Jimmy Buffett once sang "We all got 'em, we all want 'em. What do we do with 'em?" Although he was talking about relationships, the same could be said about goals.
Many people have goals, and many people want goals. The problem with goals, particularly the most meaningful ones, is that they get deferred and then simply fade away.
Athletes love their goals. Many marathoners chase the elusive "BQ," or Boston-qualifying time. For others, the goal is to run a marathon in each of the 50 states, thus joining the 50 States Marathon Club. Many mountaineers want to become a "fourteener," or one who climbs each of the 96 mountain peaks in the United States with an elevation of at least 14,000 feet.
Goal achievement comes later in life for some. Look no further than King Charles III, newly crowned this month as the head of Britain’s constitutional monarchy at the age of 73. For my mom, she achieved one of her goals when she was 78 years old.
After marrying young in life, my mom raised three kids, maintained the household and worked at a bank part-time. My father always thought that she had sacrificed her education to do what she did, and often encouraged her to go back to school.
Life interfered, and the goal was deferred. But it did not simply fade away. After my dad passed away, my mother enrolled in a local community college and pursued her degree in earnest. It was an elongated but methodical process, one captivating to watch.
Friends and family alike offered ideas, support and encouragement, and acted as a collective sounding board, editorial board, coach and cheerleading squad. The journey ripened into a true family affair, all marveling at the effort and devotion put forth to earn her degree.
My mother had once given me a small piece of marble engraved with the message "Achievement Begins With Belief." She was living this inscription.
By the Fall of 2013, my mother had earned enough credits to graduate, but she was diagnosed with cancer. It progressed to the point where my sister knew that our mom would not make her 2014 graduation. Miraculously, my sister engineered a ceremony in the hospital room, with the college's President and Dean of Academic Affairs conferring the degree upon our mother. They even played "Pomp and Circumstance" when they entered the room in full academic dress.
After our families gathered together the Dean, addressing mom’s four grandchildren, said she "wanted to be an example for you and to show you that with hard work you can achieve anything you want in life. And at that point I fell in love with your grandmother. So this is all for you. I just wanted you to know."
My mom, in response, said earning her degree "made a difference in my life." She died three days later. Today, all her grandchildren are following the example set by their grandmother.
My mother had a goal and wanted to earn her college degree. So she went out and accomplished it, despite her age. Going after that goal became a family affair, something we could enjoy with her and from which we could draw meaning.
You can make a difference in your life by chasing, not deferring, your goals, and that pursuit need not siphon time away from your family. If you believe it, you can achieve it. Like my mom.
It's never too late.
Carl Ficks helps busy professionals and their teams get back in the fitness game to reduce stress and increase productivity. He practiced law in New Britain for many years and is a proud member of the Generale Ameglio Society. He has run and cycled thousands of miles and competed in dozens of races, so when you're ready to get back in the game, email him at email@example.com.