By: Nanette Fairley

January 2, 2023


Why set goals once you leave full-time employment you ask?  Didn’t we leave all that behind when we retired?

To me, annual goal setting is a pretty natural thing to do, even essential to set me up well for the year.  I find it gives me motivation and also bucket loads of inspiration and I look forward to free wheeling as I create them each year.  I create goals under key themes and I develop a funky full page screen saver so they are front and centre every time I turn my laptop on.  But even though I weirdly, enjoy goal setting, it still helps when I remind myself why is it important to set goals. Here are 9 reasons why goal setting might be a useful activity in your Third Age and why you might want to set some goals for 2023!

1. Goals can help you prioritise and overcome overwhelm
Many of us take on too much.  We find it hard to say no to the many demands on our time.  And, even though we are no longer in full-time employment, these demands don’t stop.  They could be for anything from childcare for grandchildren to volunteering at the local food bank your friend works at.  Through reflective goal setting, we get to think about what is meaningful to us, what we want to achieve and what brings us joy.  It also helps us know what we don’t want to do.  So, if pet sitting is not your thing, make sure that goes down on your ’No’ list for the next time your brother asks you to look after his dogs!!

2. You become a radiator of energy and focus
Working toward goals we are passionate about gives us energy.  If you have a meaningful goal around learning to play an instrument or learn a language for example, your energy will increase because you want to achieve it.  It will also stand out as somewhere you want to focus your time rather than spread it more widely.

Also don’t you just love being around people who are energetic and have a rough plan!!!

3. Goals provide clarity
In the words of the novelist Lewis Carroll, ‘if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.’  Sure, useful goals require a bit of thought about what brings you joy and what are the realistic desires of your heart.   As mentioned above, you need to think about what is ‘in’ and what is ‘out’, what aligns with who you are and your values.  With all of those ingredients – goals can give us clarity about what we want to come next and they help us define what we REALLY want in the next phase of our life.  That phase where society doesn’t expect us to be studying, working or child raising.  So now that you have that flexibility, it’s time to get clear about what you want to do with it.  Remembering that this time is finite might help!  Goals also bring clarity to how we measure whether we are on track or not.

4. Give you a Reason to Get out of Bed
Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, found that when a prisoner stopped getting out of bed and the Nazis had to force him out of bed, this prisoner would soon die. These prisoners didn’t see a point in getting up and no reason to continue living. What Frankl found is that they didn’t die because of wounds or injuries, more that they had no purpose or focus anymore.

His quote, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose,” sheds light on why purpose, and the goals supporting it, are important.  The right goals give you that motivation to get out of bed.   Additionally, goal setting has also been shown to help improve the outcome in treatment, amongst studies done in adults with depression. (Weinberger, Mateo, & Sirey, 2009)

5. Goals help you stay positive during tough times

Linked to the above, goals can help you stay positive and purposeful during tough times.  Your Third Age, as well as flexibility, can also bring tough news – friends and family passing away, chronic illnesses surfacing, less and less mobility etc.  I recently met a gentleman who, with his wife, had a goal to tour Australia in their new motorhome.  Just prior to them leaving for this adventure, his wife passed away unexpectedly.  While the trip was, of course, delayed, he continued on with the plan, albeit with tweaks for example, travelling with the family dog as company.  Goals, can always be changed, but without them tough times may be harder to work through. They can give you that motivation and kick start you might need sometimes.

6. Help You Keep Learning
Sometimes we need new skills and knowledge to achieve some of our goals.  Learning new things and developing new skills has a positive impact on our cognitive health.  New skills and knowledge keeps us relevant and interesting as well as helping us achieve our goals.  I enjoy facilitating an online community and have had to learn a ton of new skills from moderating a FB group to video editing! It’s been fun and enabled me to keep one of my goals on track.

7. Goals Make you the Director of your Destiny
Rather than life just happening to you, goals help provide direction.  Goals, especially in our Third Age, don’t need to be straight jackets (as they may have been during our careers).  But rather guidance to nudge us in the direction we want to go.  And, if your current goals no longer provide inspiration, energise you or spark joy, you are much more able to change tack. A close friend of mine has quite a few different small business ideas, all exciting, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she works through all of them over the next 30 years!!!

8. It Feels Good When You Tick off a Goal
Think about how you felt the last time you achieved one of your goals.  That burst of dopamine is a natural high and a wonderful way to celebrate an accomplishment.  Achieving something makes you feel good, and who doesn’t like to feel positive and happy?

9. Goals Give You Accountability
Last but not least is the accountability you have to yourself, and depending on the goal, to others.  Feeling that you are responsible for a goal or set of goals in your Third Age can give you back some of the structure, relevance and organisation, that you may have left behind when leaving full-time employment.  With such accountability comes commitment, awareness of procrastination, knowing why you are doing something and being realistic in what you can achieve in a specific amount of time.

But Remember………..

Setting goals is just one tool to help you do well in your Third Age.  It’s important to ensure you don’t give yourself a hard time if you don’t achieve them all.  Things get in the way, or you discover that you are just not that passionate about the goal after all.  Goals are much easier to change and evolve.  Keep what brings you joy and inspires you and change what doesn’t.

Perhaps you no longer have career goals or retirement wealth building goals and you are not sure in what areas to set goals in your Third Age.  This article might help.

Here’s to 2023 and articulating the possibilities it can bring through your goals for the year!