Grief Support
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Letter to Loved Ones
Author's International Work
Author's International Work
Author's International Work

Goal Setting



The Goal Setting Ladder
and making Life-time Decisions
helps avoid problems, adds balance
and fulfillment into one's life.


Any way one climbs the goal-setting ladder, goals increase accomplishments.
Set goals, live more fully, do more and have more fun !

Goal setting began for me in January 1953, after my dad had heard a talk on goal setting. He called a family meeting. It covered the regular family issues and added a challenge. He ask each family member to write down six things we wanted to accomplish during the year. Cautioned us, "Do not to talk about our goals or discuss them with anyone else." Dad explained that most people who do not set goals will speak disparagingly of the idea of using goals. He did not want us to become discouraged.

Thanksgiving weekend that year he called another family meeting. He gave us back our sealed envelopes with the goal sheets we had written earlier that year. To my surprise, every item on my list, no matter how far- fetched, had been accomplished.

I recall my first goal was to buy a horse trailer. A trailer would mean I would no longer have to ride my horse five miles into town for quadrille practice and five miles home, often in the dark. Without talking about it, somehow by October, I had saved enough money to buy a used horse trailer. But, trailers don't drive and neither do 12-year-olds. Now the problem was to find someone to pull it as my mother didn't like to drive and my dad was always too busy on Sundays. A friend on the drill team lived a bit closer to town and also had a long ride to practice. Her father agreed to haul our horses using my trailer.

Each year since 1953, I have written down my goals for the New Year.

In December that year, I had an idea about how to test this goal-setting process. I had just turned thirteen in November.

My mother was a remarkable person. I had already decided I wanted to eventually be a mother myself. I didn’t have a boyfriend and was not interested in boys. Yet, if a list helped me get to a horse trailer, maybe a list of qualities might be a handy tool for discovering a life partner and the father of my children. I had made a clear decision. I did not want to marry someone as difficult as my father. A list might be a tool worth trying to avoid a mistake. That goal-setting success of my horse trailer had impressed me.

So I made a list of the qualities I admired in people, ones that seemed important to consider as I began finding boys to be almost as interesting as horses. I used that same list of five qualities to rate the fellows I dated over the next fourteen years.

The items on the list were:

1. He is honest and understands the importance of loyalty in marriage.
2. He is willing to grow spiritually and to talk about that aspect of life.
3. He will be supportive of my and his own continuing need for education
and independence.
4. He wants to be a good father, as I know I will be a good yet unusual
5. He is fun, adventurous and has a zest for life.

As I started to date, I used the list. I decided a boy who seemed nice, and appeared to have three of the five qualities, was worth getting to know better.

After high school, I found that going out to dinner and dancing became a nice way to get acquainted. I loved to dance. Over the years I found only a few men who seem to make my rating of four. Finally one man met all five qualities. Bill was 31 and I was 26. Three weeks after our first date we married. We are now approaching our 50th anniversary.

After I married Bill, he wanted to try the goals process. We began setting goals together. It worked. When we had children, it was natural to share it with them. Before the children could read, we had them draw pictures of what they wanted to do or accomplish. Later they were able to write out their goals.

Here is how we do it:

1. Over dinner we talk about your general dreams for the upcoming year. We do this first as couple then as a family.

2. After talking generally about the new year, we make a combined list of all the things anyone wants to do during the upcoming year. (A paper bag opened out or a large sheet of paper is ideal for making this list.) Write down each hope or a dream anyone mentions. We include vacation ideas, savings goals, classes that sound interesting and intriguing events. This joint process keeps the family or group aware of each other's thinking. The thought process of each person supports others on the goal setting team. This sharing process helps combine the family hopes into a cohesive vision. It avoids everyone going off in different directions and helps the family work together as a unit.

