In college, my time, accomplishments, and goals were marked by semesters and summer break. Now that I'm a working adult without the structure of a school year, I've discovered that it's all too easy to let life slip by without me knowing where it went. I've had to learn to set goals that don't revolve around grades and school work, but still give me purpose to my days.
How many of you hear your parents or other older adults say something along the lines of "I don't know where the time goes"? I think part of this is that life does go quicker than we ever expect, but I also feel like maybe less of us would say this if we lived our days with more intentionality and purpose. There are a lot of ways to do this, but I have found that setting realistic, achievable goals help me to live intentionally and I find myself saying "where has the time gone" a lot less.
This week, a lot of people are reflecting on their goals and personal challenges for 2015 so I thought I would start of the week by discussing why I think goals are healthy. Later in the week I'll be sharing how to create realistic and achievable goals, as well as share my New Year's resolutions and my goals for winter 2015.
First, let's look at why goals can be healthy.
Goals provide focus and structure
In a world that's filled with dinging notifications, ten million people wanting our attention, and obligations coming out of our ears, goals serve to keep us focused. By having a few set things we have chosen to strive for, we decrease the likelihood of spending time on things that are unnecessary. We are able to better discern which obligations are important to us and which aren't. Having four or five goals in mind will help structure your days and time, allowing you to live life with more focus. I shared my goals this past fall, and I will tell you that having five themes to my season helped provide a much needed focus.
Many think that by adding goals they're simply adding something else to check off on their to-do list. I would argue the exact opposite. With a few achievable goals you attain focus of what's really important and then it becomes easier to set priorities and bow out of obligations that aren't in line with your goals for that season. Does everything you do have to be goal oriented? Definitely not. But I do believe that setting goals helps you prioritize things in your life, ultimately leading to a life of less stress. I am becoming increasingly passionate about finding a balance in life and learning not to be busy. Prioritizing my obligations based off of my goals helps me be and feel less busy, helping me find a better balance in life.
Goals can provide a sense of accomplishment
Ever since graduating nursing school, there have been few things that have left me feeling accomplished. When I was in college I got great satisfaction from finishing a paper and getting a good grade or finishing a clinical rotation. Now that I'm working, it seems like the chances to "complete" something and feel accomplished are few and far between. Setting goals and achieving them help me feel accomplished and add purpose to my days.
Goals create effectiveness
I believe that adding structure (accompanied by a measure of grace of course) to one's life, can actually increase your effectiveness. By implementing a general framework (your goals) to your days, your days and time off will be spent with a purpose. I don't know about you, but I've certainly had weeks and months of my life that I don't know what I did or where the time went. Of course, life was happening (as it always will), but the lack of structure made me feel like I hadn't done anything. By adding a few measurable and attainable goals, I find myself being more effective and efficient in all areas of life. I'm also able to look back at that season of life and know that I lived it with purpose.
All of that being said about goals, I do understand the need for downtime. A life that's too structured can create stress in the same step that an unstructured life can. But sometimes in this culture of "go go go", the idea of some downtime is often forgotten and not even valued. If you're a busy mom or busy working professional, maybe scheduling down time for yourself is exactly what you need to do. Making downtime a goal is perfectly realistic and a healthy idea.
The trick of it all is finding a balance between too much structure and too little structure. Goal setting can be tricky so read my tips on setting achievable, realistic goals that will help you feel less stressed and more accomplished.