Atlanta, GA,
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Setting Goals for 2015: See the Light!

By Alyson Roth
Former Shepherd Center Patient

What’s better than one goal? Two goals! The new year is almost here, and some people are embracing 2014 and all that happened within the past 365 days, yet others are ready to say “good riddance” and get a fresh start and perspective in 2015.

Whichever side you fall on, the most important thing is to reflect on both the good and not-so-good aspects of this past year and recognize what went “right,” what things you need to “work on” and bring those skill sets into 2015 to improve yourself.

Around this time each year, I purposely take the time to reflect on and write out all that happened in the year that is about to end. It is so easy for one to immediately think of all the bad things that happened, all the things that did not go right or all of the things lost. I have immediately gone to the negative events myself! When I do my personal “year in review,” I immediately get those negative events out of the way and write them out. From there, it is easier to go through the year in my mind and write out all the positive events. Almost every time, no matter how bad I thought the year was, the positives outweigh the negative.There are a lot of things that aren’t practical, but sometimes dreams are like that. Diana Schaft Hunt says, “Goals are dreams with deadlines.” Be a dreamer! But help turn those dreams into goals. A goal changes everything in a person’s life. It gives one something to look forward to with a sense of accomplishment once completed.

One goal I am setting for myself in 2015 is to become an even better photographer. It started as a hobby that is beginning to turn into a business, and I want to make sure I’m giving my best to my clients by improving my skills. While this may seem like a small goal to someone, it could be a large goal to someone else. The pictures will show for themselves if growth is happening.

A huge goal I set for myself in 2014 was hiking Taft Point in Yosemite National Park, Calif. I honestly never thought that goal would be attainable, but it goes to show that if one dreams big and at least tries, sometimes that goal actually comes to fruition!

My encouragement for goal setting (or as the day turns from Dec. 31 to Jan. 1 – “New Year’s Resolutions”) is to establish several small, attainable goals with two or three bigger goals. Be realistic about what can be done, and give yourself grace knowing it is OK if you mess up. That’s the beauty of goals! They can be altered as needed to fit your lifestyle.

Secondly, help keep yourself accountable by writing out your goals and telling someone – whether it be a therapist, friend, neighbor or significant other. This really helps with staying on track.

Third, avoid repeating past failures and remember that change is a process. Smaller goals are ones that can be accomplished with an adjustable deadline in place (e.g., start a new hobby, work on your penmanship by writing handwritten letters, exercise at least twice a week or work on time management). The bigger goals could be something like travel to a place you’ve never been before but have always wanted to go, train for and complete a race, or quit smoking or drinking. However, recognize that these larger goals may take more than a few months to successfully accomplish.Everybody in this world has a different set of circumstances, different set of skills, and a different set of opportunities through which they can interact with the world and find their unique sense of fulfillment. You’re mission in life should be to figure out your unique “sets” and how you can take action to best capitalize on them, giving your effort purpose and meaning. Goals are the guiding light that gets you there. You are here on earth for a purpose. Make it worth it for you, and have a wonderful welcome as you ease into 2015!

ALYSON ROTH, who has a T-8 spinal cord injury, was a patient at Shepherd Center in 2000. She has worked as an educator and advocate for wheelchair users and enjoys playing violin in her local symphony. Alyson was also crowned Ms. Wheelchair California 2009. To read more about Alyson and connect with her online, visit her website at

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 743 inpatients, 277 day program patients and more than 7,161 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.