Goal-Setting for Gifted Elders

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Pen and Journal

     In my last post I wrote of my desire to someday walk El Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, in Spain. Since I am in my early 70’s, that is a fairly lofty goal. Yes, others in their seventh and eighth decades have done the nearly 500-mile trek. However, I am sure that they were in much better health and physical condition than I am. This brings me to these thoughts about goal-setting for gifted elders.

     In my view retirement can be a precarious time for seniors. Many look forward to the years following a life of work as a time that they will be able to do “all those things I never had time to do before.” Yet, the same individuals may look back after ten or fifteen years of retirement and realize that yes, perhaps they spent a bit more time with family and maybe they traveled a little. Nevertheless, the lofty goals they had set upon retirement remain unaccomplished and they find they cannot account for how they spent the time.

     Other retirees begin an entirely new venture in their senior years. They may choose, as I did, to return to school and retool themselves for a new type of work. Or, they may begin a business, develop their artistic talents, or pursue any number of new activities fulltime. Aging in the post-retirement years is a regenerative time for many gifted elders.

     What is the difference between the two groups? I am sure there are many variables that play into the life course of each individual and which affect one’s productivity. Nonetheless, it is my belief that, foremost among the differing factors is self-regulation.  In my book, Nurturing the Gifted Female, I wrote of the need for gifted females (and others!) to develop self-regulation – the ability to set goals, to understand how one learns and accomplishes tasks, to organize oneself in such a way to complete those tasks successfully, and the capacity to judge when one is successful in reaching goals.  Self-regulation is also an important construct in the lives of gifted elders.

     Some important self-regulation skills include organizing tasks, managing time conscientiously, efficiently planning and revising work as needed, and reflecting on and improving needed skills. The most important behavior for self-regulated individuals is, in my opinion, effective goal-setting.

     There are three facets to meaningful goal setting; namely, long-term, short-term, and proximal goals. For the young females in my research, long-term goals might represent those accomplishments that one wanted to achieve in, for example, a year, two years, or fifty years in the future. Because of age and time concerns, this process looks quite different in elderhood. In my own case, even five, ten, or fifteen-year goals are quite tentative. For all of us, our time on the planet is finite and for some of us, the finiteness of time is inexorably clear. So, how do we go about goal setting as a part of the aging process? In my next post, I will explain more about goal setting for gifted elders.

 Reference:

Navan, J. L. (2009). Nurturing the gifted female: A guide for educators and parents. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Photo: Pen and Journal, Bob AuBouchon on Flickr.com (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

One thought on “Goal-Setting for Gifted Elders

  1. Wow! I also am seventy and in the last few years have backpacked the 2600 mile long Pacific Crest trail and over 1000 miles of the Continental Divide trail – the highest and hardest of the US long distance trails with my four-years-older husband. The Camino is lovely – I have walked some of the Swiss portion and have also walked the Alpine Pass Route (border top border East to West through the Swiss Alps.) I think that you need to redo your calculations on how much time remains to you – it’s as likely 4+ more decades as 2 of healthy, productive, contributing life, especially if you actually keep physically active for several hours a day and focus on maintaining and supporting your body along with your mind and spirituality.

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