Set your own goals

Written by: Frantzia Theodat

Why Focus On Goals?

Goals and priorities drive you to personal growth and fulfillment, allowing you to get the most of out a gap year. Aimless grasping for new experiences without a general sense of where you want them to lead will leave you disappointed.

Why is it important to set goals during your gap year?

What do you want the most out of your year? Is it professional experience? Relaxation? Travel? Language development? Decide on the priorities you are least willing to compromise on. I recommend you focus on the qualities and experiences that you lack in your life. It can be a skill, connection, or personal health.

What is something that you feel you are lacking in? Is there a skillset that you don’t have, but could get if you gave yourself time to pursue it? I was impressed with the story of a woman I met near my village in Senegal because she rejected a two-year salary guaranteed job in order to go to Senegal.

She had wanted to volunteer with the Peace Corps since the late 70s. However, she had so many work promotions, family obligations, and finally children that it no longer made sense for her to be a volunteer. Rather than giving up on her dream, she waited until her last kid had gone to college to take a sabbatical from her comfortable senior position and fulfill her desire to be a Peace Corps volunteer. She’ll have three years left until retirement when she comes back after her two-year term in Senegal.

What was she lacking in? A volunteer experience where she could work in local communities as an adult and truly have times to immerse in it. This had been something in the back of her mind for years. Now that is a priority.

My goals when I decided to come to Senegal were easy. A lot of the things I wanted to do were project-based things or experiences. I had come to learn the value of these things when volunteering with YLAC. In Senegal, I had places that I knew I needed to cross off the list such as visiting the Pink Lake, right in a suburb of Dakar. I also knew I had to visit the Renaissance Monument, the lighthouse on the most western point of Africa, the beach.

I knew I had to eat the national dish (which I have). I wanted to make friends in Senegal, which has proved hard, but not impossible.

Understand this when you look to achieve your goals: if you are motivated because what you have set is significant to you in a personal way, you are a lot more likely to achieve it, even if it means putting it in your back pocket for a while.

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