Realizing goals requires planning, flexibility

By Clyde Davis: Local columnist

The heavy pall you see and feel hanging in the air, if you are aware of and responsive to it, is the aura of holiday decorations being removed and stored for another year. New Year’s Day is perhaps a fine time to begin this, at least in our family. Certain other decorations, usually with liturgical/religious significance, remain up until today (Epiphany, the celebration of the coming of the Magi), but the process certainly begins Jan.1. Given the dismal nature of the bowl games, at least the ones I saw, it seemed even more to be “as good a day as any.”

The nexus of all this activity seems to be another way of closing out one year, one set of priorities and activities and goals, and simultaneously opening the door on a new list of opportunities. Taking down and storing the holiday decorations leads, almost invariably, to cleaning the garage and some significant house rearranging. Each year leads, among other things, to new and improved methods of storing lights, trees, and decorations. It may also lead to new and improved methods of going about life.

I am not sure how concrete one’s goals and objectives for the new year need to be. I suppose it depends on the individual, on how concrete or how conceptual one is. But there do seem to be some key issues.

One, of course, is the obvious: the setting of goals and objectives. Is there a family situation one wants to solve or resolve? Are there job or career dreams that one hopes to fulfill? Are there special interests — musical, artistic, athletic — that matter greatly during this approaching year? Those things seldom happen as a result of vague fantasy.

Secondly, goals remain dreams unless they become objectives. Objectives will give me the steps which are needed in order to make that vision happen. If I desire to swim 10 miles, assuming I am a competent swimmer, what do I need to do to make that possible? Obviously, very few of us could simply jump in and begin swimming. A training plan is necessary, with a realistic timeline.

Thirdly, goals need to be realistic. If one is afraid of water, the goal of swimming 10 miles probably doesn’t make much sense, nor is it likely to be an enjoyable challenge.

On the fourth plane, one needs to be flexible and adaptable, realizing that, goals met or not, or partially met, life will go on. You may have to put it off for a while, and that is okay, unless for some reason your absolute survival depends on meeting your goal.

For example, last spring I really did set out to prepare for a 10-mile swim. I know that is in the realm of my possibility, and wanted to use it for a cancer fundraiser. Unfortunately, an unrelated shoulder injury set the training schedule back, and at my age, one can’t force an injury. Life went on, it could not be helped, and the challenge still stands this year. Goals sometimes need to be adjusted.

Closing the plastic storage boxes on the holiday decorations always leads, for me, in a circle: where will I be, whom will I be, when those plastic lids are pried open again after Thanksgiving 2008? I can’t say I have ever accomplished all that I wanted to in a given year. Sometimes the game shifts so radically that every goal is replaced by one marked simply “survive.” But all other things being equal, it keeps me moving toward becoming the person I want to be.

Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and a college instructor. He can be contacted at: