This week I’m happy to introduce you to Michele Vosberg as my guest blogger while Thom and I are traveling. Michele is one of the most recent bloggers I began following in 2018, but when I began reading her posts I knew without a doubt that she fits into the SMART Living lifestyle. With a strong intention to help people become all they are meant to be, her blog Life Redesign101 is sure to help any of us who appreciate self-awareness and personal growth. Thank you, Michele, for filling in for me and sharing some of your ideas about rethinking (and rightsizing!) our goal setting for the future.
This is the time of year that many of us are focused on goal setting for the new year. At this stage of life, we are likely accomplished goal setters. We have successfully navigated the demands of the working world. We’ve also successfully juggled the responsibilities of caring for homes, children, pets and even parents.
We have manipulated our Day Planners and multi-tasked our way through many projects and life challenges. We don’t need another lesson on S.M.A.R.T. goals (not to be confused with SMART Living!) We don’t need a bigger planner with more hours in the day. We want to get off the hamster wheel, live in the moment and enjoy our lives without checking off our accomplishments on an endless to-do list.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t need goals. Part of right-sizing our lives is right-sizing our goals. Where work and other obligations may once have been our priorities, now we want to focus on our lives. This doesn’t mean giving up on goal setting and planning. It means taking our planning skills and using them to make sure that the lives we are creating are the ones we want to live.
We’ve been trained in goal setting to accomplish tasks. It’s less likely that we have been trained in goal setting to create a life. Without planning, our lives can take unexpected and unwelcome turns and detours.
In their book Living Forward, Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy discuss the drift that often happens when people reach their forties, fifties and sixties. While busily focusing on outside goals such as our career, our inner goals can get lost. We get stuck in a riptide and pulled off course. It is not unusual for people to realize that their health is less than optimal, their marriage is broken or running on fumes, or that they have lost touch with their spiritual or creative selves. The result is a slow but steady drift.
Without attention, we can find ourselves in places we never expected to be, living a life that wasn’t what we had hoped. We wake up one day, surprised, and wonder “how did I get here?”
For many people, life planning equates with career planning. We are taught to assess our skills and plan for a career. We often define ourselves by our careers. “What do you do?” is a far more common question that, “What kind of life do you want to have?” Chances are we also spend more time planning a career than planning a life. The frequent interview question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” is as far as many people go in the long-term planning process.
Planning for retirement may also be a part of our career plan, although Americans are alarmingly underfunded in this department. Forbes called it “The Greatest Retirement Crisis in American History.” We aren’t much better at planning for the end of life. A 2017 study found that only 29% of people have a living will and only about one-third of all adults have an advanced care directive. These are just two examples of how people fail in life planning.
Why don’t people spend more time in planning for their lives? Some don’t take the time to contemplate life’s big questions. They are busy engaging in the day-to-day tasks of life. Others aren’t sure what they want. Some people struggle to define their purpose, though having direction and meaning enriches our lives.
I run workshops which engage people in redesigning their lives so that they can live a more meaningful, fulfilled and happier life. One of the exercises I ask people to do is to describe how they use their skills and talents to do something they love to do. I want people to understand how the things you are talented at are often your gifts, and the more we use our gifts, the more fulfilled we feel. I am always surprised by the number of people who either don’t think they have any skills or talents, or who can only describe how they use their skills and talents in a professional setting. Many people don’t connect using your gifts as part of bringing joy into your life.
Another activity I have people do is to describe their perfect day. At first, everyone talks about drinking Margaritas on a beach. They describe a fantasy where they escape their ordinary, routine life. I acknowledge that for some people, living on a beach and sitting in the sun all day might be the ideal life. But I also ask them to think about how long they would find that activity rewarding. How do you want to spend your days? It is a powerful question–because how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.
The process of creating a plan for your life isn’t difficult, but it does take some time and reflection.
Planning your life requires you to ask yourself questions. What do you value above all else? How do you choose to live out those values? What is your perfect day, week, month and year? How do you envision yourself in the future? What would make you excited to get up in the morning? What gives your life meaning? What kind of legacy would you like to leave?
