By Wendy Lynch, Courier & Press, Feb. 9, 2016 –
About a month ago, many New Year’s resolutions were set. Determined to have a fresh start, many of us set goals to exercise more, eat healthier or work on relationships. Some of us may already be disappointed in our progress one month into 2016, however, because we set unrealistic goals.
Setting achievable goals allows us to change behaviors and challenges us to make progress. Goals provide us with direction and focus. When we have control we can make changes. However, there are several things that need to happen before change can occur.
First, having a commitment to goals is important, because it allows us to be involved in the change process. Being committed and practicing the right skills will help us stay dedicated. When we challenge ourselves we are moving forward, so having determination and enthusiasm will help.
Second, we all need motivation. Do not let your motivation dissolve; follow through! Motivation is essential to change a behavior or an environment. It keeps us on track. Having a support person is also very important. We all need someone in our lives to give encouragement and provide support. It is especially important when we are making a change, because change will always need to be supported — even after our goal has been achieved. Find someone who will be supportive and hold you accountable for your actions.
The next step is to organize and prioritize your goals. Begin with the end in mind. For example, you could write, “I know my goal will be achieved when I have read eight books for the entire year.” Writing down your goal will provide a sense of accomplishment when you succeed.
In his book, “The Essentials of Family Therapy,” Michael Nichols states that useful goals are specific and include positive actions. One way to organize goals is to break them down into manageable steps. If, for example, your goal is to read more books this year, you might think about writing down a plan to read six chapters this week and 12 chapters next week. Writing down these smaller goals provides a clear picture of what you want to achieve and how you’re going to get there.
It is also important to list some obstacles that might get in the way. When you list your obstacles you are preparing yourself, which will help prevent you from being derailed. This step will take some self-reflection and honesty, but it will help when problematic situations arise. Setbacks are going to happen, so when setting goals think of some scenarios or situations that might make reaching your goal difficult.
Celebrate your successes as you achieve small goals, and give yourself credit every step of the way. And then keep going. Set more goals after you succeed.
Lastly, whatever your goals are, know that making a change can be difficult. Try to think of the result and how your life will benefit from your commitment.