Goal setting: A powerful tool for anytime of year
January 11, 2016 by
Zandra Alford in
by Zandra Alford
With every new year comes the inevitable talk about new year’s resolutions. A new year makes us think about the future and often gets us thinking about changes we want to make in our lives. New year’s resolutions can be motivating, but they can also be stressful as change, no matter the time of year, can often be a difficult process.
Of course, implementing changes in our lives is not just something that is reserved for the beginning of the year. Thinking about our lives and the changes we want to accomplish is something that can come up any day of any year. Often we think about making changes when we experience significant life events like changes in relationships, jobs, family situations, health, etc. This makes enacting change particularly difficult, as these events can sometimes be stressful or difficult.
Goal setting is a powerful tool that can help to make changes in our lives. I would like to share some steps that I have found helpful. These steps can help guide change and make sure you are supported during the process. It’s helpful to write down the steps you will take to implement a change so that you have a written record of what you would like to do. The tips below will help to create your own personalized written plan.
- Establish a realistic goal: The first step in any life change, no matter how big or small, is identifying what it is we want to change. Goals can start as general statements, i.e. I want to eat better, lose weight, or stop smoking. Because general goals are hard to make into a reality, it is important to narrow our goals to something that is more specific, i.e. I want to reduce the amount of sugary beverages I drink to 3 per week by March, I want to lose 15 pounds by May, or I want to stop smoking cigarettes by August. Setting a specific goal and timeline helps us know how we are doing on our goals and makes them more attainable. Remember, it is important to pick a goal that you are ready to commit to and that is possible to accomplish. Avoid setting unrealistic goals (i.e. cutting out all sugary beverages by next week, losing 50 pounds by February, stop smoking tomorrow). Realistic goals and timelines will help you be successful!
- Tip: Write down your specific goal on a piece of paper. You can keep this paper with you throughout the day or in a safe place so that you can refer to it through out your journey towards change.
- Identify steps to accomplish your goal: Rome wasn’t built in a day and personal change doesn’t happen overnight. To be successful in accomplishing our goals, it’s important to identify the steps we plan to take. Think of this as a plan of action that will guide you from where you are today to where you want to be. For example, if your goal is to reduce the amount of sugary beverages you drink to three per week by March, start by thinking about how many sugary beverages you currently drink each week. If you drink one with every meal, that’s about 21 sugary beverages each week. Now that you know your starting point, what steps can you take towards your goal? Maybe start by cutting out sugary beverages with breakfast during the rest of January, and then, in February work on reducing the amount of sugary beverages you drink with lunch to 3 times a week. Think of steps that work for you and that will help you get to your goal.
- Tip: Write down your steps for your plan of action. Your steps may change as you work towards accomplishing your goal, so remember to update the steps in your plan of action as you move along.
- Identify barriers to achieving your goal: Think about obstacles that might prevent you from accomplishing your goal. This could be anything from things in our environment to your schedule throughout the day. If we identify the things that could make achieving our goal difficult, we can also come up with a plan on how we can deal with each challenge. Making a plan for challenges in advance will help us deal with obstacles when we face them in real life. For example, if you are trying to reduce the amount of sugary beverages you drink, one obstacle might be not having alternative beverage choices. If you generally buy a soda at lunch, think about bringing a cup or water bottle with you so that you can have an alternative beverage. If your goal is to stop smoking and you generally smoke in response to stress, think about other stress responses you might use instead, such as taking a walk or calling a friend. People or things in our environment can also act as barriers to our goals. Though we can’t always remove these challenges we can make a plan about how to address them. If you are trying to stop smoking and someone in your life smokes, you might decide to share your goal with them. You might ask them to not smoke around you or offer you cigarettes. You might even talk to them about ways that you can spend time together without smoking.
- Tip: Write down a list of barriers that might keep you from reaching your goal. For each barrier, write down 1-2 strategies for addressing these barriers. Remember to adjust your list as needed. As you move along with your goal you might discover new barriers and new strategies for addressing them.
- Identify support: We all need support in life, especially when we are trying to make changes. Take some time to identify the support systems in your life that can help you in accomplishing your goal. This could include friends, family, co-workers, church, and counselors. Maybe there is someone in your life who has the same goal and you can support each other in your efforts. If you feel it will help you in accomplishing your goal, share your goal with the different members of your support network. Remember to call on your support whenever you need it.
- Tip: Write down a list of people in your support network and how they can support you in your goal. Remember to adjust your list as new support becomes available.
- Be kind to yourself: Change is difficult and takes time. During our journey towards change we will have victories as well as setbacks. Remember to celebrate the victories you have towards achieving your goal, and try not to dwell on or punish yourself for setbacks.
- Tip: Do something nice for yourself when you’ve had a particularly good or hard week. If you accomplish a step in your plan, celebrate by spending time with a friend, giving yourself a manicure, or doing something else you enjoy. Self-care is always a good thing, especially when we are trying to make a change in our life.
- Reevaluate your plan when needed: Plans can change for many reasons. If you need to make changes to your plan, do it! Just remember to keep your overall goal in mind. If you find you need more time to get to your end goal, take some time to adjust your plan to fit your new situation.
- Tip: Write down changes to your plan as you move forward towards your goal.
Good luck on your journey! You can do this, and I hope that using this guide can help you get there! Let us know how you are doing by posting a comment on our Facebook page. We hope to hear from you.