Resetting priorities vital to happiness

PETER GIBBS
Last updated 13:00 13/04/2012

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OPINION: Goals are important, some more than others. It can be helpful to write them down, or announce them to others.

It's a bit like giving up smoking. If you tell the world that's what you're going to do, then somehow you're bound to continue on that course.

I owe this column something, because over the years I've announced my plans to an audience of up to 30,000 readers – at least a dozen of whom notice.

Making bold statements has meant that I've had to try as hard as I can to stick to them – and that's been very rewarding.

I've done a lot of training to achieve the goals that I've had and I've been happier and more fulfilled as a result.

I've also organised a lot of events to give others the opportunity to do the same.

I'll be 65 next year. The world triathlon champs are in London, on the Olympic triathlon course which will be used later this year. Although the race will take place after my birthday, I don't think I'll quite be able to afford to be a fulltime pensioner by then.

I wish I could afford that, but while I'm healthy and engaged with my work, I plan to keep on.

However, I do plan to give up a few other things. A friend recently sent me a feel-good message relating to this. Its advice was not only to choose the things that were important to you, but also to choose the things that, while important, weren't essential and to get rid of them.

That's been the trouble with my life in the past few years. I've wanted to do everything and the smorgasbord of things to achieve has just got larger.

I wanted to do well at work, to do well at home and with my vast family, which on Saturday expanded with yet another grandson, to do well at sport and to do well at event organising.

As you can guess, I haven't done very well at any of them lately, so I've decided to cull a few.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I hadn't been able to make a plan – I was too busy to think about it.

Last week it was an important birthday for my wife, Anna. We both took the week off prior to Easter so we could walk the Cape Campbell Track – a four-day excursion across Marlborough farmland where your bags were transported and you arrived to comfortable accommodation in beautiful locations.

From my perspective, it was a wonderful break from the phone and emails, a chance to gaze across Cook Strait to the glowering skies over Wellington, to spend time with Anna, to read a lot and to think about my world.

I decided it was time to devote more time to myself and my family and less to organising things. Also to rationalise my working life so I didn't have quite so many tasks.

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Since we've been back, I've started the process of changing my life in quite radical ways – something I haven't done for a decade or more.

Without going into details about exactly what I'm going to give up, my goals, in order, are as follows. Any readers who feel like it can jog my elbow in the next few months and remind me if I get off the track.

Firstly, I resolve that my family will come first – in order, wife, mother, children and grandchildren – that's 21 people (apologies to brothers – you can look after yourselves). I regret that none of my children or grandchildren live here in Nelson, so it will be harder than having them down the street, but phone calls, emails and more focused holidays will help a lot.

Next, I'm not going to organise as many sports events. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to think of ways to do things and to see people strive to achieve their goals and to help them with that, but enough's enough. I've been on sports club committees on and off for more than 25 years. From now on, my involvement will wind down, although I have to confess I have committed myself to organising the Port Nelson Sea Swims for at least another summer, thanks to the superb set of volunteers who do most of the work anyway.

Thirdly, I'm refocusing my work life. That won't be very apparent to most people but will take away some daytime stress.

Next, I need more time to blob out. Since I left university more than 40 years ago, I've been promising that evenings would be spent reading or watching good television (if it can be found). The time has come.

Finally – with regard to my own sports goals – my race is not yet run. It gets harder each year to maintain a decent amount of form, but the health and psychological benefits of continuing the discipline of training and racing can't be over-estimated.

Besides, old males still have some pride; there's only one of my six children and 13 grandchildren who can run as fast as I can and I'm sticking with that just as long as I can.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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