Setting and achieving goals is an important part of therapy, and also very important in everyday life. As a therapist, I have to be able to help people set and achieve goals. As a writer, of course my goals are about making sure I fit writing into my life.
There is something motivating about starting fresh. When I was in public school, I can remember the start of every new academic year would begin with my proclamation that I was going to be more organized and do better in school that year. I graduated high school with a 2.79 GPA, so you can guess how that went.
Similarly, I think there is something to the new year that welcomes setting new goals and trying to achieve new things. Many people set resolutions for the New Year, but New Year’s Resolutions are notoriously not followed through upon. If you have already failed in your New Year’s Resolutions, then don’t give up! You can still do this, and here are a few suggestions to help you.
Is Your Goal Realistic?
It is important that goals are achievable. Losing twenty pounds a month may be hard. When the going gets tough, the tough grab a milkshake and watch How I Met Your Mother re-runs. Make sure your goals are actually achievable, or you are setting yourself up for failure. There is something intrinsically motivating about setting goals. There is also something intrinsically motivating about a achieving goals. Keep your long term goals high, but consider re-evaluating your short term goals to be more realistic. You can celebrate each small victory, which will be motivating as you continue toward your long-term goal.
Make a Public Commitment
When we make a commitment to other people, we are much more likely to follow through on it. My wife and I have been encouraging each other to eat healthy, exercise, and lose weight. It is motivating for both of us that we get encouragement from each other. It is also helpful knowing that we will hold each other accountable for achieving our goals.
Consider a Further Breakdown
I alluded to this above, but consider making short term goals that use the “baby steps” mentioned in the film, What About Bob? One gentleman I knew came up with a goal that he would exercise before opening a beer after work each night. He started by walking around his living room. Then each step was only slightly larger than the last. Since each step was only a bit bigger than the last, it was easy to stay motivated and follow through. The last I heard, he was up to several miles.
People all work for positive reinforcement, recognition, and rewards. This is something that sounds true for kids, but do rewards really work for adults? Think of it this way, would you still go to work if you did not get paid at all? Probably not. Consider rewarding yourself with a trip to the coffee shop, a new CD, or whatever works for you. It can be incredibly motivating to know that you get to go to have a coffee because you worked so hard for it.
Most Importantly, Never Give Up
If a goal is important to you, then keep working toward it. Avoid the all or nothing type of thinking that often leads to abandoning a New Year’s Resolution. Just because it didn’t work out for you one week, does not mean that you have to let go of the idea of meeting your goal. It may be time to re-examine the goal, come up with more baby steps, or find some way to motivate yourself some more, but don’t allow yourself to give up over one small defeat!