Setting goals worth working for
Have you ever worked hard for something and felt unsatisfied once you had achieved your goal? Sometimes "success" isn't what we expect...or what we really want. There's tons of information out there influencing our perception of success: family, friends, media, culture, spirituality; we recruit a multitude of sources when we form the expectations and standards to which we hold ourselves.
Most of us are aware that our culture shapes our definition of success. In some ways, conforming is healthy and protective. We learn how to function socially, solve disputes without violence, and utilize the skills necessary to support ourselves and our families. As we mature, however, it can become difficult to differentiate between culturally-motivated standards (those that we model after social norms) and internally-motivated (those that reflect our personal needs and wants).
Working towards a goal should energize and excite you...not leave you exhausted or discouraged.
Leading up to the 8 month deployment of my husband, I realized that I would need to work on this. I clarified and prioritized the things that I would need to do in order to look after myself (if you missed this blog, read it here), and then chose the most important ones and turned them into well-crafted goals (tips on this can be found here).
Now that the deployment is finished, I realize that there was another powerful step that helped keep me on track where goals alone may have failed. Prior to deployment, my coach and I came up with a vision of what my ideal deployment would look like. This vision took time and effort to develop. I had to critically look at everything in my life and carefully design what I thought would be the best possible outcome. I realized that success for me meant staying true to my prioritized needs and leaving more culturally-driven wants, like weight maintenance and professional success, out of the picture. It wasn't that these things weren't important to me, it was that succeeding in these areas would not keep me and my family happy and healthy. I also knew that working towards a goal should energize and excite you, not leave you exhausted or discouraged; and exhausted and discouraged was exactly how I imagined I would feel if I made weight and professional success priorities over those 8 months of deployment.
I now know that this was the right path to take. I did gain a few pounds and lose fitness; I did leave my professional life on the shelf a bit more than I'd like. But these temporary setbacks feel immaterial when juxtaposed with the successes I had in keeping my emotional self strong and satisfied, and my children cared-for and resilient in a one-parent household. This sense of satisfaction confirms for me that I chose the right focus, and my "recovery" following deployment has been smoother than it would have been otherwise. I can now revisit my priorities from a healthy place, and take on new goals and priorities, such as improving my fitness (and deal with those few pounds) and investing in my career.
Everyone will have different priorities, and these will likely change with time. I encourage anyone anticipating an experience like the deployment of a spouse to take the time to clarify what success looks like. By focusing on the positive (what you want, not what you are afraid of losing) and making this vision compelling and personal, you will feel a stronger sense of control over your experience, and you will be more likely to stay strong and dedicated to the goals you set.