How to Shift Gears and Make Lasting Changes In Your Life
If you’re lucky, and you plan well, you can choose your path in life, and make decisions on issues that are important to you.
But first, you need to know what exactly you want in life in order to set very specific goals. Only then can you make a plan that will help you reach those goals. Makes sense, right?
One of the great parts about this process of mulling over your goals and then writing them down is the freedom to re-think, revise, and then re-write them. And sometimes, this change in your thinking may be forced to happen when a life event occurs over which you have no control.
For instance, a couple of years ago, I lost my second husband after twenty years. My dreams and desires for the next phase in my life had completely been changed, overnight, for me. Now I had to rethink not only what I wanted to do, but be realistic about what I would be able to do, given my completely new circumstances without a partner in life.
I then began to realize that, more than ever, what I deeply wanted was to “make a difference” – to loved ones, to family members, to wonderful friends, and to people that I might not even know. So I am now weaving that concept of making a difference into all facets of my plan for this new phase of my life.
What are your own priorities in that area, or in other areas where you want to make a major change, or hone your focus? If you are in your twenties or thirties, you are likely working full-time, and you may or may not have a spouse or children. You are probably caught up in many different areas, and may be realizing that some things could be improved. And by your forties, you may be concentrating on even deeper changes that you need in your life. All of these examples are where goal-setting can have the most dramatic and valuable effect.
Here are some reminders about the entire area of goal-setting:
There are four important criteria when setting goals:
- They must be realistic
- They must be attainable
- They must be measurable
- They must be compatible with your other goals
There are nine basic categories that cover most aspects of a person’s daily life. (Note: Not all categories are relevant to every person at every stage of their lives. Select only the ones that apply to you. )
1. Mental/ Educational
8. Making a Difference
Here is how you should think of each category, to see if it applies to your life, and if you need to change anything in that area:
Mental/ Educational: This covers area like self- improvement, courses that you might take (e.g., art, photography, books to read, classes to take, etc.).
- How do you want to improve your own health and fitness?
- When? How?
- Do you want to spend more time with your children, parents, or other loved ones?
- In your mind, what do you see as possible? When will you do it?
- Do you need to carve out a “family night” every two weeks, or stay in more regular touch with your parents?
- Do you want to set aside more money for the future, for college tuition, or for retirement?
- Do you need to earn xxx % more to do it? How will you do that?
- Do you need to organize your personal home or financial information, or spend more time managing the investments you have?
- Do you have a will, or “living will” that reflects your wishes today?
- If you have a spouse, be sure that you know how to “take over” running the home or business if they get ill or worse. Too many women do NOT know these critical things.
- Do you dream about having a better or more exciting job?
- What kind?
- What kind of company? Your own?
- What city — or even country, if you have ever thought of working abroad?
- Is it time for a career break to raise your young children or to pursue avocations or hobbies? What are you doing to make yourself more valuable to others? (This now ties into #1, educational).
- Do you miss having special dates with your friends?
- What kinds of outings do you want – the theatre, picnics, skiing, dinner at new restaurants, dancing?
- Do you want to read more about religion or the religion of another country or a friend?
- Do you keep saying you want to attend religious services more frequently, but never do it?
Making a Difference:
- Most of my life I have been doing little — and then bigger — things for others. I have found that this make me feel energized, joyful and positive most of the time. Research bears this out: have a look at this study from the Corporation for National and Community Service about the health benefits to be gained from this area.
- Then think about whether you want to incorporate philanthropic activities into your schedule – everything from volunteering once a week to earmarking a percentage of your income for charitable purposes.
Miscellaneous: For whatever category is important to you that is not mentioned!
Why Is Setting Goals so Important?
So, now that you have a sense of the many ways that goal-setting can be done, you may wonder if, in the end, it is worth the effort.
In fact, goals can have a dramatic effect on a person’s will to live, by not only giving a sense of purpose, but also by keeping a person “forward-focused” on the future. Goals can also be accomplished in a way that increases a person’s sense of social well-being, another factor for long life: people who have a “goal buddy” to whom they report on their progress may do better than those who don’t. (Read here for more about that.)
And if you want to look at the concept from a career perspective, goals can also have a profound effect on how well you attain business objectives: this study explains that well.
Whatever the method, though, one thing is certain: goals give a sense of uplift and purpose and can help to bring about major, valuable changes in your life. So stop to think about what areas could provide the most benefit for you, and get writing!14