Goal Setting - A challenge for our mental health

Updated: Jan 20

It’s the time of year when goals are set, resolutions are made and we start the new year with the very best of intentions. But, let’s get real, how long do these promises last? How long before the guilt sets in when we fail our first target? Some people may have trouble sticking to goals because they don’t distinguish their goals from more casual, everyday self-improvement efforts. Just because you decide to start running every day doesn’t necessarily make that a conscious goal. So let’s revisit what goal setting means. Goal setting is a purposeful and explicit process that starts with identifying a new objective, skill, or project you want to achieve. Then, you make a plan for achieving it, and you work to complete it. Why should we even set goals? Setting goals can help us organise life and give us a strong sense of control and direction.

Goals can provide us with focus and determination…and the RIGHT goals won’t have us feeling angry at ourselves for not achieving them. Psychologist Edwin Locke developed a goal-setting theory which recommended how to set the most effective kinds of goals. In his theory, he found that we are more motivated to complete goals if those goals are more difficult to achieve. If we set a goal which is too easy, we are likely to be less likely to strive. But doesn't this go against the thought process of setting hard goals? Won't that make us feel worse? No, as one of the most important aspects of this whole theory is not the goal, it’s understanding the journey to get there and setting out steps to achieve. Setting challenging goals is good, but without the planning it can go wrong. What’s the process we should take for great goal setting? Step one: Visualise the journey Before you even begin to set a goal, take a closer look at what you’re trying to achieve and ask yourself the following questions - is this goal something that connects with you and something you want? Do you realistically have the time and effort to achieve it? If you say no, or shrug your shoulders, to either of these questions maybe the goal isn’t for you. Step two: Set an achievable plan It’s important to set targets which you can measure and give a timeline to - Google SMART goal setting! By breaking up the goal into smaller and measurable chunks it will boost your confidence to keep striving. As part of this process create a timeline to help you map the process out in your own mind. Step three: Make it visual As humans we love observing and being creative, so why not make your goal visual? Get out the texters, stickers and drawing pads out and get arty! Create your own mind map of your goal and how you are going to get there.

Research shows that if we can see progress - we are more likely to succeed! Step four: Keep yourself accountable It’s easy to plan, but then the worst thing to do would be ‘set and forget’. You need to track how you're going - assess your progress and measure this against your original plan. The best thing is, if things are steering off course, you have a chance to rectify and tweak before it’s too late. Goals can be great, they help us strive to be better people and bring a sense of success and achievement, however they can also bring with it a sense of despair and self-loathing. Too often we put ourselves down for not losing the 5kgs or competing in our first half marathon. By taking the time and effort to understand what drives us, plan the journey and celebrate the successes we can avoid all the pitfalls! Good luck planning!

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