My Previous Life

slideshow-107Soon I will be celebrating the 16 year anniversary of my 29th birthday. Actually, tomorrow. I know my day will include a phone call from my dad recounting his fond memories of the day I was born. This ritual is one I look forward to all year. I also know that no surprises are waiting for me because my wife knows how much I dislike unexpected things.

Truthfully, I have never been one to make a big deal about my birthday. Yes, it was the day I born and as a parent I know it means more to my parents than me. I may not require parades or piles of gifts, but I do spend quiet time to reflecting on the past year and thinking about the personal goals for the upcoming year.

My broker and I have an ongoing debate over the necessity and importance of long term goal setting for our office and the agents. I do not set goals that are longer than a year. Basically, his goal is to convince me to create a five year plan. I refuse.

It is not that I can’t because I have done so in the past. I choose not to. The experience of coming out later in life has given me a new perspective about the unreliability of long term planning. Six years ago my long term plan was turned on its side.

In my head, the hesitation is both warranted and justified. I am sure this approach would not get me hired as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. In the business world, success depends on both short and long term planning and goal setting. Using a plan to guide decision making may seem like a no brainer in the business world, but applying this same logic to our personal lives does not always fly.

On paper, goal setting is step one. Executing the plan perfectly is step two through infinity. In a vacuum, achieving a long term goal seems simple. Set goal. Follow the steps to achieve the goal. Enjoy success. Sounds like a piece of cake doesn’t it? I wish it was that easy.

Forty four years and 364 days in to my journey, I am learning to be less goal oriented and more open seeing the big picture when things go sideways. Many women who come out later in life can attest to how difficult it is plan when everything is hitting the fan with their husbands, children, family, and friends. In the beginning, my goal was to gracefully make it through the day. Some days I was more successful than others.

I learned the most about goals in my previous life as a fitness professional. As a wellness coach, goal setting is a critical tool for measuring progress. However, it is not the end all be all. Most of my clients never achieve many of the goals they originally set. A hard pill to swallow if you are a fellow member of the Type A personality club. We also refer to this as failure. Or, the other F word.

Think about the last time you set a goal for yourself. What obstacles threw a wrench in the plan? Did you reach the goal? If so high fives to you. If not, what happened?

The answer is life happened. Happens. What then? Do you quit or rally when things do not go as planned? Despite every intention to succeed, sometimes life, our goals, or our future does not play out as we envisioned it. Do you scrap the goal?

If the thought of failing or not meeting a goal causes anxiety, I have some good news to share. Reaching the goal is not always the only measure of success. For real. Goals are simply a starting point for change. I am here. I want to be there. What needs to happen?

The concept of setting SMART goals was drilled in to my head while in college and during my time working in the health and wellness field. SMART means Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. I have a love hate relationship with this acronym.

I love it because it is a simple way to approach setting a goal. I hate it because fails to offer solutions about how to react when things do not go as planned. Getting caught up in the specific, measured, achievable, realistic, and time bound steps can create a sense of frustration and disappointment. We often choose to quit instead of simply changing the plan.

Learning to appreciate the journey and growth when plans change is the actual success. When we set personal goals for our lives, there are numerous angles, emotions, and thoughts to consider. Learning to be less rigid and less concerned with the outcome will foster confidence in our ability to reevaluate and retool. The goal may be the same, but the plan may change.

Whether it is weight loss, career related, or personal in nature, any forward progress is admirable. Meeting our goals is not a straight line process. Adjustments, steps backward, and moments of standing still are sometimes a huge part of moving toward a goal. Authors understand this better than anyone.

My goal for last year was to publish my memoir Switching Teams. I made a plan and got to it. Check that off the list. Another goal was helping one woman feel like she was not alone in the coming out later in life experience. Check. Fortunately, my plan worked.

On the flip side of the coin are the goals I failed to achieve and they far outnumber the goals I met. Viewing goals as a rough blue print helps prevent getting caught up in and focusing on what failed to happen. Creating a plan for the future helps keep our minds on what is possible. It also helps to reduce the temptation stay stuck in the past.

Depending on our mindset, we can all fall victim to this temptation. Resist the urge to beat yourself up when progress seems slow or non-existent. This week, join me in spending a few quiet moments thinking about where you would like to be, or what you would like to see happen in the upcoming year.

Refuse to allow setbacks to create doubt or fear. Be flexible yet determined to learn along the way and be gentle with yourself. Remember, if all else fails, you are trying, which is a beautiful and courageous thing.