The 10th anniversary of Pulse has me thinking about the importance of milestones as we move through life. Sometimes milestones come along whether or not you like it—like a big birthday. Others are reached as a result of hard work, such as achieving a number of years of sobriety, a professional distinction or a hard-won health goal. Regardless of how they are met, it is important to recognize that each one is a valuable gauge of personal accomplishments that also offers an opportunity to plan new objectives.
Miriam fell into a slump as she approached her 50th birthday. She did not welcome this, feeling that her time for meaningful achievements had passed and that her life would now be on a downswing. This might have been the case if Miriam had allowed herself to continue with this negative mindset. Instead, she learned to see that the life experience and emotional maturity of her age actually opened doors for her. Currently, Miriam is trying her hand at writing poetry and has even begun to submit her work to contests. She sees now that prior to 50 she wouldn’t have had the confidence to test her creativity in this way.
For others, achieving a milestone can be exciting…but where to go next? Gary finally completed a goal he had set for himself 30 years earlier: to grow his business substantially in order to sell it for enough money to allow a comfortable retirement. When he received a viable offer, he was thrilled to have his hard work rewarded. Yet, after the sale he became melancholy—his life’s professional focus was suddenly gone and he couldn’t imagine attaining another milestone nearly as meaningful. It’s not unusual. Parents often feel like this when their children leave home. Even those who have finally met their weight-loss goals may experience ambivalence because it means that new goals must be set.
The key to putting a breakthrough to use is to make it a starting point for the next target. Planning can allay worries and avoid self-sabotaging actions. Moira, for example, came to see me because every time she hit her weight-loss goal, she regained the lost weight. Eventually Moira realized that she believed she needed “being on diet” as a part of her life. Once she let go of the idea, she was able to keep her goal weight because she was striving for a new milestone—running a 5K race!