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Goals: What are you aiming for?

It’s that time of year again! As we head into a new year, many of us set up resolutions to be better, to look better or to act better.  Often we focus on changing our physical selves.  Getting fit, giving up smoking, eating a healthier diet are all good for our bodies and have the added benefit of being good for our mental health too.  Dissatisfaction with our circumstances or life events can be a factor in mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, panic, stress etc. So what small changes can you make that could make a positive impact on your life? In this post, we look at some tried and true goal setting approaches to apply SMART Goals to our own lives at any time of the year.   

Firstly, how can Goals help?  Goals give you direction, they keep you focused and motivated, and increase your chances of achieving things. We adopt goals for one reason and one reason only: to change our lives. If you ever feel your direction in life needs changing, try to take a good look at your current goals, if any, and make adjustments or set yourself new goals. Whatever your goals are, make sure they’re SMART – that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timed.

Specific: These goals usually answer the five Ws – What, Why, Who, Where and Which?  Writing specific objectives fleshes out your goal so you can easily identify what you want to accomplish.  So, if your goal is, “I want to eat a healthier diet,” that is quite vague. Instead, try to focus on ways you’d like to eat more healthily i.e. do you want to eat your 5 a day of fruit & veg? What about reducing sugar intake? When you are specific about your goals, it’s easier to identify progress and track any setbacks, whether it’s changes in diet or lifestyle, in education or career, in relationships or in something random.  Whatever it is, each person is different and your goals are unique to you.

Measurable: If your goal isn’t measurable, there’ll be no way to know if you’re making progress. You need to address the question, “How will I know when this is accomplished?” Make sure each goal has a result, so you know when you have achieved it or if you need to change it.  If your plan is to get fit, decide how you will measure that e.g. setting a running distance.  

Attainable: Your goal must be something that you can realistically accomplish. You might want to run 30 marathons in 30 days, but first you need to work on your stamina. If you’re a complete beginner, starting by running to the end of your road, slowly increasing to 1k and building up from there to a 5k or more, is a more manageable goal.  If your plan is, for instance, to go back to college or do a night course, set out the list of actions to achieve that and work through them.  Each action done is a step towards achieving your goal. 

Relevant: If your goal doesn’t mean anything to you, then it isn’t worth pursuing. Make sure you are behind the goal 100% so you stay motivated to achieve it, don’t aim for a goal because all of your friends are doing, or because it’s the latest trend. Each goal should help you achieve something you truly want rather than what you think you should be achieving eg: learning a language because you want to visit that country versus you got a free app for a language course.

Time Bound: We all need to have a deadline. Otherwise it’s just a dream that never becomes reality. Putting down a deadline makes you more committed to bringing it to fruition and makes you accountable to yourself and others if you choose to share your goals with them.

How do you decide on your Goals? If you’re having difficulty in setting goals, start with things you enjoy. Write down the five things you enjoy most in life. Are there any goals you can identify here? Don’t get caught up in ‘big’ goals. A lot of the time when we think about goals, we think they need to be a huge, life changing thing, and that can become overwhelming. Change how you think about goals. A goal should be anything you want to do or achieve – big, small, or completely random. When you’ve achieved a goal, take the time to enjoy the satisfaction of having done so. If the goal was a significant one, reward yourself appropriately.

And remember, goal setting and living up to those goals is no easy feat. Daily responsibilities can often get in the way. We can find ourselves floundering early on, but if you follow these tips, you can achieve what you aim for.