Numbering our days…Goal Setting After 40
You’re forty, now what? You’ve lived through many life changing events: marriages, births, caring for aging parents, death of parents, divorces, raising children, job changes, buying houses and selling houses. You look into the mirror and you notice physical changes: your hair and other parts of your body where hair grows start to gray, you’re gaining weight, you’re noticing you have more aches and pains and perhaps your eyesight is diminishing and you find you need glasses.
Welcome to the (sch)middle ages!
Like those going through the angst of adolescence or young adulthood, middle-agers also undergo certain emotional changes as apart of the natural stage of human development. There is more inner stress, anxiety about aging and the sense that there isn’t enough time to get things done.
On a more positive note, this is a time where forty-somethings seek purpose by helping others and in effect, redefining what it means to be successful. This is also the time when many middle-agers experience a surge in their creative capacity—where being forty and middle age is embraced as being a time to reinvent and establish oneself for the second half of life. For those who feel that way, the challenge appears to be carving out the time to move into the new space of fulfillment and accomplishing those long-desired aspirations.
For forty-somethings, setting goals can be really helpful and instructive in moving forward and living a new, purpose-filled life.
First and foremost, it is important to develop realistic life-long goals. By realistic, I mean the goals must be able to fit into a life already in motion.
I know from experience the difficulty in wanting to accomplish a goal, but then struggling to actually get started. For years, I wanted to leave my job and write a novel. Even though I had the desire to do it, I never wrote it down or made a specific plan to get it accomplished. I just thought if I made time here and there, I’d eventually get it done. Well, eventually never came. And here I am, past forty and still clinging on to the dream of becoming an author.
Fitzhugh Dodson once said, Goals not written down (or acted upon) are just wishes. How true. Until you write it down and commit to it, you are just like a boat with no rudder and are likely to continue drifting on whatever course your life dictates. For some people, that’s okay. However, for those who want to blaze their own path, there is more required of you.
Developing realistic goals is a four-step process. Let me add that any goal you want to accomplish can be realistic, just so long as you are willing to do whatever it takes make it happen.
First, take time, early in the morning is best, to make a list of all the goals you want to accomplish. No matter how far fetched or ridiculous, write it down.
Second, begin to prioritize your goals, with the most important thing you want to accomplish in your life being first.
Third, take your goals list and assign specific tasks that must be performed in order to achieve your goal. Each task must have a start date and an end date. For example, you want to write a novel. Writing a novel is your goal. The steps might be:
a) attend the four-week novel writing workshop, from September 1-26;
b) spend one week, starting October 6-10 brainstorming and outlining my novel, etc…
Fourth, excavate your life. Meaning, uncover how you really spend your time. Jot down your daily activities, hour by hour, for one week or more, if necessary. Using a preprinted planner will help. You just want to get a real, honest picture of how your time is actually spent.
Finally, take a hard look at the results of how you spend your time. Remove activities you feel are time wasters and replace them with the specific tasks on your goals list. This might be a lengthy process, so take your time to create your new schedule.
This last step will also help you make decisions as to whether you actually have the time to accomplish some of your lifelong goals. You might have to let a goal go and feel okay about it. Give yourself permission not to accomplish every goal you set in life. It may be time to reprioritize and shift goals, which is very much apart of the process.
Import your new schedule into a preprinted planner and make a decision to follow it.
You will now have a new life schedule that will lead you towards accomplishing your goals.
With your new life schedule, you’ll have to commit to walk it out. It will seem different and uncomfortable; there will be habits to break, inclinations to procrastinate to overcome, doubt and fear, but if you persevere, you will have the new life you want and be happier for it.
At this stage in life, time really does matter!
Don’t give up!
For meditation, read:
So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom-Psalm 90:12 (NASB)