When you’re trying to get your life on track after a major change (like divorce), one of the hardest things to accept is the future plans that you had are now changing. I remember crying every time a certain song came on the radio, because it was the song we were going to play at the wedding ceremony we never had. I didn’t miss my ex, and I was the one who initiated the divorce, but I still grieved for the plans we made and never followed through on. Setting new goals can be a very cathartic way of dealing with that grief.
Good goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive.
A goal needs to be specific, otherwise you may settle for less than what you really want, because at least you accomplished your goal. If you want to buy a house and you have kids, you need more than one bedroom. Make sure that your goal to buy a house specifies all your necessities. This does not include things like jet tubs and separate showers. This is more like number of bedrooms and bathrooms, one-story if you have trouble with stairs, far from train tracks and airports if you have trouble sleeping, etc.
Good goals are measurable. You need to have a specific way to determine if you have reached your goal. Bonus points if you can measure each step you need to accomplish to reach your goal. If we go back to the previous examples, with the first goal, you know you’ve reached it when you set your feet on the surface of the moon. The more realistic one is measured by your walking into NASA.
An attainable goal is something that is possible. A goal must be something that you can complete with your own resources and skills. An unattainable goal that many people often call a goal is to get married, or meet Mr / Ms Right. These are things that are out of your control, and honestly, when people are focused on finding someone more often than not they end up in unhappy and/or unhealthy relationships. A goal that could lead you to Mr. / Ms. Right could be to start a new activity or get out more (just remember to follow the rest of the steps for the goal).
This one is a little harder to define. For a goal to be relevant, it needs to be something that you want or need badly enough that it will be worth working toward. For example, if you’re single, have no kids, and like the apartment you’re living in but you feel pressured by others to buy a house, don’t set that kind of goal. When the time is right for you, then set that goal and work on it.
This is the one that often trips me up. How do I know how much time I will really need to reach my goal. Most recently, I reached the goal of purchasing a home. This is my first ever home purchase, and I was terrified. But I set a deadline and told myself that I would be out of the disgusting apartment I was living in by the end of my lease. That gave me a time-sensitive deadline. I have other goals I want to reach before my son enters high school, before my daughter gets her driver’s license, etc. For me, I find that setting the time is easiest when I measure it against a specific event.
Write it down
One last piece of advice that I took and worked out well for me was, “write your goal in first person future tense”. Use “I will”, not “I want”. When I set my goal to purchase my home, I actually wrote a list of several long-term goals each with their own time frame. Each goal was one sentence that incorporated S, M,and T. For my home purchase I wrote, “I will buy a three bedroom, two bathroom home in the school district my kids love by July 31, 2015.” I hand wrote my list on a piece of paper that I posted on a wall that I looked at every night before I went to sleep. Every time I got frustrated with the buying process and how few good options were available in the school district and price I wanted, I would look at that paper and remember that it will all be worth it when I can open the door to my own home. You can do it too.
What are some goals that you are working on?
See my next post to see how I go from a random thought to a good, solid goal.