I’m Learning to Set Measurable Goals and Plan for the Future
“If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there,” reads the first line of a book on my kitchen table. My bosses mailed the book, “Measure What Matters“ by John Doerr, to me as a reading assignment.
My dad flipped to the first page and read that line aloud this morning, then laughed loudly in agreement. Then he purchased the audio version of the book, even before his residual laughter died down.
I chuckled along with him. There is a lot of snarkiness in the quippy line. I also recognize its truth, especially within the stodgy realm of facts and figures that is business.
As the tireless CEO of my family’s company, my dad is familiar with measurable goal-setting, cost-benefit analyses, returns on investments, and other priorities detailed in the book.
My father sees obvious truth in these future-oriented ways of thinking. I, on the other hand, do not see it easily. For most of my life, I’ve prioritized the here and now and not worried about the future.
In fact, the line by Doerr reminded me of the Carl Sandburg saying that I chose as my high school senior quote: “I’m an idealist. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.”
Laughably, the quote from the business book and my graduation quote are stark opposites. The former emphasizes planning and measuring as keys to success, while the latter prioritizes the importance of moving forward, even without an ultimate goal in mind.
These two ideas highlight the difference between my dad’s way of thinking and my own. Yet, can both of these ideas be true? Can they teach me something about being well-rounded?
For most of my life, I avoided the idea of setting goals. As the unexpected symptoms of Friedreich’s ataxia showed up and kept progressing, my predicted future plans shattered. I grimly accepted that any future goals I had for myself were moot.
Many of us with progressive conditions don’t want to think about the future. Planning or setting goals is not a priority when we can only dread the additional disabilities we will face.
So, instead of fretting over what tomorrow would bring, I only focused on each day as it came. I am thankful for that biblical mindset, as outlined in Matthew 6:34. Thinking that way gave me hope and allowed me to be happy, even when I felt utterly helpless.
Despite the comfort it brought me, I believe that philosophy is incomplete.
When I was in grad school, I was helping clear out a filing cabinet in the office when I came across a folder containing professors’ notes on student intake interviews. I found the notes from my own interview, debated not reading them, then of course I read them.
What I saw written in the notes surprised me. “No clear goals,” it said. “May need to schedule a follow-up interview.”
I almost didn’t get into grad school because of my breezy response to the question, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” Without a future plan or a way to measure it, I was completely confined to the current moment. As I closed the folder, I considered, maybe for the first time, that my inability to plan for the future was a weakness.
I’m never completely turning away from being an idealistic person, someone not overly concerned with outcomes. But I’m attempting to learn about a different way of seeing things. I’m attempting to learn to set timely and measurable goals, even though this behavior doesn’t come naturally for me.
May we all attempt to see life in a different way than we are used to, no matter how our past or our health condition has shaped us.
Now, there’s a book on my kitchen table I should probably start reading.
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