In my last entry, I wrote about the importance of setting goals for gifted elders. This is especially important for those who find themselves in the midst of a transition from a busy professional life to a more relaxed agenda that retirement offers. Allow me to share a personal example. As some of my readers know, I recently completed a major goal that I set for myself when I retired. I returned to university and began a new course of study in Clinical Psychology. Having completed all requirements for the MA, I am currently awaiting temporary licensure as a Licensed Psychological Associate. The completion of this major goal gave me pause for reflection regarding what other goals are on my “dream list.” These become my long-term goals.
I spent an afternoon a few weeks ago thinking about goals and what amount of time might remain for me to achieve them. In view of the fact that during the past year many of our good friends and colleagues have passed on, it was a sobering reflective experience to realize that I too might pass at any time. At most, I have a couple of decades remaining in my life. Thus, I tried to picture what I would like to be doing twenty years from now. The activities that came to mind were simple and, fitting with what my age will be at that time (my nineties), realistic. I wish to find myself at leisure to read, walk, and write poetry.
My fifteen-year goals were similar – reading, walking, and writing. As the years from the present into the future diminished, I added other activities. For example, within five to ten years, I plan to have published three additional books and will have walked a good portion of the Camino (see my previous blog post, Walking as a Spiritual Experience). Within three years, my psychological practice should be established; and in one year, I will have, hopefully, passed the national psychology exam, the EPPP – Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. These are my long-term goals.
My next step was to look at each long-term goal and break it down into short-term goals. Take, for example, the EPPP exam. It has eight different areas on which one is tested (e.g., Ethics, Social Psychology). Thus, it is easy to turn each of the sub-areas of the exam into short-term goals. I find it important to assign a deadline by which I will have completed studying each topic. Another vital part of goal setting is considering deadlines as sacred.
Therefore, I have my long-term and short-term goals set. The next part of the process is taking each short-term goal and enumerating the action items or tasks necessary to complete the goal. These are the proximal – next step – goals or tasks. Continuing with my example of studying for the EPPP, I choose an area (i.e., Ethics), and then list the necessary tasks to completion, such as gather materials, work through the content of the materials while taking notes, studying the notes and/or flashcards, and then taking several practice tests on the topic. Then I move on to the next area of study, returning periodically to what has been previously studied to refresh my knowledge.
Gifted elders who have not made concrete plans prior to retirement, who are in residential facilities, who are in early stages of dementia, or others, may need assistance in (1) identifying and ordering their goals, (2) organizing themselves to meet their goals, and (3) acquiring adequate materials to achieve their goals. Caregivers, family, and friends can all be of assistance in helping them to set and accomplish goals. If you have a gifted elder friend in similar circumstances, spending time talking with her about her dreams for the time remaining is the first step. Afterward, following the process that I describe in this blog entry, you can be valuable in supporting your friend in planning and living joyfully over the years.
Photo: Goal Poster by EvelynGiggles on Flicker. (CC BY 2.0).