Monday, March 04, 2024

Living with smart goals

by Bill Rutherford
| December 29, 2010 8:00 PM

"As this year draws to a close, I think about my living," sings John Denver in the Christmas carol, "A Baby Just Like You." I attempt my best JD imitation while singing and strumming this tune to my grandchildren on Christmas Day and stop mid-lyric wondering, "What is my living?" I wonder, "What can I make of my life in this new year that might mean something?"

Should I lose weight, write a book, say please and thank you more often or attempt to eat less pizza? I'm not strong enough to limit my pizza intake and don't care to lose more weight, so my focus this new year is on meaningful personal change. This year I choose to be less critical and become more accepting. I choose to talk less about people and more to people. I choose to protect my family-time offering more of me to the people I love. These are my New Year resolutions.

I literally shake my head as Rory, my granddaughter, looks up and pleads, "Gramps, keep singing." I finish the tune with, "Merry Christmas everyone," and return to thinking of purposeful being.

Deep in thought, I put down my guitar to focus on LeBron James jawing at Kobe Bryant as the Heat tips off with the Lakers. These two men make more in one day than my house is worth. Are they happy? They might be. Is being rich and famous the secret to happiness? It can be. Can I find happiness living a fairly simple life, making a comfortable living while having no fame? Absolutely.

I wonder in my 47 years, have I built a life with meaning or do I have work to do? I conclude, there is more of me to give this world before I perish, so I promise myself to build a list of who I wish to be in the coming year, how I propose to achieve this wish and what I wish to change in my present life to make my half-life purposeful.

The question is daunting but one can create a purposeful life through planning, goal setting and making life decisions based on desired outcomes instead of just letting life happen. If one does not know where they're going, how are they going to get there? Every journey needs a roadmap. Every destination requires a plan for arrival. If your desire is to make something of yourself in this life, you might want to plot a path for success.

Setting goals, writing them down and creating a timeline for one to achieve the goal is one secret for reaching one's dream. Setting SMART goals helps one focus on achieving success. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

• Specific - what is one going to do, how is one going to do it and why is it important to do at this time?

• Measurable - how long will it take and how will one measure that the goal is being achieved?

• Attainable - can one figure out a way to achieve this goal?

• Realistic - is the goal too unrealistic to achieve?

• Timely - when will one achieve this goal?

As a newly married couple 28 years ago, my wife and I knew we wanted a success-filled life full of love, children, college degrees, a nice house, adventure and fun but we were not sure how to make it happen so we decided to rent a paddleboat and paddled to the middle of a lake. We agreed not to paddle back to the dock until we discovered an achievable way to get the things in life we knew wanted.

Our trip is fruitful. We made a purposeful decision that day for me to join the Air Force. The decision was:

• Specific - I knew which branch of the service to enlist in and how to do it.

• Measurable - my enlistment will be for six years and I will enter the military in six months.

• Attainable - this is something I can do.

• Realistic - I can achieve this.

• Timely - I will achieve this goal on the first day of military service.

Our goal is SMART.

Most every important decision in life should be planned. When making an important decision write down positives and negatives, benefits and deficits and make a thoughtful decision for change. When deciding to change jobs, get married, have children or move to a new city, putting pencil to paper allows one an opportunity to critically and patiently make logical decisions about emotional issues.

As this new year begins, I once more turn inside myself to mentally plan the year to come. Professionally, I make decisions for advancement and change, personally, I decide to focus more on family than friends and selfishly I decide to give more than I get from the people who are important to me.

Resolution is not about things but about relationships. Anyone can lose weight, spend less money or work out more. These are not resolutions for change but semantics for daily living. It takes a self-actualized, thoughtfully purposeful individual to offer emotion, nurturing, caring and love as a gift to the new year. Happy New Year!

Bill Rutherford is a psychotherapist, public speaker, elementary school counselor, adjunct college psychology instructor and executive chef, and owner of Rutherford Education Group. Please e-mail him at and check out