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My 2020 Lesson: In Goal Setting, Be Fair to Yourself and Don't Move the Goal Posts

Great new issue from the local Carbon Valley Life is out! There's lots of great content, but we especially hope you'll turn to page 17 to read a valuable life lesson in starting a new business. Or, just read on because it's excerpted here:

I learned something about myself this year. Actually, deep down, I already knew it, but this year, I recognized it, acknowledged it, and am consciously working to prevent it and be better to myself. In short, I am too hard on myself. I set goals and, by the time I have met them, I have already moved the goalposts, so to speak, so that I don’t allow myself the reward of meeting those goals and feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Does that happen to you?

Pre-COVID, I decided I wanted to start a law firm here at home in Firestone. I decided to leave the downtown Denver law firm that I commuted to and practiced law at for nearly a decade. If you consider major life changes at age 40 to be a mid-life crisis, I guess this was my mid-life crisis. I had these vaguely formed ideas that there was a better way for me to live my life, deliver great legal services, and feel fulfilled in helping people.

So, I gave up the steady paycheck and set about making plans and giving life to this new business and way of being. Yes, I dedicated myself to creating an amazing resource in Carbon Valley for quality local estate planning and business law services, but also a huge part of this bold new step was about self care. This change was as much the push of a personal re-set button as it was the development of a new business model. For the last decade, I commuted, worked long, sedentary lawyer hours, and, in between, my husband and I barely had time to be a family for our young son, buy groceries, or, heaven forbid, find time to go for a hike or go to the movies. I also love horses, but the fun of having horses was lost in the rush to get chores done and get back to work.

My 2020 goals for myself were clear, in this order of priority: (1) get enough sleep so I no longer feel permanently sleep-deprived; (2) start exercising again to reverse the feeling that my body had atrophied into total uselessness; (3) spend more of my weekends with family rather than constantly doing or worrying about work; and (4) work toward this crazy idea of building a new kind of law firm from scratch.

My law firm opened its doors on March 9, 2020. You know what happened just days later: the phrase “social distancing” blew up the news and social media, and we were all thrown into this new era of COVID-19. I could not have timed it worse, right? Actually, despite all the anxiety that I experienced this spring and summer over the state of world affairs, I do not think it necessarily was bad timing. Good or bad, it just was, and I kept plugging along.

I will spare the details of the journey of each of my goals, the steps forward, and the steps backward. But, I am here to tell you—really, to tell myself—I accomplished them! Overall, I am more fit and feel better physically; I feel better mentally; and I have been more present and available for my family, not just with everyday needs but also in times of crisis. Incidentally, I think that all of this time for self-care also helped me accomplish goal #4: the law firm. I think it makes me a better lawyer for my clients (I suspect this is true of any job or profession). If I am rested and in a better physical and mental place when I show up to work, I can focus and deliver the legal work and advice my clients need from me.

I can say all this now. But, I could not say it until recently, until I caught myself and realized what I was doing. I found myself diminishing my progress. I was subconsciously telling myself I did not do enough; I did not accomplish this, or I did not accomplish that. I was moving the goalposts on myself. I was not giving myself the courtesy of acknowledging progress. I reminded myself of the goals I set way back at the start of the year and realized that, yes, indeed, I can put a check mark by each of those boxes. Mission accomplished. Time to set new goals for 2021.

So, that is my lesson to myself from 2020. In goal setting, it is important to set realistic and achievable goals. But perhaps it is even more important to allow myself to recognize and feel good about actually accomplishing them. Then, move on and set new goals. It feels much better than the depressing state of having goals that continue to shift, staying just out of reach because I unfairly keep re-defining them. No more.

Here’s to 2021, new goals, and whatever it may bring!

Margrit Lent Parker practices law in Firestone providing estate planning and business legal services. After over a decade of commuting to Denver, she is now thrilled to fill a need by serving the Carbon Valley community, where she lives with her husband and young son. When not helping clients, Margrit is outside with her family, whether enjoying the great outdoors or gardening at home.

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