Setting goals is something that we do routinely in therapy. Sometimes these goals are short-term and something that clients hope to accomplish in the near future, while others require a longer process and often include multiple steps or phases of work. Even if you have not been in therapy, you have likely had times in your life when you have made it a point to set a goal to work towards. Whether it is something you hope to accomplish soon or are able to work patiently towards down the road, these are some important things to keep in mind to help you stay on track and avoid discouragement.
First, there is an acronym that is often used and can help with defining goals known as “SMART”:
S – Specific: Be as concrete as possible when setting goals. Think in terms of what you need to do in order to accomplish a goal as much as what the goal is. (For example, instead of “get in shape” the goal might be to exercise at least 5 times each week).
M-Measurable: If we have no way of looking back and measuring our progress, it is easy to get discouraged! Consider taking a self-assessment that you can re-take at a later date (these are easy to find online). If your goals are health-related, you might start with going to the doctor to attain baseline numbers such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which can then be re-checked after a period of time.
A-Attainable: So often we set goals that are really difficult, if not impossible to attain. And, of course, this results it giving up and feeling as though you have failed. If your goal does not feel attainable, consider how you can break it down into smaller steps. This is especially important to stay on-track if your goal is long-term.
R-Realistic: Similar to attainable, goals have to be realistic in order to experience success. Again, really consider what you are asking of yourself and if needed, scale it back or talk to your doctor about what would be a reasonable goal (if it is health-related).
T-Time-based: You are more likely to experience success if your goal has a definitive time you are working towards. Otherwise, it is too easy to put-off the work that has to be done in order to see progress.
A few other tips to keep in mind to help with successful goal-setting:
Find an accountability partner.
Spend time making a list of what you know you need in order to be successful in reaching your goal.
Make a list of the strengths you possess that will help you reach your goal (and keep this list posted where you can read it often!).
Be kind to yourself.Being critical and harsh towards yourself only results in negative feelings and discouragement.
Celebrate successes, including the small ones!Further, remember that rewards do not have to cost money, involve food, and should not sabotage progress.Be creative with celebrations and at the very least, write down what you have accomplished!
Find the right person who can help.This might be a personal trainer, your doctor, a dietician, pastor, therapist, or just the right friend.
I wish you well in your efforts!