living in the same place? These uncomfortable questions shape our futures, and I am a firm believer in shaping your own destiny.

The alternative is a life of least resistance. I subscribe more to the idea of Shoot for the moon. If you don’t reach it you’ll land among the stars. Is that how it even goes? You get the idea. This philosophy jettisoned me into the life of a serial entrepreneur and I experience no regrets. I don’t have the money I’d have accrued if I’d stayed within my profession, but the rich tapestry of life experience is worth so much more.

It was Albert Einstein who said, “If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not people or things.” He was right. The best goals include ways in which we might better not just our own lives, but the lives of those we love. Sometimes that means rethinking a job: it’s a means to an end. Who cares if you’re a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker? If your life finances your life with loved ones, the goal’s been met. More often than not we work to finance the life we want, rather than tying identity, time, fame and fortune to “being something”. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Just be smart about it, okay? Do set goals. Do be specific. Do choose goals for which your motivation ensures success. Don’t be the falling leaf. Be the wind that steers your life where you want to be. Goal setting works.

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