It’s a new year. A new year of opportunity and potential. 365 fresh chances to begin cultivating the life you want. This isn’t your first resolution rodeo, though. It’s hard to create new habits that actually stick. More often than not, we pick lofty, generalized goals. We resolve to eat more veggies and drink more water in an aim to lose weight and feel comfortable in our skin. We tell ourselves this is the year we’re getting that big promotion or even switch careers entirely. No matter the resolution though, planning is a crucial part of being able to check that resolution off your list. Which is why today we want to talk about goal setting and how to actually achieve your resolutions in 2019.
Goal setting is a very familiar concept to most. But there are very few people who actually sit down and articulate those goals. Goal setting is defined as “a mental representation of a desired outcome that a person is committed to”. There are two parts to every goal. The first is identifying the thing you want. And the second is the will to stick with a specific course of action in order to achieve it.
Research shows that most people use goal setting for self-improvement, improving relationships, and achieving something in the “big picture”. So before we go any further, take a few moments to think about your life. In the big picture, what do you hope to experience and accomplish? In what ways do you want to improve your health – both mentally and physically? What habits do you want to change? How do you want to improve your relationships? Are there any skills you want to learn?
Steps to Goal Setting: Get Specific
The first thing you should do in this goal setting process is simply write down whatever comes to mind. Don’t worry about the format. Write them down manually or type them on your phone or laptop. Just go with whatever comes to you. Once you make your initial list, make sure it’s realistic. Are these goals achievable? Are they truly about you and will they help create the future you truly want for yourself?
Once that step is complete, the next thing to do is make sure your list is worded positively. This is something I know many of us don’t really think about. But the way we phrase our goals is just as important as the goals we set. It’s important that our goals are something we want more of or are striving towards. As opposed to something you are trying to remove from your life. For example, maybe you want to set a goal of watching less TV in 2019. Instead of saying “I want to watch less TV” make the goal more positive. Make your goal “to read more books” or “spend more time outside”.
The final and most important part of goal setting is getting specific. Use detailed language and avoid generalizations. Reaching for generalized goals like “being happier” or “being a better person” are great, but don’t give you a true marker of where you stand in that goal. Instead, try to identify specific behaviors you want to increase to help you reach that goal. It can also be helpful to use specific numbers (especially if you’re someone who does well with tracking).
Goal Setting: Creating Your Action Plan
Find the Right Tool
Now it’s time to break down your goals individually and create a plan of action. For each goal, you’re going to need to figure out how you can measure your progress. Do you want to use spreadsheets? Or perhaps let your creativity run free in a bullet journal. Find a tool that makes you excited to track your goals and you’ll have an easier time sticking to them!
Establish a Timeline
The second thing you should ponder is the time frame you want to achieve each goal in. Remember, it may take 21 days to create a new habit, but it generally takes 60 to fully incorporate it into your life. If you’re working towards a specific date (let’s use weight loss and your 25-year reunion as an example), it may be wise to set increments for each month leading up. Smaller goals are more manageable and will help you reach your end goal in time!
What are You Actively Doing to Reach Your Goal?
The next step is one that’s often overlooked but will set the tone in reaching your goal. Look at each individual goal you have. And list the specific things you are already actively doing to reach your goal. This is your goal foundation. It’s a helpful tool as you are most likely going to need to keep doing these things throughout your goal-reaching process. When you become overwhelmed, this list can help you re-center.
Other Questions to Ask
Ask yourself these other questions and make sure to write down your answers:
- What are the next logical steps you need to take to achieve your goal? If the steps are larger, you may want to break them into small sub-steps.
- Based on your time-frame for the overall goal, what is the specific time frame for each of these steps?
- If there are things above that seem too far out of reach yet, what do you need to develop, learn, or prepare for to be able to take the steps?
- What can you do today that are part of the steps you wrote about above?
- Who and what are the supports that will help you along the way?
CPA Counseling Wants to Help!
Now that you have set specific goals and created an action plan, it’s time to start working! Counseling can be a helpful tool to help you make the changes you want and work toward that end goal. Sharing these things with your therapist can help you both stay on the same page. However, it also keeps you accountable in working towards your goals. Therapy and counseling are safe spaces where you can voice your concerns, develop coping and communication skills, and find the support you need.
Remember, therapy is hard work! It can feel extremely uncomfortable and even exhausting. Having a hand to hold and help guide you will only add to your personal success. Cristina Panaccione and Associates Counseling has three locations in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you achieve your goals in 2019.
Jennifer Krause – MS, LPC
Jennifer is a Licensed Professional Counselor who received her Masters of Science Degree from Chatham University. She has over 18 years of counseling experience with a wide range of patients in a variety of treatment settings. These have included: outpatient community mental health agencies, partial psychiatric hospital settings, both inpatient and outpatient drug and alcohol facilities, correctional settings, and an outpatient intensive treatment foster care program. Her clinical experience has been broad, treating both adolescents and adults struggling with: addiction, trauma, mood disorders, anger management issues, borderline personality disorder, depression, and anxiety. I also have experience with couples counseling, working with families, and group therapy. She has extensive training in Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Trauma-Focused CBT.
Cristina Panaccione & Associates