These tips for setting SMART goals in your 40s and beyond focus on making changes in midlife — they’re from a therapist and author of a book about changing direction when you’re older than 40.
In You-Turn: Changing Direction in Midlife, Dr Nancy Irwin shares a collection of inspiring stories from real people who started a new path in middle age or beyond. This book also includes a “driver’s manual” and tips on easing into a life change.
If you’ve crept through the first half of your life, it’s time to soar through your second half! Below, Dr Nancy Irwin describes how to make midlife changes by setting SMART goals. She’s a therapist in Los Angeles — and here’s her perspective on midlife points and making u-turns in the latter half of life…
If you’re turning 40 soon, read Creative Things to Do for Your 40th Birthday.
How to Make Midlife Changes in Your 40s and Beyond
“One cannot be content to creep when one has the urge to soar.” – Helen Keller.
Write your goals down, and look at them all the time
Write your goals in your journal, your Palm Pilot, or on a cocktail napkin. The physical act of writing anything down commands that “Google search engine” that is your subconscious mind. You’ll attract resources, information, anything you need to attain that goal. Further, as soon as you achieve one goal, set new goals. Keep a constant “Things to Do List” for your life — it’ll keep you motivated and active.
Set specific and simple goals
The subconscious, which is where all behavior comes from, needs clarity and precision.
General goals such as “I will be happier this year” are too vague. Ask yourself what specifically would make you happier and what midlife changes you need to make. Do you need new career goals? New relationship goals? The subconscious is a doer, not a thinker, and it must receive the bottom line, crystal clear bulleted targets: “I’m enrolling in law school.” Or, “I’m being promoted to vice president.” Or “I will break these bad habits and make new ones.” Don’t flood the engine of the subconscious with TMI (too much information), such as complex business plans and financial projections. Just focus on setting the right goals for you, now that you’re older than your 40s!
Make your goals measurable and meaningful
How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal?
Make it easy for your subconscious to help you attain your goal by making it meaningful. “I’m making $250,000 this year,” or “I’m doubling my sales quotas.” These are “idiot proof” measures that anyone (including your subconscious) can recognize and applaud. Your goals should be meaningful to you. Make sure your goals are in line with YOUR dreams, because it will show up in your work, in your health, in your heart, in your face, and in your life.
Set goals you can actually achieve
Achievable goals will set you up for success! There’s no point in setting and pursuing a goal that is unachievable (although with quantum physics, the “unachievable” is beginning to be a thing of the past). For instance, it’s an unachievable goal for the American President to hold a third term.
When you’re making midlife changes, remember that there are certain professional standards and limitations that you must honor. Set SMART goals by making them do-able.
Make sure your goals are realistic and responsible
Our goals must be realistic, which is similar to (but not the same as) being achievable. For instance, I can hardly expect to become an attorney if I have not completed law school and passed the Bar Exam (but those are achievable goals, even for those of us older than 40!). Our goals must be in line with our training, experience, and our passions.
Set a time frame for achieving your goals
Give your goal a deadline (for instance, the first quarter of next year, in five years, etc). If you miss the deadline, don’t berate yourself. Simply re-evaluate your goal and re-commit. Quantifying and qualifying goals keep us in action and fosters a fun, sportsmanlike spirit.
When we simply say: “I’m becoming a better golfer,” then losing just one stroke has technically made you a better golfer. Setting a specific goal (“I’m consistently scoring within three points of par by the end of this year”) gives you a healthy sense of urgency — whether or not you’re making changes midway through your life!
For more tips on achieving your goals, read 10 Steps to Changing Your Life – Getting From Here to There.
Dr. Nancy Irwin is a psychotherapist/therapeutic hypnotist in private practice in Los Angeles.