It’s that time again. The time each year when gym memberships skyrocket, people vow to never eat junk food again, and almost everyone vows to spend less time on social media and be more present in the moment. Everyone seems to want to lose 5 pounds, read more books, eat fruit instead of chips, stop bad habits, and serve more in the community. Many people come up with a “word” for the year, while others make a bucket list for the next 12 months. Friends and family gather around the table on New Year’s Day and perhaps share their “New Year’s Resolutions” or ‘New Year’s Goals” with everyone as they eat black eyed peas and collard greens.
Then, there are those people that kind of laugh at the idea of a New Year’s Resolution, but the truth is that setting goals or resolutions for the upcoming year really isn’t such a bad idea. There are many advantages to setting goals. They can provide you with direction and meaning in your life, as well give you a renewed passion and purpose. When you set goals and know where you are headed, making decisions becomes much easier. Goals also give us personal satisfaction as we see ourselves working towards them and accomplishing them, and they also help provide a benchmark to help us know if we are succeeding in different areas of our lives.
When coming up with goals, you want to make sure that they are goals that actually motivate you. You should set goals that align with high priorities that you have in life. For example, if you love to travel, you may want to set a goal of saving a certain amount of money each month towards a trip. If you do not enjoy traveling, then this goal would not likely motivate you very much. Think of some high priority things that you want to achieve or do in this next year, and make a list. Next you want to make sure that your goals are SMART. SMART is an acronym that many people use for setting goals:
- Specific-make sure your goals are clear and well defined
- Measurable-your goals should be able to be measured, including a time period or date
- Attainable-make sure your goals are things that you can realistically do
- Relevant-your goals should be relevant to your life and life’s direction
- Time Bound-your goals should have deadlines
Another tip for setting goals is to break your long term or big goal down into short term or smaller goals. Think of short term goals as stepping stones for getting to your long term goal. In our previous example, setting aside money each month to take a trip would be your long term goal. A related short term goal would be to eat out 2 times less each month, in order to save that money towards your trip. Another example is that you may have a long term goal of losing 15 pounds this year. Related short term goals would be to lose 1-2 pounds each month, or to exercise 3 times each week. These smaller goals will help you get to your bigger goal. You also want to make sure that you actually write your goals down. Be sure to always phrase your goals in “I will” statements instead of “I want to” or “I would like to.” For example, “I will lose 15 pounds this year” instead of “I want to lose 15 pounds this year.” Phrasing your goals like this sets you up for success and promotes positive thinking.
Finally, you must commit to stick to your plan. Once you have written down your goals and created short term goals to help you get there, you have to commit. Some people find that they need one or two people to hold them accountable while working towards their goal. Have a friend check in with you weekly or monthly, and give them permission to encourage you as you reach your goal. Set checkpoints to formally evaluate how you are doing in working towards your goals. Some people enjoy keeping a journal, where they can write down their progress, successes, and failures. If you find yourself getting off track, don’t beat yourself up. Everyone gets off track at times. You may need to tweak your plan and short term goals some, but just know that you can jump back on track at any time. When you see yourself succeeding and making progress, feel free to reward yourself. You should be proud!
Here at Water’s Edge Counseling, our therapists are experts at helping clients set and work towards goals in different areas of their lives. If you find yourself lost and needing help setting direction or goals for your life, feel free to call us at 912-319-5552. We would love to help you too!