Celebrating a Reached Goal

Yesterday, I talked about the importance of recognizing you’ve reached a goal and celebrating it. Wisely, some of you asked good questions about how you know you’ve reached a goal and what does celebrating look like?

Some thoughts:

1. To reach a goal you have to set a goal. To set a goal you have to write it down. To write it down you have to know exactly what you want the goal to be. Then break it into do-able steps. “Be a better daughter” is not a reachable goal because it is not well defined. What’s “better”? What are the guidelines for “better”?  Who sets those guidelines? Who decides if you are “better” than before?

Instead, you might choose “Phone my mom twice a week.” If, however, your mother hates talking on the phone, then it doesn’t meet the goal. Be specific. The more specific the better.

2. Use enough steps so each step toward the goal is something you can do in a set time period–half an hour, a day, within a week. Then put the time period after the step. It doesn’t matter if your goal has 87 steps. What matters is that you understand what each one means and that you can do them.

3. Have a reasonable idea you can reach the goal. Goals can be a stretch. But if it is an impossibility, you’ll lose the desire to reach it. That’s why it’s good to break the goal into steps. For example, if my goal were to be an Olympic Figure Skater in a year, I’d never make it. I don’t ice skate, never have. As an adult over 50, I’d have to take many hours of lessons, which my schedule doesn’t allow. Those two reasons are enough, and there are plenty more. I could however, set a goal to learn to ice skate well enough to make it around the skating rink without falling down.

4. Re-evaluate your goals over time. Make sure you are on track, evaluate why you want to reach that goal and see if it is still a reasonable goal you want. One of the valuable pieces of information you get from pursuing a goal is why you chose it and if it makes sense. Another piece of information is knowing when to abandon a goal.

5. Celebrate along the way. Once you have completed a certain number of steps, and you are closing in on your goal, and you really want to reach that goal, celebrate. A celebration can be private–imagining what reaching your goal will be like. Write it in your journal. Write down the steps you have completed and what you have learned or gained. In other words, praise yourself for your strengths. Do it in writing in your journal. Read it over when you feel your resolve dissolving. Read it out loud. Into your camera and then watch yourself. If you have a close friend ask him or her to read a congratulatory letter you wrote to yourself out loud. Buy yourself a congratulations card and mail it to yourself.

Make yourself a crown. You can make this one with the directions on this blog:

6. Celebrate in ways that match your goal and your idea of fun. Sure you can throw a party or buy a new wardrobe or take a trip to Europe. But only if it doesn’t run you into debt and make you feel bad about your decision making abilities. One person’s celebration is another person’s boredom. Set aside time to buy and read a magazine, go to the movies, meet a friend for coffee or wine. You can visit a museum or arboretum, aquarium or water park. You can go to a play, take a class in something you’ve always wanted to try, walk a labyrinth or shoot up the other group in a paint-gun battle. Choose something that fits in your budget and that sounds fun. If you get energy from other people, involve them. Particularly if you have been discussing it with them. Having people celebrate with you is both fun and stimulating.

7. Don’t rush on to the next goal until the one you met is celebrated. Rushing ahead diminishes your work and effort. Smile at yourself. Wear a paper crown you made yourself around the house. Play “We are the Champions of the World” and dance. Only after the celebration feels complete should you sit down and write what you have learned about yourself, what strength has evolved. And then you can choose another goal.

–Quinn McDonald has several small and large goals on her list. Ice skating is not among them.

21 thoughts on “Celebrating a Reached Goal

  1. And what if the goal is a rather ethereal thing, not set in stone. A goal I had, and then, looking back, realize I am now achieving it, or at least more often than not. Goals that are so exact – it would make it easier to see where you are, and then know to move on to the next step. I think celebrating achieving a goal sounds like a good idea, but it seems more difficult to put in practice.

    Curious. What was the last goal you reached where you actually stopped and took time for a celebration, no matter how small?

    • Ephemeral goals are still reached, and the celebration can be just as hearty. But you have to pay closer attention to an ephemeral goal’s having been reached. Sometimes that can be tricky to see. When I finished writing 5,000 words yesterday, for several clients, and sending off the drafts for approval, I celebrated. I had a lime floe popsicle from Trader Joe’s while I paged through the latest Somerset Studio. Bliss!

  2. I agree about celebrating the achievement of a goal, and each step along the way as well. And thinking of that goal with 87 steps . . . as long as they’re specific enough to measure, think of all those celebrations!
    My goals sometimes don’t fit the SMART formula; specific measureable, achieveable, realistic, in a time-frame. As a recovering perfectionist, with a critic who has lately taken on giant-sized proportions, my goals are either unrealistic or the time-frame is too short – I want to achieve it ALL yesterday!
    Fortunately, self-recrimination doesn’t get to hang around too long – I don’t have the time!

    • Every word of this is so true. I do have to ask a fascinating question–well, to me. I’ve often seen the realistic changed to relevant, which I find I like better. i have trouble explaining to my classes the subtle difference between an achievable goal and a realistic one–given that we are sensible. Oh, hmmmm. Maybe we should add “sensible”

      • I hesitate to say it but sensible didn’t get me where I am today! I did some things that made no sense to anyone, me included in retrospect, but I picked up a whole lot of joy along the way.

        If I’m talking to adults about goals I usually use weight loss as an example. Yes to achievable, but with the Christmas season about to begin, 2 weddings to go to and my partners birthday . . . is it realistic that I go on such a stringent diet and exercise regime right now? Scale back or extend the time-frame!

