Here we are, halfway through 2021. You may wish we didn't ask this question, but did you make resolutions this year? Maybe you'd prefer not to think about it. We understand. Here's a secret, though: it's not too late, even if you gave up after a week. While we'll focus this post on senior goal setting, you can apply these tips at any stage of life.
Why Should Seniors Set Goals?
When many people set goals, they largely center around career. For that reason, seniors sometimes wonder why they should bother. Retired folks have come to the end of their careers, right? If that's where your mind goes when you think about goal setting, maybe it's time to consider senior goal setting differently.
As a loved one ages, it can be hard for him or her to find purpose. They've come to the end of their working lives and have finished raising their families. This brings some to wonder what's left. Unfortunately, some find themselves floundering and feeling hopeless. If you find that your senior loved one has begun down this road, you may need to help them shift their thinking. Instead of being without purpose, now they have the time to do new things and make a different kind of impact on the world! Changing their perspective on this has a huge impact on their mental health.
What kinds of goals can help motivate your loved one? The Institute on Aging makes suggestions for goals that foster these attributes:
- Health and fitness to keep your senior active and healthy.
- Family and community to stay connected.
- Personal purpose (volunteering or activism) to feel like they can still make a difference.
- Creativity to keep the mind in shape.
SMART Senior Goal Setting
How can you help your senior loved one set an appropriate goal? First of all, you want to help them set themselves up for success. The wrong goal can cause anyone of any age to become discouraged and defeated. We've all had the experience of giving up on something we started with the best of intentions. It's no fun to feel like you failed.
For that reason, help your senior set a SMART goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Instead of a general goal like "be more active", a SMART goal may be to walk for 30 minutes 3 times a week. You could also say you'll video chat with grandchildren each weekend instead of just stating that you'll connect better with your family.
Make a Plan with Small Steps
Now that you have a goal in mind, how will you achieve it? Figure out what needs to happen for you to succeed at your goal, and make a plan. It may seem cliché, but you really can achieve big things in small steps. One person who decided to go to grad school and change careers while working full time and having 3 young kids offered this advice:
"It was just a matter of persistence and planning out my daily goals. Scaffolding the small steps made everything less overwhelming and ultimately more doable."
When tasks become overwhelming, my mom used to say to put out the fire that's closest to the house. I still use that when it seems like I'll never get everything done, and I often pass that advice to others. Focus only on the fire you need to put out now, then move along to the next one.
Goal Setting with Grace
When do most people give up their goals, and why? In his book Finish, Jon Acuff has a chapter called "The Day after Perfect". That chapter talks about the curse of perfectionism. In many of our minds, if we can't do something perfectly, we give up. If you really want to achieve a goal, you WILL get off track at some point. It's what you do the next day that counts. Do you give yourself grace and start again, or do you chuck the whole thing? A friend remembered that when she was training for a 5K. In the past, getting a cold would have derailed her progress because if she wasn't able to give 100%, why should she even try? When she did get a bad cold, she gave herself permission to do what she could and got right back on track when she was able.
Regardless of the size of your goal, making progress depends on having a plan and what you do the day after you mess up. What goals do you or your senior have right now? We'd love to hear about it.
A Goal Opportunity
If your goals include making a difference, staying connected, and supplementing your income, we have the perfect solution! SHS Greater Richmond is hiring. You can click here for more information!