Dear Anne, I am seeing that your social media focus this month is “Goals: How to Set Them & Keep Them”, and I am really at a loss. I feel like I always set New Year’s Resolutions and by January 15th I have stopped. I need help knowing how to set an appropriate goal and then also any tips you can give me on how to keep it.
When counselors talk with clients about setting and meeting their goals they try to make sure that the goals are S.M.A.R.T. First, we want to make sure that the goals that we set are Specific. Having specific goals helps a person to feel more confident about what they are setting out to do as much of the ambiguity is taken away. The more specific your goals are the more likely you are to achieve them.
Second, we want to make goals that are Measurable. For example, if your goal is to exercise and get in shape, then you would want to come up with a number of days a week that you would work out and the amount of time you would work out each day. You might say that you would work out 3 days a week for 30 minutes each day.
Third, goals should be Attainable. When you set goals for yourself that are attainable, you will be able to see yourself accomplish your goals. Therefore, you will be less likely to become discouraged. Set goals that are small enough that you will be able to reach them. As you watch yourself attain one of your goals you will develop more confidence to accomplish your next goal.
Fourth, we want to set goals that are Realistic. They should not be goals that take up too much time to fit into your schedule on a regular basis, or that you would quickly become weary of doing. They should be goals that you have the means to achieve. For example, if your goal is to get in shape and you are on a tight budget this year, then your goal would likely not include a personal trainer, but maybe would include going to the park 3 days a week for a walk or run. Furthermore, your goals should be realistic so that you are able to maintain them.
Finally, goals should be Time bound. For example, if you want to be able to run a half marathon one day you are more likely to achieve that goal if you set a time limit for yourself and say that you want to be able to run a half-marathon one year from now. If you simply say that you will do it “one day” when will you begin to start training and taking steps towards reaching your goal?
Setting goals gives you long term vision and short-term motivation. When you set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound you are more likely to achieve them. As we begin the New Year, let’s not forget about our resolutions because perhaps we have already failed to keep them. Let’s make SMART plans now and set out to achieve our goals!
*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.
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