Spending time with family and friends over the Christmas and New Year period has led to several discussions about New Year Resolutions, as well as hopes and expectations. The usual hot topics of losing weight and eating healthily made the cut, but so did things like wanting to read more, spending less time at work, and spending more time with family and friends. It came to my attention that so many of us are feeling like life is becoming a rat race, so much so that it is becoming more and more difficult to stay on top of things. I wanted to share with you the idea of how setting S.M.A.R.T goals, (which is adapted from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), throughout the year can help you stay on track.
Goals need to be specific. If we set a goal that’s not specific we can lose perspective. When thinking about things we want to achieve, we need to think more clearly about what it actually is that we want to achieve. For example, if someone says to you “I want to exercise more this year” – it sounds great because they want to look after their health and wellbeing, but what kind of exercise do they want to do? How often do they want to exercise? How long do they want to exercise for when they are exercising? When we get specific and write stuff down, we become more accountable and more likely to achieve our goals rather than set ourselves up for failure.
Goals also need to be meaningful. If exercise is not meaningful for you, then don’t write it down as a goal. There are plenty of other ways to look after your health and wellbeing. You might be thinking of other things that are meaningful to you that you would like to do more of this year. That’s ok! Write it down. Make it specific and meaningful. Not sure what’s meaningful? Ask yourself, what matters to you as a person? For example, someone might set the goal of reading one fiction novel per month because they value leisure, and reading is a leisurely activity for that person. Before you set your goals have a think about what is it that you value? What goals can you set for yourself that are in line with what is important to you?
Goals need to be attainable for them be achieved. Making a goal attainable means setting a goal that is within your capability at this point in time. This means that you might need to set yourself smaller goals to eventually reach your end goal. Setting an unattainable end goal right now will only set you up for failure, but setting smaller more achievable ones will make it more likely to occur.
Goals also need to be realistic. Wanting to learn a language in a week before travelling overseas might not be realistic, but learning a few greeting words and directions might be. So start small, and work your way up from there.
Setting a time limit on goals is also necessary since it keeps us accountable for what we want to achieve. Keeping a flexible schedule can help us work toward our goals and experience a sense of achievement.
Setting goals and sticking to them is hard work. It requires consistency, which takes a lot of effort. Some days you’ll be on track and other days you will be so far off you won’t even be able to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. Rest assured that this is all a part of the process. Reminding yourself of your values and why you started in the first instance can help get back on track, but so can reviewing your goals regularly, and talking about it with the support system around you.
Good luck with your goal setting for 2017!
~ Dr Celin Gelgec and the team at Melbourne Wellbeing Group