Intellectual goals don’t have to be all about book learning. Any time we use our mind to learn a new task, we use our intellect. And we don’t have to stop learning just because grey hairs start sprouting on our heads! What do you want to learn?
With all the bruhaha over whether schools should open or close this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it might surprise you to find out that setting goals for YOUR intellectual domain is important, too! Why? Because when we take care of ourselves, we can’t forget our brains. Healthy self-care includes making sure we learn new things all. the. time. This month’s Self-Care Sunday posts will focus on setting goals for our intellectual domain.
The Reason this Post is Late
I have a reason for posting late today, and it has to do with learning something new and putting my growth mindset into practice. Growing up, my daddy fixed just about anything that broke around our house—bicycles, vehicles, doors, milk separators, you name it, he could fix it. He taught me how to add oil to my vehicle, and how to change a tire, but I didn’t have patience to learn anything more.
I married a man who loves to tinker and fix things, too, so I’ve never needed to know much about mechanics. Pedro taught me how to change an oil filter when we first got married. For the past 32 years I just kind of nod and say, “Uh-huh” and “I see” every time he starts talking car maintenance. My eyes may have glazed over with boredom, too.
When I tried putting IKEA furniture together, I felt all thumbs and it took me twice as long as I expected it to. I figured I just didn’t have the aptitude to do mechanical things. It turns out I just didn’t have any motivation to get grease under my nails.
But this summer I bought a project car—a 13-year-old Toyota FJ Cruiser—up in Alaska. And for the first time, I found talking about the relative merits of different bumper brands, winches, rock sliders, and differentials kind of fascinating.
Part of our family vacation included taking turns driving the FJ around remote roads in Alaska. We saw some gorgeous sights and cool wildlife.
We got stuck in mud bogs, pulled each other out (our son-in-law has an even older Toyota pickup with a winch), cheered each other on, and had a blast. We decided the FJ really needed a winch, though.
Motivation Moves Mindsets
Shipping things to Alaska proved too slow and costly, so we had to wait until I’d returned home to start turning my project into an off-roading beast.
Once I drove my FJ home to Arizona, I could start working on installing the things we need to make it a Rubicon-worthy off-roading vehicle. (‘Off-roading’ doesn’t mean we drive it off official roads, it simply means we drive it on roads that most vehicles can’t go over).
In private, I call the FJ my ‘birdmobile,’ and I plan on taking it to remote places to go birding—places a Prius just can’t make it. Pedro has already started teaching me how to drive it over difficult terrain and over tough water crossings.
Pedro spent an entire day installing the front bumper and winch, and I saved up my money to buy rock sliders. (Don’t let your eyes glaze over—rock sliders protect your vehicle’s frame from damage when you slide over big boulders). I decided that I wanted to install them myself. With coaching from Pedro, of course.
The details would bore you, but the most difficult part of the rock slider installation had to do with cleaning out the bolt holes in the frame of the FJ. I did one, and Pedro cleaned out the other 11. My hands already hurt from all the unusual activity.
But I did it! I mounted rock sliders on my FJ! At any point in my life before June of this year, I wouldn’t have wanted to even attempt such a task. But my motivation has changed—and so has my ability to do things that heretofore would have bored me to death.
Even Grannies Can Learn New Things
Now I have a cool-looking project vehicle that will help get me to out-of-the-way places for my birding hobby. Having a ‘Rubicon ready’ off-roading vehicle means next year’s family vacation will probably involve the Rubicon trail.
We love camping and hanging out together, and we’ll need teamwork to get our vehicles up the trail in one piece. I get to learn all about off-roading along with our 4-year-old grandson, too. By the end of this summer he knew all about ‘airing down’ and ‘airing up’ the tires before and after a four-wheeling adventure.
When my motivation changed, so did my mindset. For the first time ever, I went shopping for air filters, oil filters, and transmission fluid without feeling frustrated or bored. I might have entered my 50s awhile again, but I can still learn (especially if I have the motivation).
For the most part, I have no problem taking on new tasks or skills—often I take on crazy-big tasks without thinking through the repercussions. Deciding to piece and hand-quilt a queen-sized quilt for my introduction to quilting instead of choosing something small. As I get older, I learn from my mistakes and don’t go all-out on first-time learning projects. Usually.
Learning any new skill, whether mechanical, artistic, or based on book-learning rates as an intellectual endeavor in my book. I had to learn a whole new vocabulary for today’s project—words like right-angle needle-nosed pliers, socket wrench, and locking nut.
The job required problem-solving, too. I had to use the packing box to hold the rock slider while I installed the bolts that held it to the frame. Sure, Pedro could have held it in place, but some guy said it was possible to install the rock sliders with just one person. So I had to try.
How to Set Intellectual Goals for Yourself
1. Figure Out Your Why
In my case, my motivation came from wanting to spend time with Pedro (during the school year) and family (during the summer) doing something everyone could enjoy. Once I got involved in the project, I wanted to take part in more and more of the details.
Pedro showed me some YouTube videos of people going down the Rubicon Trail, and I know I’ll need to get a lot more experience behind the wheel before next summer. But I DO want to drive the trail.
2. Set SMARTER Goals
You can see this post for the skinny of setting SMARTER goals. I have until next summer to finish equipping my FJ and honing my off-roading skills. Despite all the time I drove this summer, I don’t feel anywhere near ready for a really tough trail.
But I do know how to get ready and that I don’t have to do it all at once. Now that I have those nice rock sliders on, I have to learn how to use them.
Do the same thing with a big goal you have. Give yourself a timeframe and a plan for accomplishing your goal.
3. Prioritize Your Learning
Although I’d love to go back to school some day and get my Ph.D or another master’s degree, I realize that I don’t have time in this stage of my life. I still work full-time, and the nearest University (90 miles away) doesn’t offer degrees in the right programs.
One of these days, I’d like to learn how to play the piano—but we don’t have a piano any more. You get the picture. Set priorities. Don’t disparage yourself if you don’t have the resources to tackle dreams now, but do try to learn something new every day, week, month, and year.Don't disparage yourself if you don't have the resources to tackle your dreams now. #growthmindset #goals Click To Tweet
4. Look for Low or No-Cost Learning Options
Bob Ross, anyone? You can learn how to paint by watching Bob Ross on YouTube. If you want to improve your business skills, check out Donald Miller’s Business Made Simple University. You don’t have to go to college to get better at something. Thousands of resources await the click of your mouse.
This post has ideas for low to no-cost learning opportunities. Remember, though, if you don’t figure out your why and set SMARTER goals, you probably won’t follow through on attaining your intellectual goals.
5. Believe in Yourself
You CAN learn new things. Your growth mindset makes it possible to tackle seemingly insurmountable tasks. If you think you can learn, you can. Don’t bully yourself (link to bully post) into giving up before you even begin.
What intellectual goals will you set for yourself this year, month, week, or day? If you’ve ever thought, “Oh, I wish I could do ____!” start there. I’d love to hear about new skills you want to learn.