Thursday, May 21, 2015


When I was growing up, no one ever told me about setting goals. I don't remember hearing that word until many years later, when leaving high school and being encouraged to set goals, such as: get a job; go to college; get married. (There might have been  other goals, and I might not have been listening.)

Sometime when I wasn't looking--happens a lot in my life--the word goal began creeping into magazine stories (and I'm not talking about hockey or soccer goals). Periodicals aimed at women, who were mainly housewives in those days, suggested we Examine Our Lives and Set Goals.

In no time at all (in retrospect Time seems to collapse into a little pile and everything appears to be yesterday)--as I say, in no time at all, the setting of goals became not merely a suggestion but a Principle of the Good Life. This is not the Good Life as regards materials objects; no, this is the Good Life that assures us that every single one of us, whatever our means/status/desires, will end up Successful.

Thought I might as well give it a try, so I read the articles, the how-to books; and after the World Wide Web came into being, I browsed articles, videos, and blogs/websites on how to improve myself.
A Worthy Goal

None of it ever seemed to apply to me. My concept of a worthy goal was along the lines of: Try not to lose my temper with the kids before they go to school. Or, make sure I leave something filling in the slow cooker for supper, when the troops come home and I'm still at school (I finished my college career while the kids were growing up). Or, get that three-inch-thick novel read for American Lit. Even something simple: wear socks the same color, not one blue and one black. Those were goals.

Over the years I learned that a Daily Goal did keep life on an even keel. Paying bills before they were due and garnered a late fee. Returning library books (another late fee proposition.) Buying groceries and refilling prescriptions before I ran out of essentials. Even if I didn't meet the goal that day, I felt better knowing I'd thought about it, considered it, reminded myself of the deadline. A daily list on a planner page is my current crutch: having a target in sight helps me keep some kind of focus. Besides, if I don’t get it done today, there's (probably) another day. (Hope has played a big part in my life. Always.)

The Never-Ending List

The 5-Year Plan, though—that’s something I could never get excited about. Not even when I was much younger and figured I had many years left to look forward to. Now, at this point in my life, so what? I may not be here in five years; if I am, I’ll figure out what I want to do. My options are more limited, due to age, health problems, and interests. Why sweat the small stuff? I've spent most of my life figuring out what I like to do, what I'm good at, and what I can let go. Now I'm just enjoying what I do.

Part of my trouble with plans is estimating how much time it takes to do...whatever. For instance: If I'd known it would take four years to finish the last two years of my college degree, would I have started the journey? Or if I'd known a Master's would take me three years, including the time I spent teaching for the university as a Teaching Assistant? There's seven years right there--two beyond the 5-year plan.

Another part of the trouble I have with plans comes with culling out the things I can let go of--if I do This, then I'll have to eliminate That. Or, which of my three or four Main Interests is tops? Which receives top priority? Which second? Clearly my life has developed, as you might suspect, into the Jill of All Trades, Mistress of None. But that bothers me less than the knowledge that I might have done one thing only, and always wished I'd done two (or three or four).

People who set goals and meet them--who make 5-year plans and follow through--they all amaze me. I simply don't get it. I keep thinking: What if the plan for the next five years doesn't pan out--then what? Or, what if I'm working toward a goal that I find I don't want after all, and I've spent five years doing something that may have no relevance for my life?

Which leads me to the Meaning of Life--this is going to be different for each of us, but my take on it goes like this: Life is a gift. We didn’t ask for it; we didn’t earn it; we didn’t order it out of a catalog; we didn’t create it ourselves. We were created and Life was breathed into us. The meaning of my life depends on what I learned growing up—what I studied in school—the people who influenced me (family, friends, teachers, co-workers, bosses)—the role of the church and my faith…all these, and much more, have brought me to the point I occupy in the universe right now.

So with this gift, what I’ve gleaned about the meaning of life is this: How can I serve? Where am I supposed to be? Who needs me and how?

I don't need a guru to help me on my way. But I do need to pay attention--look around me, listen to what's going on. And I need quiet time to reflect.

Each day I learn the answers anew.

When the sand all runs
through, you turn it over
and start again....

1 comment: