On most mornings, I repeat to myself the words of John Wooden: “Make each day your masterpiece.” Some days seem closer to bringing this about than others, but I don’t know that it will be ever be possible to live every minute to my highest standards, simply because being human means we won’t be perfect.
On some level, we probably all make compromises with ourselves. If perfection is the only acceptable outcome, we will be disappointed or driven crazy or both.
On the other hand, we will not even know how close we come to our goals unless those goals are formed. I am goal-oriented, perhaps even too much so, but I am careful about dictating to others how they should live. In fact, for parts of our lives, it’s essential that we be rather than do. Still, there is great value in actually articulating what we want to do with our lives:
1. Having goals helps us prioritize our time. If we have multiple competing activities we want to do, our goals can help us decide what we should do at this minute.
2. Our goals shine a light when we are in the dark. Sometimes we are down, and our goals remind us why we started in the first place.
3. Finally, our goals affirm that we are worthy human beings. When we form goals, we are essentially stating that we are capable of achieving good and important things.
I refrain from preaching too much about goals to others, even though I would like for everyone to know what they are aiming toward. Sometimes not having formed your goals is a sign that you are still working things out in your life, and I don’t want friends to feel like I am rushing that process for them.
For those who are thinking about goals, here are some tips to create or re-visit your goals:
1. Consider your life holistically. You may have work or relationship goals. I would encourage you to think even more broadly. I put my goals into the four areas of my life — spiritual, physical, intellectual, and social.
2. In many parts of your life like your employment, you are encouraged to have S.M.A.R.T. goals — Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon or Attainable, Realistic/Reasonable, and Time-based. If you want to do this with your life goals, it will likely serve you well. Know, however, that these are for you. It’s important that you know when and if you are achieving your goals, but they do not necessarily have to conform to the format of those from the workplace.
3. Don’t think too small. I recently went back and looked at some goals from a few years ago. I was amazed and how small they seemed. This is your life — don’t sell yourself short.
4. The goal is an end, but getting there is a journey, and in the end, the journey is life. For example, say you have a goal to get another degree. When the degree is done, your life will not end. It is far more important what happens on the way to the degree than the moment when you receive a diploma. “Future you” might need the degree, but the world needs your knowledge which the degree represents.
If you are aiming at nothing, don’t be surprised at what you hit. You have one precious life, one chance to spend your days on earth. You should put at least as much planning into your life as you do your vacation. Your goals can be part of that plan.