Goal Setting: A Lesson in Divorce and Life

December 21, 2016


Previously published on Medium.


I’m a goal-setter. I’m one of those people that strongly prefers to have annual performance reviews, mid-year check-in and weekly touch-bases. I write everything down; I document all the details. I set goals at work and goals in life. Long and short term goals, I set them both. And yes, they are SMART goals.


The benefit is simple—to see progress. So often in life the weeks, months, and years fly by. Circumstances change—where you live, where you work, what your salary is, who you are dating, and so forth. It’s easy to have our goals get lost in the reality of every day life and the circumstantial changes. Truth is, if we aren’t documenting our goals and keeping them top of mind, then we are setting ourselves up for failure.


A short example: Just over three years ago when I had just left my husband and filed for divorce, I started dating. Any women who has been divorced or left a long-term relationship understand the shit-show that follows. This wasn’t just dating for any normal woman. I had been with my husband for 8+ years, since I was 21 years old, and I had never been on an adult date in my life. Sorry, but college dating just doesn’t compare. The “I’m 30+, have a career, my own interest (aka running), and no, I don’t really care what music you like” dating is very different. Needless to say, I was fumbling. I had no idea how to assess who I was dating, no idea where to go, no idea what to wear. I was seriously lost, and losing myself in the process.


Thankfully, I have some amazing friends that have no problem calling me out when my behavior becomes questionable. I was at dinner with friends wherein I was updating them on my miserable dating experiences. The guy that within 10 minutes of hearing him talk I wanted to rip my ears off, but didn’t know how to leave. But maybe I should go on a second date? There was the guy that I met at the wine bar I frequented. He was incredibly nice but we couldn’t have been more opposite. But maybe I should keep trying because he was nice. Nice is really important, right? My friend Tim stopped me mid-story and asked a pointed question. “What type of woman do you want to be?”


I was caught off-guard, and truthfully had no idea how to answer him. It wasn’t that I hadn’t thought about it from time to time, but I certainly hadn’t been making a conscious effort to self-improve. He told it didn’t matter who the guys were. What mattered most was the type of woman I wanted to be. The next man in my life needs to be composed of qualities that innately help me be a better woman (and vice versa for whoever he may be). Tim told me to make a list of the qualities I want to have, write them down, and keep it with me. Before I made any decision regarding a date, or anything else for that matter, I was to pull out my list and make sure that the decisions I made were reinforcing the type of woman I wanted to be.


I took his idea and made the list. Over the next year I frequently pulled out “The Type of Woman I Want to Be” list and checked-in on the decisions I was making. I even made a “The Type of Man I Want to Marry” list. No one is perfect, and achieving goals is never a straight line. It took me another year and half of fumbling through bad relationships and the world of online dating. Regardless of set-backs, my lists saved me from a ton of bad dates and potential horrible decisions. I still made some pretty bad ones, but my list saved my ass many, many times.


It’s been nearly four years since I wrote those lists, and I still have them. I still have my annual birthday goal’s list that I set every year, and every new year’s goal list since the first time I wrote one. I was 19 years old on a train to San Francisco and scribbled my goals for the future in the back of a bible I never actually read. Man, how life progresses.


Call them goals, a to-do list, or your personal annual review, the benefit of writing down what you hope to achieve is proven to drive success. Just check out the study highlighted on NPR.


No two people are the same, and no set of goals are the same. We’ll maybe the “lose 5lbs goal” that every woman has. There are many was to categorize and structure your goals. After many years of goals-setting, here are a few categories I recommend setting goals in and tracking.


Here’s to a year of growth and positive change!


Finance: What do you want to achieve financially next year? Do you want to save a certain amount of money? Increase your retirement savings? Improve your credit rating?


Work: What do you want to achieve in your work next year? Do you want to change your title? Increase your salary? Improve your relationships with internal team members? Establish better workflows?


Health: What do you want to do to take better care of yourself next year? Run a race (yes!)? Workout a specified number of days a week? Start a certain training plan? Go to bed at 10pm every night?


Family/Relationships: How do you want to improve your relationships next year? Do you need to contact your friends more regularly? Be more attentive to the needs of others? Call home every Sunday? Set aside date-night time regularly? Commit to having a babysitter once a month so you can spend quality time together?


Hobbies: What are your passions and how do you want to grow them next year? Do you need to sign up for a program to increase your knowledge? Commit time every week to improve? Take a photography/cooking/floral design/gardening class?


Travel: (This is a priority for me, but may not be for everyone): Where do you want to travel and experience next year? Camping in a new place? See a new national park? Experience a foreign country and culture?


image alex strohl

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