Foundation is Important
A few months after quitting my job to become a stay at home mom, I noticed that I felt a loss of a part of my identity. I was no longer “Rachel: Team Leader, Problem Solver, Colleague, Employee, Boss Lady”- I was now viewed as “Rachel: Sam’s wife, Sawyer’s Mom”. As many parents who decide to become stay at home parents will tell you – loss of identity becomes a huge issue that most of us will face after deciding to trade a career for being a stay at home parent. In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with PART of my identity being “Sam’s wife, Sawyer’s mom”, but when my WHOLE identity rested fully upon the identities of other people, I knew something had to change.
Knowing who you are on a foundational level as well as knowing where you want to go is integral. It gives your life meaning and purpose – a roadmap. Yogi Berra once said “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else”. While I’m not here to tell you who you are or what you should be– no one can take that journey for you but you- I can tell you it’s very important for you to take time to unpack the question of who you are and where you are going.
A Note on Discipline vs. Will
The next thing you need is discipline – or the strength of character to get you where you are going. Disciplin
e is defined as control gained by enforcing obedience or order. Now, I’m not suggesting that you have to find out everything about yourself before working on discipline – far from it, but your identity and will help determine the direction you will go. Notice I didn’t say that the next thing you needed was will power. Dallas Willard, an American philosopher, celebrated for his writings on Christian spiritual formation, often stated that the will has no power of its own. A will is only a desire or wish. So, when it comes to trying to achieve anything through will power, you are really trying to do something by wishing it into existence… you can’t do it. A will is important but not powerful. At all.
Your will can only be actualized through having the discipline to make it happen. Discipline requires making habits and reinforcing them again and again and again until it becomes second nature and a part of your character. If you have the will to raise chickens (so you can have fresh eggs), but not the discipline to feed, water and clean the chicken coop; the only thing you will have is dead chickens. Not only does discipline help you to not have dead chickens, it also helps you to build fortitude. Fortitude gives you the strength to get back up when life knocks you down – and it will knock you down. Hard and repeatedly. Most of us lack discipline in so many areas but the good news is setting goals can help with that.
Why Set Goals?
Goals are ideas coupled with forethought, planning and conviction. In other words, goals are (hopefully) well thought out and rational plans to achieve a desire of your will. Many people I know use the word “goal” interchangeably with “wish” (#relationshipgoals) but that’s missing the mark. A goal isn’t a wish or something you strongly desire; it’s the first step to turning thought into reality and while it isn’t discipline, it’s the key to creating discipline. To put things more metaphorically, if your will is a direction in which you are going then discipline is your vehicle and goals are your road map. If you really want to want to wake up earlier, learn to play an instrument, raise chickens, or travel the world then you need a #goal, my friend.
Why Do Moms need Goals?
Goals are not just a tool for board room executives and college students. Mamas NEED to have goals in their lives. In the past 3 weeks I have had six mothers tell me “I just don’t plan or set goals anymore. What’s the point? They’re going to fall through anyway.” Yes. I know. Its frustrating. Your kid didn’t take a nap (so there went your exercise hour), and now she is crying hysterically because she wants cheese for dinner and so you are numbly making mac and cheese instead of the healthy dinner you were planning because ANYTHING is better than the constant whining. Been there.
But what I didn’t realize then was that all of that was an opportunity to introduce self-control into our lives and make us better people for it. William James, the father of modern psychology, maintained that developing the will through self-discipline (like goal setting) not only made your character stronger but gave you the fortitude to stand when those around you would crumble – and mamas, we cannot afford to crumble. There is a saying that goes “There is no manual to life, but there is a mom.” Cute. Catchy. However, there is a grain of truth to this. Your hopelessness teaches your children that life is hopeless. My aim is not to mom shame, only to point out that more than ever our children need us to be strong and to model to them how to be strong themselves.
When setting goals as a new mother (or a mother new to setting goals), recognize that you will need to start small initially. Set small achievable goals to help build confidence in yourself such as getting out of the house once a week for a month to meet with a friend for coffee or taking a walk with your child three times per week for a month. These initial goals don’t necessarily have to have a greater end – they are just to get you used to setting and achieving goals. Try to make sure these goals have relatively short end dates so that you can celebrate your accomplishments.
Specific – Define the goal as much as possible making sure to answer the questions who what and where. Example: “I want to get my Master’s degree in education at the University of Colorado by 2022.”
Measurable – How many/much? Will you know when you have achieved your goal? For example, “I want to lose weight by 2020” is not very measurable. A better goal would be “I want to lose 25 pounds by 2020”.
