Goal Reoriented

Why it’s just as important to understand your goals as to meet them.

A few months back, I experienced a profound family loss. This setback added to the stress and sadness of living the past year in a state of near-constant alarm and roiling turmoil. As a result, I began to slide into a two-step feeling of narcissistic hopelessness:

(1) I was being singled out to suffer; and

(2) there was nothing I could do about it.

Of course, this was not close to the truth. If anything, my personal situation, while painful, has not only been experienced by countless others during this trying and tragic year, but pales in comparison to what so many have experienced and endured.

Still, I could not deny what I was feeling. Nor could I let it fester and root. I knew it was important to stop this psychological descent and climb back up to the emotional high ground where acceptance and gratitude flourished. But how?

Well, to start, I put my mind to the problem. I asked, and tasked, myself to answer this question: How can I feel better in the moment so the feeling is sustained for the long-term?

And then I waited.

You see, experience has shown that once I ask the right question, always the most difficult and the most important part of my process toward positive change, the answer will eventually come. I just need to be patient — to not dwell on it, to trust that my subconscious will work on the query and send up to my consciousness the results when the time is right.

This happened a few nights later, right before bed. I keep a journal on an end table, and when the information arrived I picked it up and a pen and jotted down the following:

What I need to do each day

Trust in God

Be Brave

Be Loving

Work Hard



Keep My Word

I felt a release as soon as I finished. It felt right. I closed the journal and closed my eyes and went to sleep.

The next morning, upon waking, I reviewed the seven goals I jotted down. And then I went about the business of living and doing my best to meet these goals.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum, as the joke goes. Since that first morning, I have done the same thing upon rising: reviewed my goals, as a way to reassert my intentions. And at night, before bed, I do the same, to see how I did.

But what I am realizing, is that while these seven goals remain the same on paper, they are constantly changing within me. For example, working hard might one day mean making multiple phone calls to clients, while another day it might mean shutting down the phone and computer and meditating on an issue. Being loving might mean reaching out to someone I knew was having a tough time, or setting out bird food before a storm. Trusting in God might mean letting go of worry or concern for what can’t be controlled, or welcoming the worry and concern as normal and helpful to my being.

And so on and so on. The more I focused on meeting my goals, the more I learned what they really were. And what I am learning is that like me, my goals are ever-changing. They evolve as I evolve. And they are helping me to evolve.

So my goal now is to become “goal reoriented.” Not someone who places emphasis on achieving a goal, but understanding it. As such, I recently wrote down a new list in my journal:

Trust in God — What does this mean to me?

Be Brave — What does this mean to me?

Be Loving — What does this mean to me?

Work Hard — What does this mean to me?

Read — What does this mean to me?

Write — What does this mean to me?

Keep Your Word — What does this mean to me?

I’m looking forward to the answers as they arise. Which, of course, will change and bring new questions.

That is life.



Originally published at https://goodmenproject.com on December 16, 2020.



John McCaffrey is a writer and a director at a nonprofit mental health treatment and training center in NYC. jamccaffrey.com

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John McCaffrey

John McCaffrey is a writer and a director at a nonprofit mental health treatment and training center in NYC. jamccaffrey.com