It may seem strange to consider that as adults we need to set goals. Aren’t paying bills, going to work, washing laundry, trying to exercise, and eat healthy all goals we already set for ourselves? Technically yes, but they are also the things we have to do to keep the gears of our life turning. Ever since graduating from college this past winter I’ve been searching for a system that will help me organize, prioritize, and improve myself in ways that extend beyond these necessities. This hasn’t been easy, and what I’ve come to realize very recently is that I don’t have to reinvent a brand new plan. What I am going to do is re-use the program I followed as a teenager and student and apply it to my life as an adult.
When I was 15 I registered for the Congressional Award program. This meant that for many years I was involved in four different program areas: physical fitness, personal development, volunteerism, and exploration or an expedition. I would create goals in each program area with my mentor, and together we would develop challenging goals and ways to work towards achieving them. For a long time I had a very specific reason to improve myself (earning a Gold Medal from Congress while simultaneously building my self-worth by doing things I loved). But once I graduated from college and earned that medal I realized that I haven’t been as ambitious or excited about improving myself as I used to be.
I’ve decided that I’m going to adopt the Congressional Award program model again and apply to this new chapter in my life. Instead of playing for my high school tennis team or training for a half marathon like I did as a student, I am going to set a goal to go to the gym at least four times a week and limit my eating out to two times a week for physical fitness. For personal development I am going to use Rosetta Stone to learn a new language and maintain my speaking skills from what I used to study. For volunteerism I am going to reconnect with an animal shelter I worked for in high school and get retrained as a volunteer. Every time I go somewhere new my goal is to read a book and do research on that location before I get on the plane.
What I learned about setting goals from when I was still a student is that they need to be realistic but challenging. I am not going to challenge myself to go to the gym seven days a week for two hours a day, because I know that given my work schedule that simply will not work. I also know my body and understand that burning out and being exhausted only leads to injuries and frustration. When setting new goals after being rusty for a while, it’s crucial that you be kind to yourself. Set goals, map out how you can achieve them, but don’t burden yourself with self-hate if you don’t achieve them perfectly every single day. Forgive yourself for not being perfect, and move on. Take baby steps and eventually you’ll have walked more miles than you realize.
Image: Life of Pix