Setting goals is a positive intervention that’s used by
almost anyone trying to achieve a task.
In therapy, we use goals to help challenge depression, gauge progress,
reduce anxiety, and build self-esteem.
It is a tool with multiple facets, but setting goals can also work
against us if we don’t do it right.
Consider the infamous New Year’s Eve resolutions: we set
lofty goals, fail to meet them, and end up beating ourselves up about it months
down the road.
Failing to meet a goal
that we set ourselves can lead to feelings of depression and lowered
self-esteem and can discourage us from striving to meet goals in the future.
This does not have to be the case!
In this blog, we’re going to explore how to
create goals that make them easier to achieve and explore an exercise that can
be used to do so.
By following these
ideas, you can make goals a positive intervention skill for your toolbox.
First off, we must examine the goals that we set for how
realistic they are.
The first mistake
that we commonly make is assuming that we can change our behavior completely
We wake up in the morning and
discover that we’ve gained a few pounds.
In response, we proclaim that we’re setting a new goal: “I’m never
eating junk food again!”
A few days go
by and our cravings have gotten the better of us.
We hit the nearest fast food stand and feel
disappointment for our perceived failure.
In reality, our goal was unrealistic from the start and doomed us from
Our goals need to be
something that we can achieve.
identifying something that we can achieve (in the example above, maybe starting
by limiting junk food intake to 3 times a week), we not only give ourselves the
opportunity to achieve success, but we also help to build our confidence at
achieving success in the future.
The next step is to make sure your goal can be
Being able to identify when
we’ve made progress on our goal is crucial to identifying success.
“I resolve this year to feel better about
myself”- this is a great idea, but how will you know when you feel better about
Will you worry less? Call in
sick to work less often?
It is important
to know exactly what changes you want to see.
When you’re dealing with resolutions surrounding feelings, ask yourself
this question: “how will I know when my feelings have changed?”
If you want to be happier, what will happier
look like to you?
These questions will
help you identify exactly what you will look like when you achieve your goals.
Another important step in goal setting is identifying how
you will achieve this goal.
If I set a
goal to run a marathon in 2015, but make no effort to train or plan then there
is almost no chance I will reach my goal.
The best course of action is to identify small, incremental steps that
you can achieve to work toward your goals.
The same rules on being realistic and measurable apply to these steps as
they do to the main goal.
To reach my
goal of running a marathon, I would start off by running a mile every week,
then every day, then a 5K a week, and so on.
Eventually these small steps build us toward our goal.
Here is a fantastic activity that you can use to create
realistic and measurable goals and the steps to achieve them.
Take a piece of paper and turn it
On the far right side identify
the goal you want to achieve.
On the far
left side identify where you are now.
Once that is done, identify four steps in between the two that help you
get from where you are to where you want to be.
These stepping stones act as your incremental steps to help you achieve
the ultimate goal.
Create one of these
charts and use it to help remind and encourage you.
Hang it in the office, on the refrigerator,
or anywhere else that you’ll see it and be reminded of the small steps you’re
taking to reach the thing you want most.
The use of these simple skills will help you to set and
achieve goals for yourself.
our goals realistic, measurable, and creating incremental steps to work towards
them, we increase the chance of success.
The achievement of goals helps us to build confidence and self-esteem,
and we can achieve the goals we set with a little help and preparation.
Bill Knor, LCPC
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor