Goals. A positive concept right?
Absolutely, but they must not be rash. Setting goals can be extremely beneficial. They can often act as a motivation or add increased meaning to something you would like to achieve. They can help you work towards an increased mentally healthy life, however, the key is to make goals that are SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. We can often fall into the trap of making goals that are unachievable or horrifically daunting, which really isn’t that healthy and ends up completely breaking down the positive meanings behind what a goal actually is. Yes, there may be a little bit of nervousness or hesitancy towards certain goals, but they shouldn’t leave you in fear. The ‘SMART’ goals concept is not something that I’ve come up with myself, it was actually explained to me quite recently by my psychologist, so I thought it would be a really useful thing to share.
Goals must be specific. Very specific if possible. If we make goals that are too broad, they can often feel unhealthily daunting and completely out of reach. It can also leave us wondering where and how to even start. Try to really focus in on the thing you want to achieve. Break it down so that you can clearly identify the steps you need to take to achieve the goal. For example, if I was to make the goal – “To go out with a friend“, I would want to start pulling it apart to make the steps in achieving this clear. So, “Choose friend(s) to go out with.” → “Approach friend(s) and brainstorm ideas.” → “Select a destination/activity/date.” → “Write it down so you don’t forget.” → “Propose that they collect you beforehand so you can’t back out” → “Have an adult help prompt you if you begin to rethink and get hesitant“. This way I can clearly see what I need to do to get started with this goal and the process I must go through in order to achieve it.
You must make goals in a way that’s measurable. A pivotal motivational factor behind a goal is seeing progress. If your goal cannot be measured in any way, it will be very difficult to see the progress which can be a bit disheartening. This ties in well with the ‘Specific’ aspect of SMART goals as mentioned above. By breaking it down, you end up with small measurable sections that you can actually tick off once complete. This way you have something to visibly represent the fact that you’re making steps in the right direction and it can be quite nice to see your progress over time. Make sure you give yourself credit for each achievement, you’re on your way!
Whilst it can be a good thing to push yourself and reach further than you maybe think you can go, there is a limit. If we really start to go extravagant on our goals, they can quickly fall to be more of a burden and even turning into something we end up using to criticise ourselves by. Goals must be achievable. Start small and work your way up. You will get more satisfaction from achieving several smaller goals that you might initially think are a little irrelevant, than being unable to achieve that colossal goal which could be seen as the ‘better’, ‘more impressive’ option initially. Plus you’re going to grow as a person over time anyway and that colossal goal you initially thought of may actually become less daunting as you work on the smaller goals. It’s quite similar to how we would tackle OCD exposures. Working on the smaller, less daunting exposures first will, in time, help to make the exposures you placed on top of your hierarchy become less daunting and more achievable.
When we talk about goals being relevant, we don’t necessarily mean that they all have to be on the same topic, more so that you need to make sure that they are worthwhile and beneficial to you. Are they going to make you happy? Are you making these goals with your own personal well-being in mind? Don’t make goals to alter yourself for other people, make them for your own benefit. Additionally, can working towards your goals fit into your key responsibilities? If you end up having to neglect vital aspects of life, then they aren’t really that suitable for goals. They must take into consideration your current situation and health.
Try and set goals with some time frame in mind. Again, this can help act as a motivation to start working on a goal because if there’s no real intended ‘time limit’ then sometimes we may just never start. I use the phrase ‘time limit’ lightly though because ultimately this can easily become something detrimental. We can end up beating ourselves up because we haven’t met our intended completion date. Be flexible with your time frames. Making them can be extremely beneficial, but be open to the fact that you may not always hit them. There is no shame in extending a goal’s intended completion time period if needed and ultimately it’s totally fine to put a goal on hold if you’re finding it too tricky to work on. Again, do what’s best for you.
Remember. You are the most important person in this process. Do this for you.