Attainable – Can you realistically achieve this goal. This is a hard one. Know your strengths but also know where your limitations are. If your goal is to become an astronaut by the end of the year but have not had any advanced science or math courses, your goal is not very attainable. This is an extreme example but just remember not to make your goals too easy but not out of reach either – you’re only hurting yourself if you do so.
Relevant – Is this goal actually important to you and your larger goals and does it fit in with your life right now? If your goal is to speak Mandarin fluently but you don’t have any plans to go to China, have no Chinese friends with whom to speak with and you only want to learn it because you heard it was the most difficult language to learn – do you actually want to invest the time and energy it takes to learn a language fluently?
Timely – Make sure you set time frames on your goals but not just any time frames – time frames that make you sweat a little. The goal is to have to manage your time wisely in order to achieve the goal. In most cases, losing 5 pounds does not take a year to do, that may be better suited as a 1 month or 2 month goal.
Once you have a few broad long term goals set, its nice to break them down into manageable parts. Just like you wouldn’t expect to eat a 20oz steak in one bite, its silly (and maybe even dangerous) to not break down your long term goal into smaller parts. Personally, I go as far as to set monthly, weekly and even daily goals for myself – viewing each new day as a new opportunity. Others prefer to stop at weekly or monthly as it provides some additional flexibility for when things don’t go according to plan- and they will, especially if you don’t have some sort of organizational system in mind. This brings me to my next point….
Having a planner or notebook dedicated to your goal setting and dreaming is a very useful tool. If used daily, they can keep you on task and help you to do more than what you could ever do on your own. They also help me remember things I have planned for the week. Mom brain is real, y’all. Keeping tiny humans alive takes up so much space in our brains that we need to write it down. Somewhere. Anywhere. Just write it down.
A lot of moms like to use Google Calendar and Cozi which are great (free!) tools and allow easy sharing between family members and friends. Others enjoy making bullet journals or keeping a diary. Some love planners. I love all these methods for different reasons, but, for goal setting, I love a good planner (I am a stationary junkie).
My current favorite is the Panda planner which is broken down in monthly, weekly and daily bites. It also has the goal section broken down further into Personal, Work, Family/Friends and Relationship goals as well as spots to reflect on your monthly, weekly and daily wins and how you can do better. Yes, you can easily duplicate this in a variety of other journals/planners BUT because I only have so many hours in a day, I like that its already done for me. The planners also come with access to free classes that help you to effectively use the planner and set goals for yourself. To get yours, click the link below:
Communicating your Goals
Communication is key for your goals. Your partner, family and friends can be a wealth of support for you as long as you communicate how when and where you need support. Your children – especially older children, will love to be a part of your goals. Make sure to break down the parts of your goal to your children, communicate the “why” with them and include them when possible. For example: “I would like to have a garden this year so that we can begin to be healthier and have tastier food. To do this, I am going to have to spend a few hours outside every day to water and weed our garden. Would you like to help me turn the dirt and plant the seeds this afternoon?”
Your friends and family may have been in your shoes before and can offer helpful advice and support where you need it. My next-door neighbor, who is also a close friend, found out about my health goals and happens to be an instructor at a gym. She volunteered to help me kick my butt on Monday and Tuesday mornings and helps me keep my daughter entertained while I exercise. It’s much more fun and I feel so much more supported and able to do it than if I was doing it alone.
- Schedule your day and review often
- Use exercise as a tool to jumpstart your motivation – a ten-minute walk can do wonders for your mindset and attitude.
- Plan Ahead on your daily chores and tasks to save time – meal plan, set aside time for prep work to save yourself time – there’s nothing more discouraging than making a plan for a goal and then getting bogged down by the laundry monster.
- Do what you can do. I constantly have to remind myself that my first job is to be a mom and that sometimes I’m not going to be able to do It all. Give yourself and your family grace.
- Plans fall through. Have a plan B for “Mad Chaos” days and be flexible. Your hour morning yoga workout may have to be cut to a 10-minute afternoon mommy daughter dance workout because your kid woke up early and cranky.
- Recognize and celebrate your wins with your kids, even if they are small.
- Take advantage of nap or quiet time. Quiet time for my family is from 1-4. That means no TV, no internet videos, and if my daughter isn’t taking a nap, she is engaged in quiet, individual play.
- Have fun! Make your goals a game. Compete with yourself or others. During the summer my husband and I would compete with friends for most steps taken.
What are your best tips for setting and achieving goals? What are some of your roadblocks? How did you overcome them? If you liked this article, make sure to hit the star button and share away!
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