This Thanksgiving: Be Grateful for Goals

Practical tips, advice and hope for those who live alone

By Gwenn Voelckers

Gwenn Voelckers
Gwenn Voelckers

My self-esteem took a real nose dive after my divorce.

It was years ago, but I can still recall how empty, exposed, and embarrassed I felt. It was as if my personal and private failure at a relationship had become very public. I just wanted to hide. And hide I did! I hid in my work. I hid in my home. I hid in my books.

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Regaining my self-confidence was a slow process and painful at times, but ultimately very rewarding. The process started with “baby steps.”

While I am a huge believer in positive thinking, I intuitively knew I wouldn’t be able to talk myself into more confidence. Nor could my morning meditations cure my emotional ails.

I knew I would have to work at it. I knew I would have to build my confidence back up one success at a time. And that’s when I discovered the healing power of goals and a “to do” list.

During the dark days following my divorce, I found the simple act of writing things down and checking them off the list actually helped me get through my day. At the time, my list was pitifully basic: get dressed, make my bed, water the plants, feed the cat, etc.

That list looks pretty silly now, but anyone who has endured a painful loss knows just what I’m talking about. The simplest tasks can seem insurmountable. So, I would pick an item on my list, do it, check it off, and then go on to the next item.

Remarkably, this process of articulating and accomplishing my mini-goals began to have a real and positive impact on my day and on my self-esteem. Committing things to writing had amazing power.

To this day, I create a “to do” list on a daily basis and still get a confidence boost when I accomplish my mini-goals and check them off the list. This practice has been so rewarding and self-affirming that I now employ a goal-setting process for my bigger life plans.

In fact, I created a “no excuses goal worksheet” for my larger projects, plans, and dreams. My worksheet captures what every goal should be: written down; expressed in positive, affirming language; assigned specific steps and deadlines; achievable; and, when met, rewarded.

Below is an example of a goal I set for myself one difficult November, when I had no plans for Thanksgiving. My life circumstances had changed and I knew I needed a change of pace and time to myself to think and reflect on my life and my future.

Goal Statement

I will (gulp) make plans to spend Thanksgiving on my own. Specifically, my goal will be to enjoy a solo three-day getaway over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Action Steps and Timetable

  • Day 1: I will share my goal with my best friend and ask her for feedback, support and suggestions.
  • By day 5: I will research and identify an Adirondack lodge that serves a home-style Thanksgiving meal with all the fixings.
  • By day 10: I will select my destination, ask about community-table options in the dining room, and make a reservation.
  • By day 16: I will make arrangements for pet care, stop my mail and the newspaper, and schedule a tire-rotation and fluid check for my car.
  • By day 24: I will hit the road with a full tank of gas, map, an audio book and snack pack.
  • Later that same day: I will check into the lodge, unpack, and head down to the lounge to relax and unwind in front of the stone fireplace.
  • Thanksgiving Day: I will embrace the day with an open heart, ready to enjoy my own company and the company of those around me. I will take a nature walk, write letters (perhaps one to myself) and focus on all the things and relationships for which I am thankful. I will cherish the day in front of me.

Reward

I will feel extraordinarily good about myself when I accomplish my goal and I’ll reward myself with a … (fill in the blank!). My reward was a walnut picker-upper. True. I wanted one. My house is surrounded by walnut trees.

Goals can give your life direction and purpose. And they can put passion into your everyday existence, which is especially important for those of us who live alone.

It may take some time before you regain your footing and self-esteem. Chances are, you’ll take some detours and encounter some bumps along the way. I sure did. But I kept moving forward and soon discovered that setting and accomplishing mini-goals and eventually larger life goals was key to regaining my self-confidence.

Actually doing (vs. wishing and hoping) worked for me, and it can work for you, too. For that, we can be very grateful.

Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Alone and Content, empowerment workshops for women and author of “Alone and Content,” a collection of inspiring essays for those who live alone. For information about her workshops, to purchase her book, or invite Voelckers to speak, visit www.aloneandcontent.com