Every so often my brain kicks into overdrive as I evaluate where I was, where I am, and where I am heading. This is where I have been this week. For many years I have kept an ongoing list of things to do before I die, and things I have already accomplished. These lists are sometimes in my head, but often written down in little notebooks that end up all over my house. I love to plan. I love to think strategically about how I will get from where I am to where I want to be. I keep 1 year, 3 year, and 5 year plans in the back of my head. These are my goals. I work towards them. I make progress, and I fall back, and I readjust my goals to real life. For the most part, I know where I am and where I want to be, and what it will take to get there.
There are goals for every aspect of my life (marriage, kids, education, career, finances, etc.). These goals include giving my children the best possible education and opportunities for the future that I can, but do not stop with my children, or my husband. It saddens me to think back at when I was so wrapped up with raising kids that I could not see past the toddler stage. But honestly, there was a time in my life when my only priority was making sure dinner was on the table and diapers were changed. Maybe it is because I am getting older and my kids are getting older, but as much as I want to devote to raising intelligent, productive kids into productive adults, that is not all. At the end of the day there has to be something left of me in order to draw the energy to keep going. One of the ways that I try to balance "me" in my attempt to not forget who I am or why I am here, is setting goals. It is so easy for me to get lost in the day to day activities of life.
But, before I could set goals and work to accomplish them, I had to understand the difference between a goal and a pipe dream. I know a lot of people with pipe dreams. I had a lot of them, for many years. For me a pipe dream is like a wish on a star. It is something that would be really nice, and I would like to get there, but it is either 1) not realistic, or 2) I talk about it but don't bother to make the effort to accomplish it. On the flip side, goals are 1) measured by a set of priorities, and 2) something I actively work towards.
Goals are different for everyone. If I ask 100 different people what their highest goals in life are, I would wager I'd get 100 different answers (that is not a scientific statistic, just my opinion). I would also guess that many people would confuse day to day tasks with life goals. When I look at individuals and how they invest their resources, their goals and the value they place on their priorities shine through.
Over the years, I think I have gotten better at determining the difference between my own pipe dreams and life goals. I don't want to be one of those people who looks back a hundred years from now and realize I squandered the time I had. Of all the resources at my disposal, some are for now and some are to be developed for future use. These resources include but are not limited to: time, money, education (formal and life lessons), relationships, inspiration and creativity.
So how do I measure my goals to make sure they are realistic and worth working towards? First and foremost I have to set those priorities. The one true measure of any goal or priority in my life is whether or not it will glorify God. Everything I do in this life, I want for His glory instead of my own. This focus will automatically eliminate a lot of pipe dreams that just aren't worth my time and energy thinking about. This also eliminates my need to make others happy or be what someone else determines I should be. I cannot be responsible for anyone else's happiness. Besides, happiness is fickle, it comes and goes depending on the environment and situation at the time. Life is full of ups and downs and spending precious resources trying to be up all the time or keep others up is just a huge waste of my time and energy. There is a better alternative to happiness, it is called peace, and it can only come from the God who created us. John 14:27 (NIV) states "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives." This kind of peace holds firm int he middle of a storm. This is the peace that promises spring after a long harsh winter. This is peace that comes from surrender to something greater and bigger than oneself.
So, after setting goals that I can realistically accomplish, I have the responsibility to work towards them. Remember part 2 of the goals? If I don't actively work towards it, it is only a pipe dream. Settling for the status quo just isn't me. Just because things have been done a certain way in the past doesn't mean that I have to continue to do them that way. If the current path and daily tasks aren't moving me towards a specific goal, it is time to 1) re-evaluate if the goal is still worthwhile, and if so 2) change the daily tasks onto a path that leads to the goal. This is where I tend to get stuck and extremely frustrated. I see where I am, how far away from the goal I am, get frustrated, and the lazy side of my brain whispers that I have to give up on my goals. Wake up call, little voice. If the goal is still worthwhile, I change the tasks, and I can still achieve the goal.
Many times over the years I've changed my timetable of what I think I should have already accomplished. But, I am making progress. There are a lot of things that I have already completed, and many more still to be done. So this week I have spent evaluating where I was, where I am, and where I want to be.
Am I exactly where I want to be? No, but I am moving in that direction.
Can I see where I want to be? Oh yes.
Is it realistic? I think so.
Will it satisfy everyone else around me? Nope, but oh well.
Will it honor and glorify God? I think so.
Will it contribute to raising these kiddos into intelligent, articulate, contributing members of society? I think so.
Is it worth investing my resources into it? Yes.
Am I stuck wishing on a star for a pipe dream, or waiting for someone else to do it for me? Not anymore.
This is me. I am still becoming. And if you made it to the end of this rediculously long, rambling post, congrats. I wish for you a clear set of your own goals and the energy to accomplish them.