The following is a column from Kathy Nolan Deschenes. To submit your own column, e-mail the editor at email@example.com
When my friend Sally became a life coach years ago, she left a stressful job and started to figure out just where her gifts should take her. I envied her. As much as I like my job, it is stressful and demanding.
Lately I’ve noticed that I haven’t been thinking much about my future beyond the next day’s meetings. It happens to all of us. We have a job that we want to do well and help move our companies in a positive direction. In the high-tech world I survive in, that means 24×7 coverage for things that will inevitably go bump in the night. That leaves little time to focus on personal goals that don’t involve just getting through the next deadline in one piece.
So I asked my friend Sally if she could be my life coach. I wasn’t sure what to expect but she started by giving me some forms to fill out. I’m pretty quick to answer questions and move on to the next one. I do that at work all day. But the questions on the forms were not easy.
One of the hardest forms I had to fill out asked for 10 personal goals I wanted to accomplish for myself. I struggled to name three and couldn’t think of another to save my life.
These past few years for me have been mainly about care-taking for elderly and dying parents. Mom has been gone for 3 1/2 years and dad for one year. During that time, it took up most of my hours and energy to ensure they received the best care they could, to manage their funds, to sell their property, and to handle their estate.
In the past year I’ve been focused on my jobs (both paid and volunteer) now that I don’t have all those family obligations. Sort of getting back to my own obligations.
As I stared at the seven empty lines in the goals section on Sally’s form, I thought about why it was so hard for me to fill in the blanks. Sadly I realized it’s been years since I thought about what I wanted for me. It’s been all about what I needed to do for others.
Many people in my generation are faced with the same dilemma. We are working difficult or multiple jobs, making tuition payments, carting kids around to events, caring for our parents, and keeping our property up on the weekends. No time for our dreams or needs.
I started to feel not just uneasy about my lack of personal goals but fearful about the quality of the three I had written. They all seem now to be so shallow and short-sighted. Not really goals at all but tasks that need to be done that I don’t have time or energy to pursue.
This first meeting with Sally opened my eyes to the lack of care I take of my own life. It’s great to do for others but what happens when you are no longer able to work or do or plan and instead are limited by age or health? There will be no goals then outside of the day-to-day requirements.
I’m selling myself short and ending this forward-thinking time in my life way too soon by only focusing on the day-to-day now. I still have time and, as I saw when losing my parents so closely together, it all goes so fast at the end.
Before I left Sally’s office today, she gave me some homework to help me focus on me for a change. One thing I had to do was give myself flowers – even if I just plucked some out of the dirt and stuck them in a vase on my desk. I did that on the way home and found that even a little gesture like that was enough to help me start looking at options around me.
This will be a journey for me. I’m not sure where it will take me but I’m ready to begin seeing beyond my daily planner.