3. Another large sheet of paper is ideal for making the framework list of Planning Areas.

  • Home
  • Family
  • Education
  • Spiritual
  • Social
  • World Citizen
  • Physical
  • Personal
  • Business

    4. Then using the list of life-planning areas, each person writes out his list. Add any personal items and wishes to the list. As we began working with goals each person put at least one idea in each category. Feel free to add ideas to your list as others talk.


    A list of Planning Areas:

  • Home: Make my bed every morning.
    ----------Keep calm inspiring atmosphere.
  • Family: Eat dinner together. Ask what was the best memory of today.
  • Education: Read a book a month and keep a list.
    ---------- ---Get A’s in my classes.
  • Spiritual: Have 10 minutes quiet time, reading, praying, meditating each day.
  • Social: Invite another family, couple or person over for dinner once a month.
  • Have lunch with a new friend each week.
  • World Citizen: Leave a "Lighter Footprint.
    ---------- --------Hold a vision of world peace.
  • Physical: Walk or run 1 mile each day.
  • Personal: Practice piano 20 minutes daily.
  • Business: Complete a project in three months.

    5. In the autumn we make a list of what has happened during the year. Then we use it a basis for our letter holiday update.

    6. We have a goals session for the next year. We get together on a Sunday afternoon in the living room. This allows us to be generally aware of each other's goals for the new year. It is fun to take turns reading our lists. One may choose to not mention a few of their personal goals. Add to a list during this or any later time during the year.

    People in the community kept asking us how our children accomplished so much and we had so much fun together. All we could think of was that we used this family goals process.

    When Dawna and Derek were seven and nine, we decided we could develop a class on "goal setting and advance decisions." We each taught 1/4 of the the three-hour class. In teaching others about goals, the children better understood the process. We taught the free class several Sunday afternoons each year for the next six years.

    We each developed our own Lifetime Goal Statement.

    Following is one statement:

    "I will live an aware intentional life, focused on peace, love and joy. I value my global citizenship. I choose to see life as a happy growing experience and to have balance in my life planning areas. I will use advanced decisions to cut stress and anxiety. I want to appreciate those whose lives that touch mine. I want to inspire myself and others to work toward a kinder, more inclusive world. I can do this by helping people feel good about themselves. I want to pay attention. I want to build on my ‘lighter footprint’ skills which includes using fewer resources. I will choose to have fun doing almost everything. I want to learn something new each day, smile more and be more playful. I will use my time and efforts to help create a welcoming, calm and inspiring home. I want to end each day feeling the world is a better place. I will be ready to easily let go of this life when my time comes.”

    We also created our own list of Lifetime Advance Decisions.
    This makes it easier to avoid temptations because one has already made the decision.

    With my Lifetime Advance Decisions:
    ----------I will not to use mind altering drugs.
    ----------I will not to have sex outside of marriage.
    ----------I will be helpful to others.
    ----------I will choose to let go gracefully.

    We did not teach the class for the first ten years after Derek's death. Yet, folks who remembered taking the class asked us to teach it again. We did teach it again at church one Saturday afternoon; it was fun and well attended.

    Dawna introduced herself to the class. She explained to them how much she now valued our goal-setting methods and the concepts. She mentioned how important goal setting had been in her college years. She shared that it was even more important now in her professional life.

    She surprised Bill and me with that statement. Dawna had been our more reluctant family participant during her teenage years.

    With goals as much in life, it is important to start slowly, with just a few goals that are important to you. One goal in each Life Goal Area is enough. Over the years of using these ideas, we have further refined the process.

    A sample of our current, more-detailed process follows.

    Click here to download a blank sample goal sheet.

    Click here for a completed example goal sheet.

    Davies is available as a speaker, for more information contact:

    Phyllis Davies
    P.O. Box 945
    San Luis Obispo, CA 93406
    Phone: 805-440-9346

    Questions Davies is often asked:

  • Why set goals?
  • How can I make setting goals easy and fun?
  • What elements contribute to successful, self-motivating goals?
  • How are your goals actually helping you impact the world and climate change?
    books Chaca