        I need to listen to myself . . . .

  3. Quinn,
    Aah, the important subject of goal setting; you have laid it out brilliantly from the doable issue to the celebration of reaching it. Journaling our goals and how we feel about them is a great process in helping us get to the place we want to be in any area of life. It’s good to recognize when a goal you have set isn’t working and when it is. We create the practice of truly listening in our journal pages when we decide to discern rather than just stick it out even if it’s inauthentic.

    I have chosen your post, Celebrating a Reached Goal, for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day on 8/20/12 for all things journaling on Twitter;
    I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog and website Refresh with Dawn Herring, and in Refresh Journal, my weekly e-journal: http://tinyurl.com/8hefh3v.
    #JournalChat Live is every Thursday, 5 EST/2 PST, for all things journaling on Twitter; our topic this week is Your Journaling: What You Really Care About.

    Thanks again for such a terrific strategy of goal setting and listening in our journal pages.

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter
    Author of The Birthday Wall: Create a Collage to Celebrate Your Child

  4. I’m afraid that I distrust the whole “goal” point of view. It might just be me, but I find that it doesn’t help me and doesn’t seem to match the way reality works. It makes me feel like somebody’s trying to sell me something.

    Experience is continuous and multilayered — although again, it might just be me. If there must be a sports metaphor, I find life more like surfing (minus the beach) than like American football, which is the penultimate expression of a punctuated, sequential, reductionist approach.

    (caveat: when I say “surfing” I’m not speaking from personal experience; I can’t even stand up on skates on a flat unmoving surface)

    • You can distrust, you can not have it work for you. That’s fine. You can be different and still have people love you and be effective. But for some of us, step-by-step is a really helpful way to move forward, because we can see both how far we have come and how far ahead we have to move. For some of us, knowing where we are in time is important. For others not. But for almost everyone, celebrating when we worked hard is very important, even if we had a good time doing the work.

      • I’m not trying to convince anybody of anything. But here’s the thing: I believe I’m not alone in having a pretty strong and growing sense that in a very large sense, things are not working out all that well for humans. It’s not so true on an individual level. For example, I’m one of the richest, most pampered people ever to exist. But I think you know what I mean.

        Yet if you think through all the myriad decisions and actions and events that seem to be contributing to there being something wrong, somehow, and you look at them without allowing yourself the benefit of hindsight, the great majority of things people do tend to seem pretty reasonable. Most decisions most people make are decisions they’d make again. You or I, in their place, knowing what they know, would usually tend to do pretty much the same things.

        So what’s wrong?

        I think it has something to do with the way we’re taught to think and perceive.

          • Not exactly. Or maybe, but that’s a different issue. What I mean is more like this: some of the deepest values we have are things like “more”, “expand”, “grow”, “increase”, things like that. These are so pervasive and so deeply ingrained that it’s difficult to recognize that they are values, and not the only possible ones. By that I mean they are not innate — or not entirely so — but learned and reinforced. (Achieving goals — thinking in terms of progress, steps, and goals — is part of this and why I mentioned it, by the way.)

            In the longer run it’s certainly conceivable that we’ll find ways to continue expanding by finding new habitats, but there’s nothing like that at hand just now. So what about tweaking our perceptions and thought processes instead?

            P.S. No I’m not talking about “colonizing Mars” even though the rumor actually is true; I own a small vial of pure water produced by one of the fuel cells from Apollo 11.

          • Ohhhh, you have water! OK, not going down that science fiction road. I think I understand that you mean there doesn’t always have to be a moving forward, a heading up, and I agree with you on the point of business. On the point of spiritual growth, I think we can also go deeper instead of wider, or simply stay where we are and distill. But I also think exploring and expanding are values that kept us alive. We may have to hunt and gather for ideas and change, too.

          • Yeah, spiritual growth. I can’t help wondering what if. What if we didn’t apply ingrained economic and cultural principles to the supernal realm. Are we really only recapitulating our own experience of childhood by characterizing that sort of thing as “growing”, “developing”, and “learning”?

            But don’t mind me. When I was pretty young (maybe 2 or 3 but I didn’t know at the time) I’m pretty sure I suddenly looked around and noticed things and wondered “hey, what the heck is going on here, anyway?” Ever since, I’ve been trying quite in vain to figure it out. 🙂

  5. All good advice. I think the writing it down part is most important. Many of us often think we can just have it in our heads and it will all work out. But I have learned from experience that it is the writing down part that really makes it a concrete goal and plan. I like the celebration part too. I need to do more of that I think!

  6. I think it is the celebration that is the most important part. Like the conclusion. And if you don’t finish the goal “properly”, to completion, including the celebration (whatever that is for each of us), then there is also little to keep us moving towards attaining our goals. So much easier when there is some reward at the end…and the space to be a goal achiever, before you become a goal setter and goal doer again.

    Says she who needs that drummed into her (much easier to advise others) and who grew up on the magic of Torvill and Dean, but who has no desire for broken limbs!! 🙂

      • Very dangerous, and very loaded. I didn’t mention it in my comment but one of the other things I liked in your post was your alluding to abandoning a goal…which can be as big a success as achieving a goal if it is not really your goal. Or you have changed. I do love your posts.

        As an aside, I just looked up the definition of criticism, (:)) and didn’t like the definition overly because it means something else in my head (and less to do with judging). I will be back to respond, when I have had time to process. Lucky you!! hahaha

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