You also need to take an inventory. Rate your satisfaction from one to ten on areas of your life including: career, family, partner/spouse, finances, spirituality, home, health, social and community engagement, and personal growth. Look closely at the areas with low numbers. These are potential areas that if improved, could drastically improve your life.
Once you have clarified your values and determined how you want to live in the world as well as understanding your current status in important areas of life, you are ready to make a plan. Here is where your goal setting capabilities come into play. Take an area of your life that you want to change and make a plan. Determine the end result that you want and work backward, outlining the steps you need to take in order to get to the end result. If you are visual, creating a web diagram can be helpful.
Break down each step into small, bite-sized, doable pieces. Then plan those pieces into your days. You have likely used this process in your work, now apply it to your life. If you are overwhelmed with too many goals, just pick one to start with. Work on that goal until you feel some success and are ready to tackle another one.
We all have it in us to lead extraordinary lives, lives of fun and purpose and passion. We are worthy of the time and attention it takes to plan for good things, and we deserve to live a life we love. I’m not settling for a mediocre life. I want to wake up every morning, excited about starting the day. What about you?
Okay, your turn. Are you a life planner or are you more of a spontaneous fly-by-the-set-of-your pants type? Have you used goal setting to achieve your life goals as well as career goals? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
About: Michele Meier Vosberg, Ph.D. is an author, teacher and personal development specialist. Her life’s mission and highest calling is to help people to become who they are meant to be. Michele has conducted workshops and given presentations throughout the country and internationally on the topics of motivation, adult development, innovative learning and understanding our talents, skills, learning styles and emotional intelligence. Michele’s blog can be found at Life Redesign 101 and she is a contributing author of the book Time to Fly: Dream, Plan, Act. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and her literary cats Gatsby and Sassenach. She has two grown daughters. When she is not busy reading, writing, and dreaming, she loves to sit on a pier and watch the sunset.
Kathy @ SMART Living 365 says
Hi Michele and everyone! I finishing up my vacation and will be back soon. Thank you Michele for this great perspective on intentions and goal setting. When I get back I will definitely be considering how your suggestions will help to improve my life. Thanks to everyone for making Michele feel welcome here on SMART Living and HAPPY NEW YEAR to us all! ~Kathy
Kathy, I hope your vacation leaves you relaxed and refreshed for the new year. Your audience is wonderful and I have enjoyed being here!
Janet Mary Cobb says
I try to think of goals as things I’d like to do rather than that I ‘should’ do them. If my energies don’t move me to complete them, I know my heart didn’t really desire it. Not sure if that’s a cop-out, but it works for me.
Janet Mary, I don’t think it is a cop out at all! I have learned that if I find myself dreading something or feeling that it is something that I should do rather than something that I want to do, it probably isn’t right for me and maybe I don’t need to do it at all!
Dr Sock says
Michele, your article resonated with me. In my academic career, I was a goal setter and planner extraordinaire. For many years, I somehow “did it all” — career, life, kids, creative work, outdoor adventures, and a social life. And then somehow during the last ten working years, I became so busy in my career that all my life goals and passions went into the backseat and I began to drift in the way that you describe. It was scary to choose to retire and step away from my career because my work had become my life, for the most part. I did retire. I did refocus on life goals. And I am so glad that I did; there is so much more to life than work.
Hi Jude, you story is essentially my story. I was an academic, highly productive and successful for many years and then I realized that it had taken over my life and I couldn’t continue without killing myself or at the very least continuing to ruin my health. I walked away from it all. I still don’t know where I found the courage. I’m glad that you have found a new life!
What a timely and insightful post, Michele. Your words, though a bit condensed, are basically the introduction (or maybe the blurb) of the memoir I’m currently working on. As someone who has valued life and different priorities than the norm, I feel like I have lived my life to the fullest at 43. I might never retire because of it, but I have no regrets as to how I focused on experiences instead of material things and preferred more flexibility to monetary wealth. You really make valid points, and I hope they inspire everyone to choose the life that makes them most happy.
On the same topic: my husband and I had fellow adveturers visit us the last two days. Last night in a bar, I asked our friends (and my husband) what they would prefer: being a 25-year old in this day and age (basically being given back all those years and being a millennial) or changing nothing, keeping our age (43-50) and experiences. Maybe a bit surprisingly, and I think because we all lived alternative lives, none of us would change a thing! 🙂
Hi Liesbet, your life sounds fulfilling. It is interesting that you and your friends all agree that you wouldn’t want to go back and be a millennial. I wouldn’t either, but I might like to go back and give my younger self a bit of advice! On the other hand, you learn from your choices and the growing pains make you who you are and I am happy with the person I have become.
Hi, Michelle – This is such a timely reminder to get ourselves off of the ‘hamster wheel’ and narrow in on what is most important to us. Like so many others (especially during the holidays), I can get myself caught up in expanding my day-planner and striving to do more, more, more! I agree with your thoughts here. Thank you for this essential nudge!
Hi Donna, it is easy to get caught up in the hamster wheel, especially if you are good at what you do and like to feel productive. I can easily get caught up in that during the holidays when I want to create a wonderful magical Christmas, like my mother did for us. Invariable, that leads to more stress than is good!
Nancy Dobbins says
I love learning from all my navigational aids!
Janet Mary Cobb says
Great post Michele! Thanks so much for a post that is both inspiring and practical. I’ve been allowing myself to transition without setting too many goals for a few years now – but my October 101 list got me looking more towards setting goals and being intentional in planning my next phase. So far so good! 2019 will give me a sense of how it will go in the long run! In the meantime, I’m hoping to enjoy the journey.
Hi Janet Mary, goals can get a bad reputation because they seem like something we ought to do and that is good for us- like cruciferous vegetables. It really is about being intention about our choices rather than drifting. Maybe we should find a new word for goals!
Janet Miles says
Great post, Michele, especially at this time when New Year’s “Resolutions” are so prevalent. I’ve been making “vision cards” and “full moon dreamboards for the last few years and they really help me connect with where I want to be, both in the short and long term. Using a mind map or web diagram is a cool tool that I forget about. Thanks, Kathy for introducing us to Michele! Happy New Year!
Hi Janet, I make vision boards ( it’s a vision notebook really) also. I love mind maps and webs too, I am a visual thinker so it often helps me to put all of my ideas into a big bubble map! I usually start there and then work it into a description or list. I am not familiar with full moon dream boards, but it sounds interesting!
Janet Miles says
The Full Moon dream boards are like vision cards, etc., but you channel in the power of the full moon because each moon has its own qualities.
Very thought provoking! I used to set 10 year goals but early on I found that was too distant and went with 5 year goals for life. Now that I am older I am using 1-2 year goals. Goals for life and career, I don’t separate because somewhere in my 30’s I discovered I had to combine both parts of my life goals together for happiness.
Hello Haralee, you plan for goal setting sounds very reasonable. I like that you integrate career and life goals because they are both parts of your life. Everyone is always searching for “balance” so planning for balance from the start is a great idea!
Nancy Dobbins says
Thanks Michele (and Kathy) for this great post.
I have been thinking about planning, setting a course so to speak, and actually wrote about this myself this week in my blog! It’s easy, as you say, to sail aimlessly through life and let the currents take control. But it is far better to have a destination in mind and use some “navigational aids” to help you get there.
And, I had to giggle about SMART goals – had enough of those in teaching and am glad to trade them in for SMART Living 365!
Hi Nancy, as someone who loves to sail, I appreciate your navigation analogy. We all have a bag of tools we can use to navigate our lives, especially if we see the bigger picture of who we want to be and what our lives could be. I find it really sad when people just drift along and then struggle to find happiness. I hope your navigational aids serve you well in 2019!