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Setting Goals

22 November 2016

An important part of every Changes meeting is to set a goal for the next week. This helps you to feel that you are beginning to make headway in dealing with your own personal issues. It can seem like the tiniest and most insignificant goal, but can be a giant leap for anyone experiencing tough times. Some people on their first few visits will simply set a goal of attending the following week, eventually moving on to more personal goals when they feel secure and comfortable.

Some common mistakes that cause people to fall short of their goals include:

  • Setting goals too high; unrealistic goals can lead to stress, or becoming demoralised and giving up altogether.
  • Too many goals.
  • Goals that conflict with each other, such as ‘increase my business income’ and ‘spend more time with the family’ may be set up to fail. It’s important to adjust goals to fit in with all aspects of life.
  • Goals that are not specific enough.

At Changes we encourage members to set goals using the SMART model. The SMART theory of goal setting is based on years of academic research and originally became popular in the 1980s. The basic features of goals that work are:

An example goal: “I will walk more”

S  Any goal should be well defined and clear for you to understand what is required to succeed. 

M  How will you know when you succeed? Will you walk for 20 minutes, or walk a circuit of the park - how often? 

A  OK, are you actually going to have time to go for a 20 minute walk every day or would it be easier to try, say, two or three times per week?

R  The walking is a great idea, but you don’t have any trainers - so is it really going to be possible?

T  When will you be looking back to review your success? How long will you give yourself to do the task? 

Goal given the SMART workout: “By next meeting I will walk for twenty minutes on three days and will buy some trainers on Monday in order to do this.” 

How SMART are your goals?

Learning how to set goals and achieve them can help you live the life you want while managing your mental health recovery. When you set your own goals, YOU are in control and you decide what success looks and feels like to you.

It can be helpful to think about:

  • What is important to you
  • What you want to accomplish
  • What you want out of your life

 More tips for successfully setting goals include:

  • Take Small Steps - break down big goals into smaller ones so they are more manageable and easier to reach.
  • Get Support - it’s not always easy to reach a goal—so some people appreciate help. Think about which people from your treatment team or support network might be able to help you.
  • Share Your Goals With Others -if you share goals publicly, you may feel more committed to reaching them.
  • Stay Positive - having hope and believing in yourself can inspire you to accomplish your goals.
  • Track Your Successes and Challenges - remember to share you progress with your support network and give yourself credit for the work you are doing.

Some of our members share their goal making thoughts and experiences:

"I find goal setting generally positive and concentrates the mind. I use goals in my life now to try and move things forward. I tend to set longer goals for say 6 months time or 12 months and have very small goals to achieve it. I find setting goals helps focus the mind as long as they are not too ambitious. When I go to meetings I usually remember my goal although sometimes I find it difficult to set one and need help from others in the group when I am not feeling well."

"At a meeting a few months ago, when asked for a goal, a member said 'Chop wood and carry water'. I 'got' this, but for those that don't it's part of a Buddhist koan. In full it says, 'Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water, after enlightenment chop wood and carry water'. The reason I recognised it is that it was quoted in a trendy book of the late 60s called 'Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance'. But the koan that you're more likely to have heard of is 'What is the sound of one hand clapping?' " A koan is a riddle or puzzle that Zen Buddhists use during meditation to help them unravel greater truths about the world and about themselves. Zen masters have been testing their students with these stories, questions, or phrases for centuries.

"I tend to pick goals based on what I was planning to do or needed to do anyway. I feel as if I have enough challenges in my life already and using goals in this way forces me to acknowledge the things that I actually have managed to do. Sometimes it's been the peer pressure I've felt from saying I'm going to do something I hate like making doctors appointments that has pushed me into getting things done that I would have avoided otherwise."

"I try and pick a challenging goal but not too challenging that it's unrealistic."

"When I make goals in meetings I usually use them to encourage myself to make time for things I would otherwise let slide- so I might say tidy my bedroom or clean my bathroom. I also use them to help me finish things. I am terrible for starting things but not getting round to finishing them. By pinpointing a set time when I can do some more of the task then I make some progress, even if I don't necessarily finish the whole job in the week.
Lately I've been trying to concentrate on making goals that help me towards an overall larger goal, which is to maintain healthier eating habits. So I might limit the amount of sugar I'll allow myself for the week or specify what I'm going to cook on a particular day."

"My favourite and usual go to goal is to say I will come to next weeks meeting as I'm useless at thinking up goals on the spot. Last week I said my goal was to design a Xmas card for family and friends. I have recently rediscovered my love of drawing after being asked to draw pictures for my daughter and it helps me get out of my head if you know what I mean."

"I try to make my goal something which I may have been putting off or letting slide, which I know will have a positive benefit if I actually do it. For example, making a GP appointment, or doing some exercise."