This weekend as I was clearing out a drawer, I unearthed a treasure. It was a handwritten list of my life’s goals, circa 1998. When I found it, I stopped what I was doing, sat down in the middle of the room, and took a look at what I’d written. Reading the list took me on  a trip down memory lane. Both the things I’d chosen to put on this list and those I’d been afraid to put on said a lot about me at that time in my life. I’d tracked my progress with checkmarks and dates off and on over the years, but I’d lost track of this particular piece of paper for a while. That’s not to say I’d stopped pursuing the goals. In fact, I’d achieved quite a number of them since the last updating, and found myself reaching for a pencil to add a few checkmarks and dates to the page. In other instances, I wondered aloud what I’d been thinking when I’d set that ridiculous objective, and began instinctively editing the list.

In full disclosure, I’m a serial goal-setter with  handwritten and computerized lists, short-term and long-term lists, lists categorized by aspects of my life. I keep them current, adjusting them as circumstances change, or as I change. But this list, having been lost, provided a clear snapshot of a particular point in time. To  reflect the goals I hold foremost in mind today, it would need to be dusted off, edited, shaped. In fact, it’s that pruning process that I believe is central to good goal setting.

Goals are powerful tools to direct our behavior, so before we put our heart and soul into achieving them, it’s important that we ensure the goals are our OWN. That may seem obvious, but sometimes goals creep in that aren’t ours at all. There are those our parents set for us years ago, or that an ex-boyfriend casually suggested, or that our spouse thinks we should pursue. Over time, we adopt these goals which have been thrust upon us (perhaps even gently bestowed upon us) as our own and we fervently chase them. And chase them. And chase them.

It’s especially hard to achieve a goal that is not your own. The pursuit lacks passion and vigor. Your heart isn’t in it. But a goal you set for yourself? One that lines up with your interests, your beliefs, your dreams? Give you one of those and I’ll bet you’re practically unstoppable.

So, the question is, are you setting and pursuing goals? And if so, are you achieving them?

If not, it may be time to ask yourself, whose goals are they anyway? If you find that a goal you are chasing is not your own, simply get out your pencil and do a little editing. Revise it, tweak it, overhaul it completely if you must. But make sure the final version is your own. When you own the goal, you’ll own the result, and nothing will be able to stop you. Not even if the list itself is hidden away in a desk drawer for years at a time. The goal will live in YOU.

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