Following the end of a long relationship with my daughters father about 10 years ago I was in a pretty desolate place. Since childhood I had always tried to do the right thing and always think of others. I had done what was expected of me as a woman, a daughter, and now as a mother. I felt betrayed and abandoned. I had given up dreams to preserve a failing relationship for the sake of my daughter. Luckily I had a “boss” that was more like a mentor, who told me two life changing things. First was that when a tiger shows you his stripes believe them and they cannot change those stripes. Second was that one of the best gifts a mother can give her children is a mother who is truly loved. Recently I have seen another version of that which says, the best thing a mother can give her children is a woman who loves herself.
I had to really give thought to what these words of wisdom meant to me. At the time I was lost without the relationship. I had no idea what to do with my daughter as a single mother. I had limited money, time and resources. The first baby step I took was simply going to the library. This was a time before YouTube, Audible and unlimited eBooks. My daily commute was approximately two hours before and after work depending on the traffic. I decided I could “read” more books while driving than I could after work while caring for my child. Trying to think outside the box, I perused the self-help section of the library and came across numerous audio books I could listen to in the car. After listening to the first book, which was more of a way to use my time wisely (since I really did not know what to do with my new “single” time), I found that some of the easiest ways to make major changes in your life started with organization and setting goals.
As I had mentioned I had given up a dream to the detriment of myself, but to foster the relationship. I wasn’t forced to do this, it was something I had chosen. That dream was to become a nurse. I had completed all the prerequisites and then quit when I became pregnant. The audio book suggested that I start small. While the book had numerous tips and suggestions, this was the tip that resonated with me and still does to this day. When I get in a funk, feel depressed or lack motivation, I put this tip into practice. I have so much confidence in this, that I currently recommend this to my patients. The book said something to this effect, set three small goals a day, three larger goals a week, three even larger goals a month and three big goals a year. These goals can stand along or contribute to the next level of goals.
Due to the lack of money, my biggest goal of the year was definitely going to be to get back into school and complete my degree in nursing. That was really the only goal I could think of. I found it difficult to create smaller goals. As I continued to listen to the audio book, it made note of the difficulty people have when trying to set goals. When it suggested to start small, the example the book used was to just set a single goal for the following day, such as getting a cup of coffee. I am not a coffee drinker, but I got the gist of what the book was getting at. This was something attainable! I wanted my first “small” goal to contribute to my largest goal and thought the simplest thing I could do was to make a phone call. That step changed my life. During that phone call I found out that I no longer needed one last piece of the puzzle to get on the waiting list for the nursing program, I could simply complete the application and boom! Wow…all the time wasted…for nothing.
Looking back I had wasted so much time and mental anguish putting things off and dragging my feet because of fear, lack of motivation and letting daily life prevail over long term goals. Once I got better at setting goals and was able to start checking things off my list, I felt a real since of accomplishment. Today I am an RN at a world renowned rehab facility that helps people with trauma, addiction and psychiatric conditions. When patients come to me flustered and unable to get through the night and dreading the following day, I suggest we set small goals. I do explain that these goals can turn into bigger goals and run down the entire concept, but in the moment a single goal for the night and three small goals for the following day will do. Setting goals gives you something to focus on and shift any negative energy into something positive. It takes times, as anything does to get good at setting goals and following through. I remind them not to “beat themselves up” if they do not reach their daily goals. Each day is a clean slate to start again, however, the more you can accomplish today, but faster positive changes will happen.
Use your resources- You do not have to have all the money in the world to make changes in your life. The library gives you access to not only books, but the internet as well. Talk to friends, family or people on refutable online forums for support and additional information.
Think outside of the box- As the teacher used to say, “put your thinking cap on.” If you want to make real changes, you need to consider the things you have control over and that starts with getting real about your current situation and what things you can do to make a change. Be open-minded.
Think about goals- Start from the beginning. What did you want to be as a child? What is your current struggle? What do you already have? What do you need? What do you want? There are also many books and websites available that will help you find your passion.
Set small goals- Practice setting goals. Set 1-3 goals daily. These goals do not have to be by any means meaningful or Earth shattering, just something attainable. As mentioned above, you could set a goal to get a cup of coffee or make a phone call. Other small goals could be as simple as reading a chapter of that book, watching a documentary, doing research online, taking a well needed bubble bath. The possibilities are endless and each thing you accomplish gets you closer to setting bigger goals. Don’t forget to cross everything you do get done off your “list” and feel good about what you have achieved.
Set bigger goals- These can be as minimal as buying that new TV you promised your spouse or changing careers completely. The big goals still must be something you believe to be attainable. These should be things that cannot necessarily be accomplished in a day or month, but over time. You can set your smaller goals to compliment a bigger goal as well, i.e. saving $100 a month towards that TV. If you have never heard of SMART goals, now is the time to do some research on that and incorporate the concept into your goal setting. I hope to include a post on SMART goals in the future. For now, check out this video.
Start completing those goals- Start with completing a small daily goal. Write a list of goals if you need to and cross off everything you complete. Seeing the proof that you are getting things done tends to cause a snowball effect that will encourage you to keep going and continue setting bigger and better goals. Once you start accomplishing goals, it will be a good way to shift any negative energy you have into taking steps to changing your life by focusing on goals and using the energy you would have wasted on negative things and using it to get you to the next level in your life.