Saturday, December 13, 2008

The best-laid plans...

My last post was about what I found in my old DayTimer. So is this one, but with a different twist--this one has to do with long-term goals. I have a set of pages for long-term goal setting, and I'm actually a big enough nerd to use them. I'm a devotee of such books as Steven Covey's First Things First and Hyrum Smith's 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management (I think Becky currently has my copies of both). And I firmly believe that a goal is just a dream with a deadline. Most people think they have goals, when they really have wishes. I am a planner--I write the goals, track the progress, and take perverse pleasure in earning the check-marks next to the intermediate steps.

Last year I set two three long-term goals that didn't work out. Two relate to my struggles this year with organization and motivation. The first was to read through the Bible again (would have been the 7th time through). And the follow-through is so simple: set a daily time, get a Bible broken up into 365 daily chunks, and put in the 15 minutes a day. I've done it before, but this time I dropped the ball. Several times I tried to come back and do just a chapter a day, or just the New Testament, or just Proverbs in a month. But I just got off the rails. That's a goal that will get re-visited this year.

The second "failure" was similar in nature. I wanted to run 520 miles for the year (10 miles per week on average). This would have kept up my average for the past 10 years, and it's not really 10 mpw, it's some weeks of 0-6 miles and some weeks of 20+. But it's December and I've only logged 325, and the next two weeks aren't looking to be big ones. This goal took its first hit when I had my surgery last December and couldn't run the entire month of January. Then there were several times thereafter where I fell out of shape and had to begin again with dinky little 2-mile runs (what I call the "better than nothing" workout). I'm back to that point now. I never hit a real stride where I was getting the big numbers that balance out the slack weeks. I'm not sure what I'll do with this goal area--on the one hand I'm not so motivated to be a big-time competitive runner anymore; I think I could be happy with 3-4 runs of 3-4 miles a week and staying in just overall decent shape without "training." But part of me wants to make a comeback in my 40's (and part of me feels like now I need to run for my health in a way I never did before). We'll see.

The last one is the one that shows how little things are under our control. I laid out a careful, systematic plan to be debt-free by the end of this year, and to see our family net worth climb by a certain amount. That was based on continuing our regular contributions to retirement, paying off debt, and accelerating savings based on the budget I foresaw last December. HA! Little did I dream that we'd see $4 gas for part of the year, or that my old Chevy would give up the ghost (technically, buying the new Odyssey was a step forward in net worth because its value outweighs the debt we incurred, but adding the payment torpedoed the plan to throw all that "extra" money--even typing the word makes me give a rueful chuckle... isn't it amazing how life always seems to expand to eat up all the "extra," and then some--at other debts and savings). And of course, like everybody else, I saw every dime we saved for retirement this year, plus every dime we've ever seen in gains, plus several more nickels and dimes, wiped out by the losses in the stock market. It's not a "real" loss until we cash out in 25-30 more years, but ouch.

Regardless, I'm pleased with the past year. Better to have a plan and see it fall through than to go through life aimlessly. And as my sister and I can both testify, any plan is much better when it is carefully written in the pages of a brand-new, spotless DayTimer.

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