Well, it is mid-January, 2013. Did you make some New Year’s Resolutions? Have you been working on them, or have you shelved them already? I have seen someclients in my practice who are working on becoming a non-smoker, some are aiming to lose weight or increase their fitness. I have friends, too, who have some big goals for themselves this year, in terms of new directions in life (undertaking training, becoming more spiritually connected, learning public speaking ….).
It is great to have goals, but it is even better to achieve them. We are going to talk about what can assist you in reaching them. Firstly, always think about what you care about or what is important to you in life before setting goals. Consider the different areas in life, such as your health or relationships. Goals based on your values are more meaningful to you, and you are more likely to work towards them.
Jot down your ideas on paper – what would you like to happen, and how would life be different if it did? You might think about what is happening right now or what is your current situation, to help clarify what you need to do differently or what you want to be different. I have written my goals up on my white board at home, so I see them often. One of those goals is to have more quiet moments in my garden. You might put them in your diary or up on the fridge to act as a reminder.
We can fall into the trap of setting goals that are too general or too huge, for example, “I want to be happy, or I want to be wealthy.” It is helpful to think about goals as long-term or short-term, and sometimes a few short-term goals add up to a longer term one! Remember that long-term or ultimate goals can be broken down into a number of short-term goals. This will help you attain them. For example, to increase your wealth, a good place to start is to be free of debt, which might involve working and paying off the credit card or the mortgage.
You will often hear about setting SMART goals. The acronym is really useful and it stands for:
S = specific (define exactly what you want, for example, rather than ‘being happy,’ a more specific goal might be noticing that I have a positive outlook and feel happy at least once a day.
M = measurable or my own (how will you know when you reach your goal, and is it your goal rather than someone else’s)
A = action-based (goals are about doing, so what WILL you do?)
R = realistic (maybe losing 5kgs rather than 35kgs to start with)
T = time-defined (when are you going to complete it)
An example of a SMART goal in relation to smoking would be:
“I will become a non-smoker because I want to for my kids, and to save money. I plan to cut down at the start to about 10 cigarettes a day, and learn to do things differently (if I am stressed, I will practice some deep breathing or go for a walk). I will stop smoking in about a month’s time, and I will make sure to get some support from my friends to help me become a non-smoker.”
You then need to think about STEPS to achieve your goal. Be creative here, and look at all of the options for achieving it. Here is an example for weight loss:
- Getting started by clearing the cupboards and fridge out of unhealthy foods.
- Stocking up with plenty of fruit and vegies.
- Drinking plenty of water.
- Having green tea instead of lattes.
- Walking at least twice a week initially (but aiming for 3 or 4 times a week).
- Getting my family on board to support me, and my girlfriends.
- Keeping a record of my walking and my weight loss.
- Celebrating the first 2 kilos by buying that bag I like!
Sometimes our beliefs about ourselves (such as “I’ll never be able to do it”, or “smoking won’t affect me” can get in the way or making changes. So consider whether you have any beliefs that need to be identified or tackled. You might also want to:
- Think about any obstacles to moving forward, and address these.
- Review your progress regularly.
- Say ‘well done you’ to yourself along the way.
- Not be too self-critical if you are off track, but rather, focus on getting back on track.
- Garner support, for example, walk with a friend.
- Stick to working on one goal instead of too many at once, and you can adjust them if need be.
- Celebrate your successes!