Archived Story

Setting big goals requires achievable steps

Published 5:00pm Saturday, June 15, 2013

Column: Live United, by Ann Austin

The United Way of Freeborn County hosted a workshop recently that covered program measurement — how to determine if the goals that are set have been achieved and helpful tools to use.

I’ve been to similar workshops, but what distinguished this one is how the presenter was able to keep things simple enough that instead of focusing on worksheets the whole time, everyone could really engage in their long-term vision.

Ann Austin
Ann Austin

As I’ve ruminated on what we learned this past week and talked with people I’ve met, I have come to realize how much these tools can apply to everyday life. We are far more successful if we’ve been mindful of our goals and especially if we write them down on paper.

Something I’ve had the practice of doing over the years is making a list of what I want to accomplish and how long I expect it to take. My goals have included finding the right job (which I have), getting my poetry published, learning to play guitar, paying off debt and having a child.

I started this practice when I was 17 after a friend told me how much more simple and joyful it made her life. I make new goals just about every 5 years — of course it can take longer to accomplish some.

Each goal has several steps to accomplish along the way; it’s important to note this. Often people will become frustrated because what they want to do seems unachievable — but any good education or weight-loss plan (to name a few of the more common goals) has the steps broken down so people can celebrate successes along the way.

All too often we overcomplicate our lives — we try to do everything at once. I have been there many times in my life. But when we are able to simply look at a few goals at a time, we will begin to see the path we wish to travel and life will fall into place.

A point our presenter made, and one I don’t think we do often enough, was to identify three things we’re doing right. We tend to identify all of our failures as individuals and within our society. This makes me think of the analogy of how focusing on the ditch will land you there — none of us deserves to be in a ditch our whole lives; though sometimes we need to land there to learn a lesson.

It’s especially helpful when you have someone who is your partner along the way, who will help you and hold you accountable. I have been lucky to be blessed with many strong friendships throughout my life and many encouraging people who are not afraid to tell me the truth and set me straight when I’ve been selfish or immature or unrealistic.

In August we will be welcoming our second AmeriCorps VISTA position. The acronym stands for Volunteers in Service to America.

Allyssa Sorenson will be working to start up a community success coach. Our previous VISTA was able to identify that many people who were struggling to find and maintain work could benefit from having someone to help them set goals and figure out which steps to take to be successful. If you’re interested in being a community success coach, you can call our office to learn more or get your name on the list: 373-8670.

There are so many obstacles that can get in people’s ways — such as a need for education, a challenging home life, depression — everyone has had something to overcome at some point. But if there is someone who walks beside us and helps us to have hope in our future, we are far more likely to overcome these obstacles more quickly and find success in achieving our goals, even with joy in our hearts!

Live united!


Ann Austin is the executive director of the United way of Freeborn County.