“Make New Year’s goals. Dig within, and discover what you would like to have happen in your life this year. This helps you do your part. It is an affirmation that you’re interested in fully living life in the year to come. Goals give us direction. They put a powerful force into play on a universal, conscious, and subconscious level. Goals give our life direction.” Melody Beattie,

This is intended to be one of my serious, perhaps even helpful, blogs on the subject of retirement. It’s a bit delayed but still well meant. This blog can be read in relation to the blog on self esteem (to come) or in its own right. The topic this time is goal setting in retirement. I have to confess I am one of nature’s born goal setters. As I’ve written elsewhere I like to be in control and setting and pursuing my goals feels, to me anyway, like a reasonable way to do this. Of course I may be kidding myself and there’s always the question of are you in control of the right areas? We may never know.

I wrote in a previous blog that, a couple or so years ago, with me working part-time, winding down, feeling my way tentatively towards retirement, I stopped setting goals for myself. Perhaps, it was a nod in the direction, mistakenly I’m now thinking, of being more relaxed, less driven as a retired person. For as many years as I can remember prior to this I had set goals at the beginning of every year. I would write them at the front of my diary (which you remember I write in every day) then check on a regular basis how I was doing. Perhaps making changes as I went along. At the end of the year I would give a rating to each goal / area and, in summarising these scores, decide on a scale of 1 to 10 what kind of year it had been. I might also then look at the knock on implications for the following year.

So I haven’t done that for a couple of years but whereas I was thinking that, as I’m retired, I don’t need goals, now I’m thinking now I’ve retired I have a greater rather than a reduced need to set goals. Of course I realise that this view will be an anathema to many retired people, that’s what we’re trying to get away from they will say. Fair enough, but the way I’m seeing it right now is that this isn’t my position. I want to avoid a retirement lived without purpose. I think I need to set some new goals.

So if that’s true then the question is how did I do this before and is this process different in retirement? In this series of blogs I’m going to write about the process as I think, at this stage, it applies to a retired person. It may be helpful to any readers to see what I actually  did, not just to write about it as an academic exercise. This is for real.

There are a number of ways in which a person can set goals. Different self-help authors make rather different suggestions. What they all subscribe to is the view that achieving high self esteem is based on setting and achieving goals. Base more life actions and  decisions on rational thinking rather than on emotions says Kevin Waitley in his book ‘The Psychology of Winning’ which looks at the area of self esteem in some detail.

A possible criticism of the self help literature on goal setting is that it lacks any clear instructions on how to do this if you want to set your goals in a broader context – a mission statement, a sense of your own values, your philosophy of life. I suggest, if goals do not have this broader context, then you are more likely to make up goals that have little lasting power. Clearly a mistake for goal setting. Similarly, the words ‘it is better if your life has a purpose’ are frequently seen but these same writings are vague to non-existent when it comes to helping you identify that purpose. For me this is the most important bit of the process.

The author I’ve found most helpful is Stephen Covey mainly in his book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’. One of my favourite activities of Covey’s, one which enables us to identify that broader context of values or purpose, is his suggestion to start with the end in mind. Imagine your own funeral! Four people stand up to talk about you, he suggests, a close family member, a friend, a work colleague and a member of an organisation to which you belong. What would you want them to say about you? The idea is that their speeches represent, in this context, the person you would like to be or those aspects of yourself now that you most like about yourself. By starting with this end, the values you hold dear, you can now work backwards to more concrete, ‘actionable’ goals. Does this work for a retired person? Judge for yourself. Based on what I would like people to say about me, these are my current ‘what I want from the rest of my life’ goals.

1. In retirement he became even more creative than he was in his career. He never stopped having ideas.

2.He built into his life a variety of pursuits, activities, goals and he maintained a genuine balance between activities

3. He continued to have a positive, caring relationship with his wife and children

4. He used his skills as a psychologist to help others solve their retirement problems

5. He continued to learn, to gain new skills

The trick is to make all these long term goals actionable in the short / medium term. Turn all, or most, of these ‘values’ into a series of ‘go dos’.

These broad ‘values’ translated into the following goals for 2014:

  1. To put my writing on a more organised, even professional basis and to try and publicise it more.
  2. To publish an Ebook and ‘lecture’ on self esteem for retired people.
  3. To continue to learn new skills – guitar playing for example.
  4. To continue to exercise regularly, e.g. taking dogs for a walk.
  5. To take regular trips – to the vineyard, to our cottage, longer UK trips, maybe abroad.
  6. To develop the vineyard, maybe make some wine??
  7. To read on a more organised basis.
  8. To listen to Radio 4 more often
  9. To engage in further research and learning as in goals 2 and 3.
  10. To maintain good relationships with those who are important to me.

Ten is a nice round number and, for this particular blog, I think that’s enough information. I hope you can see the links between what I wrote at the beginning about context and the proposed reality of the goals at the end. I haven’t set any timetables as yet. Hopefully this will come later. In my recent blog I wrote about how setting resolutions and goals might be different in retirement so I won’t go over this. This blog has described how I’ve set my goals right now, whether I’ve been as imaginative as I could be, given the context of retirement (as suggested in the resolutions blog), I’m not sure. But that’s where I am right now at the beginning of my retirement proper. Keep reading to see if I’m successful and I’ll keep writing.

2 Comments

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  1. Chris 3 years ago

    Hi Pete,
    In the hope that we might just sneak into your final goal (i.e relationships with important people) I just decided on a whim to respond.
    We would offer our acclamations to your hopes about what others would say about you in retirement plus I would offer that’ he was a grafter’.
    Maggie mentioned some of your previous blogs particularly about dogs and swimming in the canal!!!.
    I have no words of advice (Bella has destroyed all of my smugness)! but would want you and Ellen to know that we ‘feel your pain’
    Anyway give us a ring sometime
    Hope the rest of the family are well even Mrs G.
    Chris

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