Friday, June 26, 2009

Meeting Goals That I've Never Set

I read an article today that inspired me to think hard about what I have improved about myself in the past month, in the past six months, and in the past year. This article asks you to be honest with yourself - have you set realistic goals for self-improvement, and have you met them? Or are you going through the motions of life, living day-to-day, and not thinking about such things at all?

By setting goals, and writing them down, you're more likely to achieve those goals. We've all heard this before. Yet, often when I set goals, I neglect my own self-improvement. I suppose I do, to some extent, make myself better, I grow as an individual and a professional, by achieving the goals I have set for myself. But, my focus has never been on myself, and my own personal development.

When I got to college, I decided to relax a bit, not involve myself in so many things as I did in high school, have a social life, and balance it with my schoolwork so that getting A's was not something I ever stressed about. As a result, I had an enjoyable college experience, I didn't always get the A, but I made great friends, and did some important things. I made a difference in the lives of the people who were closest to me, and in the lives of people I'd never met. I felt fulfilled by my life there. That is, in every area of life except my "career". I began my philosophy degree with a positive outlook, I enjoyed the few classes I had taken in the discipline before, and I looked forward to contemplating large and unanswerable questions further and learning how to answer them. What I didn't realize I would miss, however, by choosing a philosophy major, was everything else. I enjoy a variety of subjects, and I thought I was doing good for myself by picking a major that covers topics of all sorts. I took a Philosophy of Science course, and a Philosophy of Language course, and an Ancient Greek Philosophy course. I learned about all sorts of different disciplines by making philosophy my chosen subject. However, the manner in which I learned them was not my style.

As a philosophy major, one is required to think critically and analytically about questions that are impossible to answer correctly or incorrectly. You read and read and read these profound works that philosophers have written to try to answer these questions, and then you discuss in class how they haven't actually answered them at all. It may be a cynic's major, and a cynic I am not. I would have preferred a more "useful", practical major, as it turns out, that allowed me to think for myself, and get the answer correct occasionally, if not all the time.

Regardless, here I am now, a fresh graduate of the College of William and Mary, searching for employment in fields in which I have no prior experience, and competing with the rest of the largely unemployed world for those few spaces. Now is a good time to think about how I've improved, and to start setting goals for myself.

Here's where I think I've been in the last year or so:

- I have grown as an individual. Throughout college, I have learned to communicate with people in a way I was never able to do in high school. I have grown from someone who was buried in her books and her music, as an awkward high-schooler, into a well-balanced, informed adult.

- I have defined my religious, and political beliefs. I have moved out of my mother's Catholic house and found that the world makes more sense to me and I am a happier person without the guilt and threat of hell that Catholicism put upon me. I have become a listener of NPR and engaged in discussions with friends and family about political beliefs, and adapted my own ideology based upon what I've seen and heard.

- I have realized what is most important to me in life. I have ranked my priorities, my values, written them down, and acted accordingly to reflect where those values stand.

- I have striven to be kind and caring to everyone around me, and to be patient. I have made conscious efforts to stay positive, and to expect the best from people, but not to let disappointment take over when they don't always deliver.

- I have defined my strengths and my weaknesses, and I have asked my friends and family to help me with it. I have gotten them involved in my life, and my search for self-fulfillment, and happiness.

What will I aim for next? That's something to think about. These things listed above just happened. They were not planned out, they did not come about through thoughtful examination. It will be interesting to see what that extra thought does to accelerate my personal development, my self-improvement.

What has worked for you? Any suggestions?

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