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Expert’s Advice on Goal Setting

A dart hitting the target in the center

Many seniors express feeling unprepared or scared of the future, but well thought-out goals will get you where you want to be with time to spare.

To help you on this journey is Ruth Newell, a facilitator who uses “PATH: Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope” to help people plan their future.

She works with many groups, including community clubs and special needs adults, on how to make their dreams come true.

“By beginning with the end in mind, you can achieve great things and experience unbridled success in your life,” Newell said. “Goals, once set and achieved, give a sense of accomplishment and provide a road map of where you want to go and how you plan to get there.”

However, not all goals are made the same and some are unrealistic.

“I teach starting with broad over-arching goals or ‘defining your dreams,’” Newell said. “Then, once dreams and direction are identified, bring those dreams down to specific, attainable, positive and possible goals. Date and time are assigned to each goal so they can literally be checked off a list. Goals should be clearly defined.”

A way to do this is by setting SMART — Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Time-Based — goals.

Make sure that the assigned times are realistic and that you assign goals as steps toward the bigger dream rather than the entire dream being your goal.

“By beginning with the end in mind, you can achieve great things and experience unbridled success in your life.” — Ruth Newell, facilitator of PATH

An easy way to set SMART goals is a practice called “Backwards Planning.” This is the practice of visualizing where you want to be in a certain amount of time.

“Starting with the dream or end result in mind, plan in reverse until you get to the present and what needs to get done now,” Newell said.

“The system we use is very visual,” Newell said. “When using the backwards planning method, you not only set goals, you assign a time and date to accomplish the goals and spell out the steps to get there, how it will be achieved and who will be necessary to help you achieve your goals.”

This method breaks down your goal so that you know exactly how to achieve it.

“My son, Rick, had a dream to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout,” Newell said. “His goal was to complete his Eagle by the end of May. Rick set the goal as soon as he achieved the rank of Life Scout in October. He gave himself seven months to get it done, which was optimistic and aggressive.”

According to Newell, Rick was 15 when he earned his Eagle. Utilizing backwards planning, he defined each activity necessary to get there.

Rick is also a student with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. A task that may take another scout an hour to accomplish might take Rick an evening.

Rick went on to earn seven Eagle Palms before he aged out at 18 years old. 

“Utilize others in goal setting,” Newell said. “Friends, family and others who are significant in your life can offer assistance, support and accountability.”