I truly believe that goal setting is an important part of life. I think it helps bring us a feeling of fulfillment, teaches us about the flexibility of our limits and helps us conquer our fears, one little bit at a time. I know, because I spent a lot of my life just allowing life to “happen” to me, and basically living in fear. I didn’t set any personal goals for a long time. I set family goals and work related goals, but those goals were ones that helped me just get through the day and didn’t allow me the opportunity to experience and enjoy life. For example, my goals were basically my “to do list” and it was filled with items like, make the beds, do the laundry, and make doctors’ appointments. These were just the kinds of things that were going to repopulate my list again tomorrow, and were not goals that were helping me live an enjoyable life. For the most part, my life was drudgery and I was living from one “to do” list to the next.
I was overwhelmed with 3 small children, one with special needs, and a marriage that was coming apart at the seams. In some ways it was a lofty goal to just make it through the day without falling apart. That clear comforting “to do” list helped me keep it together, but it also kept me distracted from truly experiencing anything in life. I was busy tidying up and I missed the opportunity to marvel at the small hand prints on my windows. I wiped them up too quickly. I was busy driving back and forth to therapy with my son so I put a babysitter in charge of my daughter so I didn’t have to bore her with sitting in waiting rooms with me, and I missed her joy and laughter when I probably needed it the most. I was too busy checking off the stuff to do, and I missed so many opportunities to enjoy life.
As my marriage was surely ending, I realized my family was just barely surviving. I woke up one day, and like the scene from the Jack Nicolson movie, I asked myself, “What if this is as good as it gets?” And I shuddered at the thought that this might be all there would be to my life. So my “to do” list changed. I started adding silly things. Like “lift the shades up in the morning” or “turn on the radio.” Small things that I hoped would add some lightness into my home and into my heart. Those silly little things set me on a road to start thinking about what life would be like if I had some goals for myself, not just “to dos.”
So my first goal was to create joy in my family. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that. I was prone to burst out in tears when something reminded me of my once intact family, and just about everything reminded me of that, try getting through a TV show or even go out shopping without seeing happy smiling families. It sucked. But it dawned on me that to create joy in my family, I had to create some joy in myself. Two friends said they were running the Beauty and the Beach Run™ and told me I could do it. I didn’t believe them, but thought I really had nothing to lose. The whole running thing was foreign to me. I didn’t have any good experiences running. I certainly didn’t see myself as a runner or an athlete at all. I was the overweight kid that always got picked last. But I knew I needed something that was going to have me shift the lens of my life off of the things on my revolving list and set me up for goals I could reach. I knew if I accomplished something that I thought I couldn’t it would give me an incredible boost.
I learned so many things in training for this race that ended up transferring to life lessons and that ultimately, transformed my life. I learned about taking small steps with my running goals and with life goals. Of course, I couldn’t run 5 miles right away, but I understood how I could build on that and each time I trained I could run a little farther, or a little faster. I could do this with almost anything I put my mind to.
I learned I was valuable and I could feel fulfilled in my life. Just training for a race gave me the opportunity to create space just for me and that was fulfilling in and of itself. You see, I always stayed away from doing things for myself because of that dirty “S” word. You know the one: “selfish.” You can’t help anyone else unless you help yourself so I redefined my notion of selfish. I learned that on a flight one day when they reminded me to “put the oxygen mask on yourself and then on your child or person who needs assistance.” Of course, that makes perfect sense!
I learned you really can make time if you figure out your priorities and base them on what you value the most in your life. I had always used the excuse that I didn’t have enough time. Well, I think women are pretty darned creative. It really didn’t take as much time as I thought it would to train; I ran 3 times a week and it worked pretty well. Also, the most amazing thing happened with my family. They started cheering me on and asking if they could help out around the house. They wanted to help me create space in my life so I could run. My kids were so jazzed up about my running that they even told me I should run a marathon. I told them they were crazy. *
My kids believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. I went from having a family that was barely surviving to a family that was working together on mutual goals and they were even supporting my goals! I still have a “to do” list, but sometimes I make choices. Today, I chose to write this piece instead of focusing on my “to do” list. I can also creatively delegate some things to my kids! It’s a win-win. They get to step up and learn a little bit about life responsibilities and I get to write.
I wasn’t kidding when I said this race saved my life. I think I would have continued to grow unhappy in my life and would have become disconnected from my children. Setting this one goal not only changed my beliefs about what I could accomplish but, in how I could live a more balanced life.
I hope you will find time for yourself today and every day. I hope you put yourself on the top of your “to do” list. I think the people who love you and are counting on you would love to that, too. This has taught me more about myself and has helped me create stronger and deeper relationships in my life. It is simple and it’s easy. Just start somewhere. Now, go ahead, write a goal down. I would love for you to share it with me, too.
Toni Genovese, LCSW, CPT-NASM, CPC
Strong at the Core LLC
Health & Wellness Coaching
*I actually did go on to run a marathon 3 years later and I thank my kids all the time for believing in me. They say that I believe in them and they are happy to show me what my support means to them.