Boating Adventures | "Part 1: The Hidden Purpose of Goals" | Story and Photos by Vicki Totten

I confess that I have not always appreciated the importance of having goals. As a young adult, I knew goals were something you were supposed to have - you know, sort of like you were also supposed to have regular health check-ups, check the oil in your car, and do your laundry. Somehow I equated having goals with drudgery. It wasn't until I was in my early 20's and living in Mexico with lots of time to study my navel every day, that I recognized that setting and achieving my goals was the secret to creating the life I wanted.

The decisions I made after returning from that winter living in the Yucatan were the direct result of the discoveries made there. That was where I discovered my love of water, of writing, and of long walks on the beach. It was also when I decided to return to college. My initial goal of becoming a journalist later morphed into a goal of becoming a marriage and family therapist, and then a college professor. I recognize now, however, that it took reaching the first goal for me to be able to glimpse the possibility of the next one.

Now that I am in retirement, it would be tempting to think that the need for goal setting is over. I am finding, however, that even when the goals I set are fun ones, they are more important than ever. For one thing, I am keenly aware of the limitations of time. But the limitations I am aware of are not time limitations in my day, but time limitations in the number of years ahead of me compared with the number of years behind me. And just as I experienced in my 20's with my navel gazing on the beach in Mexico, I am discovering that I can spend my days gazing at my navel in retirement or I can set my sights on goals that will continue to help me create a satisfying and fulfilling life in retirement.

Even though my husband continues his work as an artist and I do some consulting and civic engagement work, we both had some personal goals for our early retirement years. The first one was to travel more. A second goal was to become more proficient and confident sailors. Completion of our first goal was not only fun, but easily accomplished. In one year we managed to travel to Canada, Washington, Oregon, Florida, Germany, France, Arizona, and Mexico.

We had identified an important step to achieving the second goal would be to make the short trip to Port Aransas and out into the gulf. Unfortunately, even though we had set that goal two summers ago, each year we would get to the end of the year without having achieved it. This unaccomplished goal was made a bit more humorous - and potentially humiliating (I can't always separate the two) by a recent experience.

I had agreed to speak to a local group of retired teachers about my husband and mine's experience living part-time on our boat. Somehow, though, the topic changed as it was passed from person to person within the group and by the time the news release was sent out, it was announced that I would be talking about my "sailing adventures around the world."

Now, I can find lots of ways to stretch and spin a story, but that was going to be a stretch even for me. The truth is, we don't have a goal of sailing much beyond locations we can get to within a day or two - much less around the world. However, the communications snafu did provide me with a catchy new title for my talk. I thought "Bait and Switch" sounded perfect.

The same week I gave the talk, however, we finally achieved our goal of sailing to Port Aransas and out into the Gulf. That is a story I will save for another time though, since there was a third goal I also had for this year. Remember that 21 year old whose life was changed when she discovered the value of using goals to create the life she wanted? I wanted to see if I could find that beach house where I had lived all those years ago and to stand on that beach again to see if I still recognized the person standing there.

So, the week before our trip to Port Aransas, my husband and I boarded a cruise ship accompanied by my sister and a few friends, and headed toward Progreso, Yucatan. Accompanied by an old photo of the house, we hired a guide who took one look at the photo and exclaimed "Yes, I know this house," before immediately taking us to it. The beach house I had rented in 1974 for $48 a month had aged quite a bit - just as had the person standing before it. It is now known locally as the Cake House after they added a third story to it several years back.

Achieving the goal of returning to the place where I had first discovered the importance of setting goals, was almost as exciting as our trip to Port Aransas. It helped to get in touch with that 21 year old's determination, her optimism about the future, and her belief that if she just set a goal for herself, she would be able to create the kind of future for herself that she wanted. And, it turns out, she still believes that.

Vicki and husband, ceramic artist Stan Irvin, are both retired professors who have discovered the joys of Rockport and living part-time on their 33' sailboat and are still working up the nerve to venture further out into the Gulf.

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