It is incredibly common to struggle with the process of setting and accomplishing goals. And due to this difficult process, many of us end up feeling defeated or as if we have some sort of character flaw. This way of thinking can not only keep us from practicing goal setting but can have negative impacts on our overall self-esteem. The process of setting and accomplishing goals is a vital component to our overall mental health and emotional wellbeing; therefore, it is extremely important that we do not abandon the practice of goal setting and goal accomplishment.
Below are some tips to assist you in successfully setting and accomplishing your goals:
- Keep your goals simple and specific. Many of us set goals that are simply too large and/or not clearly defined. This can lead us to feel overwhelmed and/or inadequate if we do not accomplish our goal, when in reality the goal as we defined it was just not feasible. Examples include the following:
|Large/Undefined Goals:||Simple and Specific Goals:|
|Keep my home cleaner||Make my bed every weekday morning|
|Be more social||Have dinner with a friend once per week|
|Get more exercise||Do 15 minutes of exercise four days per week|
- Make sure your goals are realistic. Identify potential barriers to accomplishing your identified goals and modify your goals accordingly. For example, if you set a goal to go to sleep each night at 10 pm but you have a favorite show conflicting with that time, consider altering your chosen bedtime for that evening, or recording the show to watch it at a time not conflicting with your chosen bedtime.
- Identify and challenge “all-or-nothing” thinking. “All-or-nothing” thinking is a pattern of thinking in “extremes” or “absolutes.” When we apply this inaccurate and often-negative method of thinking to goal setting, we can become very easily frustrated or feel as if we have failed. It is therefore vital that we are able to identify and challenge “all-or-nothing” thinking as it applies to goal setting and completion. The following is an example of “all-or-nothing” thinking in relation to goal setting and completion:
|Goal:||Behavior:||“All-or-Nothing” Thinking:||Challenging “All-or-Nothing” Thinking:|
|Make my bed every weekday morning||Missed a day of making my bed due to running late for work||“Since I missed today, I’ll just skip the rest of the week; I can’t keep up with this anyway.”||“It’s okay that I missed one morning; I will pick up where I left off and start making my bed again tomorrow morning.”|
- Set up cues or prompts to remind you of your goal and/or to assist in making your goal more attainable. An example of this would be keeping a pair of walking shoes near your door if your goal is to begin an outdoor walking regimen.
- Be mindful of your self-talk. It is not easy to develop a new habit. It is not easy to set goals and accomplish them. Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that this is a new process, and it is completely normal to struggle when we are learning something new. If you find it hard to be compassionate with yourself, think of what you might say to a close friend or even to a child who is learning a new skill and/or attempting to develop a new habit.
- Provide yourself with positive reinforcement for accomplishing your goals. As stated above, this is not an easy process. Reward yourself for setting and accomplishing a goal. This is a way to show yourself encouragement and compassion, and it is also a technique to make habits you are trying to develop more likely to continue.
If you are finding any of the concepts and/or techniques described in this blog particularly difficult, it may be helpful to seek the guidance of a mental health professional.
-Sierra Shapiro, MS, LPC