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  • Matt Gillespie, M.A., RP, C.C.C.,

Setting Goals – It’s a Lifelong Gig

Throughout most of my time in school, I often heard from other students that they couldn’t wait for the end of the semester so that they would never have to think about a class again. I’ll admit that there were certain courses where I felt exactly the same way. Grade 10 history was a required course when I was in high school, but to be honest I had no interest in it whatsoever. My only goal in going to that class and doing the assigned work was to finish the class; there was no connection to a longer term goal, so I simply did not care to go above and beyond the most basic requirements to pass. For the most part, though, I was a highly engaged student and felt that my education and the work I was putting in would serve a larger purpose than simply passing a course or getting a diploma or degree. So much of what I have learned has been useful in setting myself up in the career that I wanted, and at this point in time I don’t necessarily ever have to go back to school. It’s been a bit hard to wrap my mind around that last part, because for over 20 years of my life the completion of one semester meant the beginning of a new one; there was always a next step. Consequently, I’m left with this daunting question: Now what? Where do I go from here?

One of the benefits of our education system is the structure it provides for us, and the continual development of new challenges and new goals each year. However, once school is done, we are responsible for creating that structure of continued growth and development for ourselves. Whether we are focusing on improving our health, developing a new skill, working towards a promotion, or whatever else we might set our sights on, it is so important for us to have a goal that we are actively working towards. Otherwise, we risk experiencing boredom and stagnation, which can lead to burnout and even depression. As a registered psychotherapist, I am responsible for obtaining a certain amount of continuing education hours each year. Because I work with a lot of clients who have experienced significant trauma in their lives, I am currently completing a training program in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which I’m sure I’ll be telling you more about soon enough. Alongside this course there has been quite a bit of homework, reading, and practicum work, leading towards the implementation of this therapy into the work I do with my clients. Once the training is done, my goal will be to further develop my skills so that I can help my clients process and move on from what they have experienced. In this case, I have benefitted from the structure of the course, and the structure of my continuing education requirements, but I now have to create that structure myself in order to fully achieve my goals.

The reason I am writing about this training today is because I’m excited to develop a new set of tools with which to help my clients, and that excitement is key to the goal setting process. Excitement is what propels us to put in the work, because it validates the efforts we have to take to get what we want. That excitement is providing me with the motivation to spend my time poring over a textbook, practicing specific hand movements in the mirror, and reading through case studies to improve my understanding of what I’m studying. If I weren’t excited about it, that motivation would not be present, and I likely wouldn’t have the drive to put in the work required to accomplish this goal. If I weren’t

excited about it, I’d treat it like Grade 10 history; I’d snooze my way through it, and in doing so I would not be able to develop the skills required to practice EMDR.

The point I’m trying to make is that in order to prevent feelings of boredom and stagnation, we must always have a goal, either personally or professionally, that we are actively working towards. Above and beyond that, we have to set goals for ourselves that excite us, goals that are going to improve some aspect of our life; otherwise, we simply won’t care to put in the work. We don’t necessarily have teachers, or coaches, or trainers to motivate us; rather, we must find something to be motivated about, and work towards it ourselves. So think about the goals you have now, or the goals you want to set for yourself. Find something to be excited about, and use that as a driving power to motivate you to complete the work it will take to accomplish whatever you set your mind to.

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