Set Three Goals

About 6 years ago, I asked a young Sailor what his goal was, and he said, with much conviction, that he was getting out of the Navy to be a pediatrician.

“Excellent,” I said. “Have you started your pre-med degree?”
“No.”
“Okay, how many college courses have you taken?”
“None, but I have some credits from my military schools.”
“Have you been accepted into a college back home?”
“Not yet.”
“So, what’s your plan?”
“I’m going home to live with my parents and apply to school.”

I remember that day at sea. We were just outside Hong Kong, and I couldn’t convince this young man to stay in the Navy one more enlistment while he at least worked towards his goals. He got out as planned, but it absolutely pains me to say that he isn’t a pediatrician and never got started in that direction.

Over the years, I’ve seen lots of people ready to move on without a solid plan, and it always bothered me. If people want to leave, then I want them to as well, but not blindly. I hate seeing people years later and hearing that they regret their decision to leave the military.

Another quote that upsets me: “I wish I could have the last few years of my life back.” I don’t hear this often, but when I do, it’s usually because someone didn’t set goals or got distracted from them and lost momentum.

Now I chat with the new people within their first month onboard, and I’d like to have that same chat with you, if you don’t mind.

Here’s what I want…ready?

I want you to set some goals, but not just any goals. I want three specific, achievable, relatively short-term goals that can be accomplished in 18 months or less. I’m already groaning at the thought of typing this next line, but I’ll do it anyway.

A goal not set is a goal not met.

I know, corny, but corny works. Don’t judge.

Okay, here we go.

1. Set one personal goal.

We all need to work on the person we are. At the end of the day, on the weekend, from one job to the next, and when we retire, we’re still us. There’s something you can do to make you more the person you want to be- closer to what you want to see in the mirror, either inside or out.

I don’t care what it is. Run a marathon, learn to play a song on the guitar, write a novel, take a photography course, or hike Mount Katahdin. Just choose to do something that will make you more the person you want to be. I think that’s important, and I think it should come first. People often lose sight of these kinds of goals while we focus on promotions, pay, and all the rest.

2. Set a professional goal.

Work towards being better in the job you have. Your day job deserves your time and energy, and you deserve to give yourself a goal that makes you better at it. If you have a mentor or strong manager at work, sitting with that person might help you set the right goals to make you better at what you do and more effective for the organization. You don’t have to wait until the next evaluation to ask.

3. Set a financial goal.

Money and debt are huge stressors that distract us from doing the things we want. Pay off the car, pay down credit card debt, start a college fund for your children, save for that next large purchase, or start a Roth IRA. A two-hour appointment with a financial counselor to set a budget and talk about debt is the best way to set an achievable goal and create a plan.

Three rather specific types of goals, but they’re all yours to set and all worth your time. Imagine what it will be like next year to say that you’re a better person, a better professional, and more financially stable than you are right this minute.

I think that would be nice.

I’ll start. Here are my goals:

  1. Find a way to turn this little writing adventure into fundraising for causes or organizations I’d like to support. Time isn’t something I really have to offer.
  1. Complete the next higher professional military education course. It’s online and will take a lot of time after hours and on weekends to complete. I’ve been putting it off for too long.
  1. Pay down debt as I prepare to retire and move home.

What are your goals?

I don’t need to know all three, but I’m sure you have one in mind if you’re willing to share.

Have a great week out there.

– JT

James Tinker

About James Tinker

James was born and raised in Bangor, and left home at 18 for the Navy. Twenty-five years later, he retired as highest enlisted rank on a warship in San Diego. His popular blog series, The Day Job, shares personal and professional lessons learned through his career.