Let's face it, nine times out of ten New Years resolutions don't work. Making a resolution often sets us up for failure. Part of the reason is that resolutions are too open ended, non-specific, or simply not attainable. Goals however are more narrowed down and specific to your needs.
Make the goals your own
Goal setting has so many benefits in your mental health recovery, and it is important that you, the consumer, set those goals according to your desires, not what someone else wants or thinks you should do. Who wants to achieve a goal someone else sets for you? Guidance or feedback from someone you know well and trust is great, but be careful to make the goals yours.
Goals should be something you want for yourself, according to your needs. This makes goal setting a whole lot more fun and less pressure in achieving them. I can tell you that many a time a counselor has asked me what my goals were and then proceeded to make such strong "suggestions" that I walked out totally unmotivated. My list usually looked like:
- Go to bed earlier.
- Use day of the week pill box.
- Use deep breathing for anxiety.
Sensible, useful, practical as that list is, coming from someone else and not from my own desires, left me feeling totally unmotivated, bored, and I forgot them before I walked out the door. Now if they were something I really wanted, then I would have had a lot of anticipation and motivation. There is a time and necessity for those goals, especially from a medical standpoint. But if they you don't care about them or set them as your goal, then it will not make a difference.
What good does setting goals do, anyway?
Oh my, so many answers to that question, where to begin? Here are a few of the best:
How do those sound? As one who has finally gotten to the point of setting my own goals in recovery, and achieved many, I can tell you I own every one of those. Every time I meet a goal, it gives me hope that I can do more and more, all in good time. It becomes an adventure, though the way is not always perfectly smooth. It gives me a sense of controlling my own life and recovery instead of being passively dependent on others to make all the decisions. I become more of the "me" that I want to be, and not what my family or friends think I should be. I see fulfillment possibilities on the rise when I set my own goals. When I achieve a goal I say to myself, "I can do this." When I accomplish it I feel like James Brown is singing "I Feel Good!" in my mind and heart.
Goals are the planned target, objectives are the steps to get there. Breaking it down like this keeps it more doable in your mind.
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that is used sometimes to help individuals develop goals and objectives. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-delineated. Breaking them down, here's what they look like:
Specific - who, where, when and sometimes how or why. An example would be:
Who: I will
Where: Go to the Y
Why: To apply for a scholarship for membership
This was actually a goal of mine once. Setting the goal so specifically was empowering, and not as overwhelming as "I will get a membership this year at a gym and exercise and get in shape (that's a resolution). See the difference? I felt so good when I went I saw it was doable.
Measurable - I know I will have achieved my objective when:
- When the scholarship application is filled out and submitted.
Achievable - Can I do this? Is this impossible or possible?
My going to the Y would have been a greater challenge had I not made the specific objectives to accomplish it (the who, where, when and why). For where I was at the time, it was the perfect way to set and achieve the goal.
Realistic - In my case with applying for a scholarship at the Y, certainly it was a realistic goal.
If I had made the goal to become head trainer at YMCA in the next year, it would not have been a realistic, immediate goal since I am not educated or trained to do such a thing. However, not do discourage anyone, that would be wonderful and appropriate for a long-range life goal (another article).
* Find safe, trusted supporters if you want some healthy input, or help getting started, but do not let people who have their own agenda, and not what would bring you quality, healthy recovery discourage or deter you.
Time-delineated - When will you go, start etc.?
This would apply in a situation where your goal would be to work out twice a week at the Y. It could be "I will start going beginning next week on Tuesdays and Thursdays." "In three months," would allow too much time to lose interest, confidence, motivation, or to just get distracted.
Breaking down goals and objectives this way are not always called for; it all depends on where we are in our journey. At times it was just the method I needed and set me up for success. And I did succeed at many. Fulfillment and a quality life are possible. No need to listen to those who tell you otherwise. Starting with goals that you have set up yourself based on these principals is a going to make a huge difference in your life.