Goals are something I didn’t really think of up until recently because for the longest time, my only foreseeable goal was to finish school. That’s where I put all my energy. Once that was done and I had a job, there seemed to be no imminent goal in my life. I had never really thought things through up to that point, because it was all very uncertain for me. I didn’t know what to expect once school was over, since it was all I had known for the past nearly 20 years of my life.

Having no goal seemed scary to me. Because in school, you’re always thinking short term. Next homework, next project, next exam, next final, next summer job, wash, rinse, repeat. It’s a very contained environment in which there’s always a next goal coming up. We are very guided in it. But once we’re out of school, it’s like we’re thrown into an open field and expected to just keep walking for the next 40 something years of our lives. We suddenly have a lot of freedom and a lot of time to exercise it. And that can be scary. It’s unknown. It gives me anxiety. So then what?

40 years can seem like a long time when you don’t have anything specific you want to do in that time. I also think it’s too big of a time to think about. So I like to keep it a bit shorter and start thinking about say, the next 10 years. It’s far, but not terrifyingly so. And then I can split it up further into 5 years, and 1 year, and maybe even a couple months.

I’m also doing something similar when I go to the gym and get on the elliptical. Usually my goal is to reach over 9000 strides, but in an hour, 9000 strides seems intimidating. It’s very far and makes it hard to plan. So what I always do is calculate how many strides I can or should do each 10 minutes to reach my final goal. Usually around 1500 strides per 10 minutes. But even that I find a bit big to think about. So I split it up even further into 5 minutes. 5 minutes is very short term, and it’s easy to plan ahead. 750 strides in 5 minutes. I often end up going even further and aim for 300 strides in 2 minutes, so 150 per minute. Setting all these micro goals helps me keep going. Instead of thinking “9000 is so far, and one hour is so long” I take it little by little. 150. Then 300. Then 750, then would you look at that, I’ve reached 1500 already! And then I start over again. Aim for 1650, 1800, 2250, 3000, and a third of my workout just went by! These small goals help keep me going at a consistent pace too, they allow me to make sure I’m not slacking or struggling too much. When I think about it, goals in general work a little like that too.

So, back to my next 40 years of life. To give structure to this large amount of time I now have in front of me, I started thinking about setting goals again. Actually, I started thinking vaguely about goals when I started bullet journaling 2 years ago, but those goals were often a bit vague until last year. And even then, they weren’t very varied either.

I stumbled recently upon the subject of goal setting areas and it made me realize that most of my newly set goals only related to one thing: art and culture. I thought if I was more cultivated, it would make me a more interesting person. More whole somehow. However, according to Zig Ziglar’s “wheel of life”, there are 7 areas that you should set goals for: work & career, financial, spiritual, physical & health, mind & intellect, family and personal & social. This really opened my eyes to all the areas of my life I was neglecting. I thought my goals were helping me grow, but now I think they could have helped me even more if I had just made them more diverse.

For the upcoming year, I’m going to set one goal for each of these categories, and I’m gonna do it right. I’m gonna set “SMART” goals. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. I won’t go too much in details about that here, but feel free to look it up yourself if you’re interested! I think people often fail to reach their goals because either the goals aren’t set right or they aren’t tracked and monitored properly. “Properly” is relative to each individual. I believe we all keep track of things in our own effective ways. What works for me might not work for someone else. But it’s important to find something that works for you. Personally, I use journaling to keep track of my goals, among many other things.

So next year, I’ll be setting goals that aren’t too far out of reach. Goals that are realistic and that I know I can achieve if I put the effort in. I’ll also make sure they are specific enough. So instead of saying “I want to keep in touch with my family more”, I’ll say “I want to call grandma at least once a month because it makes her happy and we barely get to talk anymore.” That’s specific, measurable (I can track it monthly in my journal), very achievable and realistic. To make it timely, instead of setting a specific date and time at which to call (which often failed me in the past, because life happens and I’m forgetful and easily distracted), what I’ll do is call whenever I work from home, which happens at least once a month. This way I have the whole day to call and find the right time that will suit me. It makes it easy, no obstacle.

I’m also starting to have goals for the next 5 to 10 years, as well as beyond 40 years. Not too many, and not very specific, but I know that I want to  buy a condo within the next 10 years, and I assume I will retire in about 40 years, so I know I need to plan for that, mostly monetarily. I need to think about my retirement fund, but also about saving for a condo and doing the proper research beforehand so I’m making a smart and informed decision. As time keeps going, these goals will get more specific and I might set some new goals as well. Who knows. I don’t want to set very precise and extensive goals that far ahead, because things will change and I don’t want to be too strict about my distant future. For the long term, I prefer to have vague goals that give me a sense of direction, but also give me freedom to grow and evolve as I wish. To experience life in a way that makes me happy.

The reason I think it’s important for me to have goals in one form or another, is that it makes things less scary and it keeps me going forward. Just like with my workout, it transforms insurmountable mountains into walk-able hills, it gives me motivation, it measures my progress and it helps me keep my momentum. I’m someone who needs structure and order to feel safe and stable, and setting these goals helps me with that. It keeps my anxiety in check and helps me plan ahead. If you think this is something that could help you too, I encourage you to try it! Do you make New Years resolutions or set yearly goals? What’s one thing you want to achieve in the next year? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

Em