Each teacher had a slightly different approach. In fourth grade we always wrote from a prompt, such as, “If I had a million dollars …”
In fifth grade each entry had to begin with a list of five things that we were thankful for. We had to journal every day.
In sixth grade, we were back to prompts.
Believe it or not, I still have that sixth-grade journal … somewhere.
Two journal entries stand out, “When I grow up …” and “Ten years from now I will …”
At that time, I was a 10- or 11-year-old girl with dreams of being an author. I remember my journal entries truly captured my feelings at the time.
Although I have not published a book, I am a published writer, so that dream has partly come true.
Many of those sixth-grade goals were simple: go to college (if I couldn’t get published before then), become an author, grow closer to God and have more friends.
Later, I went back to one such entry and realized I had accomplished most of what I said I would do.
I’ve since realized my writing style is probably too short to ever write a book.
Ever notice how it’s easier for children to dream, before that “dose of reality” makes some dreams seem impractical or impossible?
After I had been out of college for about a year, I decided a list of goals would be important.
I kept it short and attainable.
Learn to swim better, pay off my student loans in five years and be a mentor in a mentoring or tutoring program.
Ready access to a pool was something I had that summer that I had not really had before, or since.
To reach my goal, I swam semi-regularly, going into the small portion of the pool where the water was actually over my head.
I found the work paid off when I didn’t freak out while swimming with friends at a pond whose depth I didn’t know.
Although I’m still not comfortable swimming underwater without goggles, I was happy to find on a recent vacation that my floating and basic swimming skills have remained.
The financial goal is still in the works.
Last year, I became a mentor with the Bradley Initiative for Church and Community’s Bridging the Gap Mentoring Program. Better known as BICC, this local organization pairs a mentor with a student for one-on-one attention. As part of the program, mentors help the student create a list of short- and long–term goals with the intent that the mentor help encourage the student in completing these goals however possible during their weekly meetings.
I have heard countless times in life that in order to be successful, one must set goals. Life recently has become more wave riding than arrow shooting. These waves have landed me some good places, including being married and a senior staff writer. Being married was never quite a goal and wasn’t really on my radar before I started dating Jeremy Love. (For more on that you’ll have to check the archive for the column headlined “Suddenly.”) The other I never would have considered this early in my career if opportunity hadn’t presented itself.
Setting goals gives purpose to the everyday mundane. As a detail-oriented person, I sometimes get more caught up in the journey than in the destination.
To truly be beneficial, a goal must be attainable, measurable and well-defined.
Solving world hunger is a noble life’s work, but without smaller defined goals and a way to measure progress, the impact of one’s work or how close they are to the goal is hard to determine.
The goal can be narrowed to a specific geographical location, such as Cleveland. To measure progress a person or organization may collect data on the percentage of people in Cleveland who do not have enough to eat. Then, gather similar data later to gauge the impact of their efforts.
Recently, I again found myself needing to set my sights on goals. Defining goals for me also answers a few deeper questions: “What do I really want? What do I want to accomplish? Where do I want to be in five years?”
Sometimes setting a goal feels like a point of no return. Once I write it down there is no going back. Or, if I tell anyone about it, then I definitely have to do it.
With many goals, such as heath or spiritual growth, it helps to have supportive people along for the ride who will be encouraging and push us on when we want to give up.