Well, we are almost done with the first month of 2022. How many New Year’s resolutions have you kept? I don’t make them anymore because I was setting myself up for failure. As I got older, I realized that Jan. 1 isn’t any different than Dec. 31, and resolutions were just a way to set a flimsy goal that should be part of my daily life anyway. You know, it’s like Weedless Wednesday (do they still have that?) You don’t smoke on that one day, but light up as soon as the clock strikes midnight.
While resolutions may not be the way to plan your life, goal-setting can help pave the way. Some people think that goal-setting stops once you retire. After all, isn’t retirement the ultimate goal? Not so. Retirement is a new phase of life and comes with a lot of opportunities. You may have to re-examine some of your goals and say goodbye to those that are no longer realistic. And who decides what is no longer realistic? You? Your friends? Family? Your doctor? Many older people are following their dreams and doing “courageous” things in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond.
“Bravery isn’t only about heroic acts in unusual situations. It can also be as simple as the risk of trying something new,” says Barbara Markway Ph.D. You can read more, including 50 ideas to get you started, in her article in Psychology Today.
And while we all won’t be like John Glenn, who at age 77 became the oldest person to go into space, or Christine Brown who at age 80 flew to China and climbed the Great Wall, we must not let age stop us from pursuing our dreams, setting goals, and making plans. Here’s a video I love that shows a 108-year-old Asian woman following her dream. She even has a TikTok channel! (That may be one of my goals for 2022…a TikTok channel. I can hear my kids groaning!)
Remember, when one door closes, another opens, and retirement is the time to barge in with eyes wide open. There may be more urgency in our goal-setting now than 20 years ago, but we also have more experience, more maturity (in some cases), and more time to accomplish things we couldn’t follow through on while in our 40s. The only thing holding you back is fear.
Those goals don’t have to be big. You can set goals for each day, week, month, year, and beyond. The important thing is simply to have them.
Why is goal setting so important? Why can’t we forget about that and drift through our days, mindlessly reliving the past, smelling the flowers, smiling up at the sun? Does it really matter? Yes, it does, if you want to live a fulfilled life. A goal is something you strive for. It gives you a purpose. Setting goals and making plans to achieve those goals has proven to be good for your health. It is also important to revisit them as time goes by.
I’m sure you will agree with me that the main goal of retirement is to have a happy and healthy retirement. Sounds good, right? Imagine that goal with lots of little goals bubbling out of it, little bubbles guiding, tickling, and nurturing you along the way. How do you figure out what those are?
I’ve never been one to journal, other than a few diaries I kept in high school (and burned a few decades later), but I do know people who journal faithfully every day. Some journal in the morning, setting goals for themselves and providing structure. Others journal before going to bed, recapping the accomplishments of the day and putting to sleep any lingering thoughts or unfinished business. Author Julia Cameron discusses Morning Pages, a form of journaling, in her book It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again.
There is a great deal of information out there about setting financial goals or making plans before retirement. There isn’t a lot about setting goals once you have retired. And really, it is impossible to know how you will feel once you stop working. Your goals may be completely different than what you thought while you were working.
Goal setting will look different for everyone, but according to experts, the first rule is to know yourself. Your goals are now personal, as you are no longer accountable to an employer. Ask yourself what you find meaningful. What activities feed your soul? And the big one: what do you want to do for the next stage of your life? Of course, the answers to these questions should take into consideration your health, your lifestyle, financial situation, and family responsibilities. But they are no longer attached to your organization/business/boss’s parameters. And they are fluid. You can change them as your situation changes.
Are you stuck? Common goals for newly retired people tend to focus on travelling, learning a new skill, joining a social group, volunteering, connecting more with friends, experimenting with art, finding a part-time job, and getting more exercise.
It may help to use the SMART strategy. How does that work?
- Specific: you know exactly what you’re supposed to do.
- Measurable: You will be able to tell when you have reached your goal.
- Attainable: you are capable of achieving your objective.
- Relevant: the goal is important to you now.
- Time-bound: your goal has a time frame.
Leon Ho, Founder and CEO of Lifehack, says “Setting goals necessitates a great deal of introspection. You can’t set strong goals without asking yourself tough questions. You’ll come out of the process with a deeper understanding of who you are and what you care about. In a world of conformity, knowing yourself is powerful. If you’re secure in who you are, you’ll make better decisions that are more aligned with your goals.”
If you are newly retired, the excitement of having time to focus on yourself may be overwhelming and trying to set goals may end up in the trash. I was never much for vision boards or vision maps when I was working, but something like that may work for you. You can find some templates here and there are some good pointers here. I found it easier to come up with one or two goals. Those goals seem to morph into a bunch of smaller ones, but that’s okay. For me, it is easier to have smaller goals to start with, otherwise, I lose focus, intent, and motivation. The language you choose while goal-setting is also important. For example, rather than saying, “My goal is to start a new home-based business.” say, “My goal is to get some advice from my friend who has a home-based business.” That breaks it down and doesn’t sound as intimidating. You could also stay with the first goal and use the smaller bubbles, looking something like this:
My goal is to start a home-based business.
- get advice from my friend who already has a business
- decide what the business will be
- develop a business plan
Whether that goal is saving money, knitting a sweater, walking further, weeding the garden, losing weight, writing a novel, etc., you need to be able to focus on one thing at a time. I can spend many hours dreaming of a goal, but when it comes to executing it, I just can’t do it. The goal is too large, and it is overwhelming. That is why I need to break things down and get them done, one step at a time. Well, maybe two steps at a time!
Margaret Manning, the founder of Sixty and Me, suggests starting with mission-based goals or re-connecting with your core values and beliefs. Write down where you want to be in one to five years. Ask yourself how you want to change your life, and think about the skills, people, and resources you will need to make those changes happen. “When it comes to strategic goals, I like to think in terms of 3-month blocks, but, you can work in 1-month periods if you want. I also try to limit myself to no more than 3-5 strategic goals at a time. Any more than this and my brain has a tendency to turn into spaghetti.” Yep, I know the feeling!
Goal setting gives you focus, motivates you, increases your confidence and keeps you accountable. Once you have those in check, you’re good to go.
Here are a few videos to check out.
Don’t Set Retirement Goals, Do This Instead!
What Goals do I set Now that I’ve Retired
The Importance of Goal Setting
How to Set Meaningful Goals in Retirement with George Schofield