Have you kept your New Year’s resolution so far? Or have you thought to yourself that you don’t have time? We all set New Year’s resolutions but very few of us keep them. Don’t worry, I fall into this category too. I set a goal of going to yoga more. Since the New Year started I haven’t gone once. So why do we do this to ourselves? We set these goals that we very rarely make time to accomplish which leaves us feeling like a failure and let down. Let’s start with dissecting how we set goals. We first need to assess how specific, measurable, attainable, and relevant and timely our goals are. These are the five traits of good goal setting. We want to make sure all goals we set meet all of these five traits so we set ourselves up for success instead of failure. But what do these 5 traits mean? First, we want to make sure our goals are specific enough. We often make too broad of goals such as wanting to be happier.
We can begin by thinking about how we would go about making ourselves happier. Maybe a more specific goal would be to find more hobbies that give you joy which would thus increase your happiness. Also, we need to make sure our goals are measurable. This means we have to make sure we will be able to tell if we have met our goal or not. If we have a goal of eating better, there is no real way to measure that. What is better? Perhaps a more measurable goal would be to eat 3 vegetables a day to get to your goal of eating healthier. Next, we want to make sure our goal is actually achievable. Sometimes we set ourselves up for failure by having a goal of losing 10 pounds in a month. This is an unrealistic amount and frankly unhealthy amount of weight to lose in a month. When we set unrealistic standards on our goals, we start off with the feeling of needing to climb a mountain to achieve our goal instead of maybe a small hill. Probably a more attainable goal would be to exercise 4 times a week which would hopefully get you to your goal of losing weight. Then, we need to make sure our goals are relevant. This means that the goal makes sense and will help us achieve what we want. An example of an irrelevant goal would be to read a textbook on chemical engineering for my goal of increasing my knowledge about space. Perhaps a more relevant goal would be to get a telescope so that I can start looking at space. Finally, we want to make sure our goal is time oriented so that we can have a timeline of when it could be accomplished. If my goal is to retire and I am 30 years old, that probably isn’t a very well timed goal because realistically I am 35 years away from that happening. An example of a time oriented goal would be someone wanting to be financially stable enough to retire by the end of the year. Let’s go back to my original goal for this year which was to do yoga more. Now after having explained how to properly set goals, the goal I set seems silly. Let’s see if my goal meets any of the five traits of good goal setting. Is my goal specific? My goal to do yoga more is specific enough because the overall goal I want to achieve with doing yoga more is connecting to my spirituality and taking better physical care of my body. Next, is my goal measurable? Definitely not. What does “more” even mean. That could mean 1 time a week if I didn’t do yoga before or 5 times if I was doing yoga 4 times a week before the New Year.
To make this goal measurable I would need to say I want to do yoga 3 times a week. That way I can see how I am doing on my goal by looking at how many times I went to yoga. Then, is my goal attainable? My goal is attainable because I already know of yoga classes that I can go to in my area and have been before so I know I can do it moving forward. Next, is my goal relevant? Yes, again my overall goal was to increase my physical health and connect more with spirituality and so yoga is relevant to doing both of those things. Lastly, is my goal time oriented? No it’s not. Doing yoga more does not have any time constraints on it. To make it time oriented I would need to give a time frame of when I want this goal accomplished, so saying how many times a week or month I wanted to go to yoga would be a more time oriented goal. So basically, my original goal was fairly unhelpful really. If I really wanted to set a positive New Year’s resolution, I would have set my goal as going to yoga 2-3 times a week to help my overall goal of improving my physical health and increasing my spiritual connection. This would be a goal that hits all the five traits of goal setting. So to sum up, what does all this information mean? Take out that list of New Year’s resolutions and look at them. See if they meet these five traits and maybe reassess which ones you want to keep and adjust and which ones are just doomed from the start. Setting goals that we can actually achieve can improve our wellness and mental health and help us to see things more positively rather than making us feel like we never measure up.
Setting goals and meeting them is something that can also be accomplished with your individual therapist. Setting goals with your therapist can help you get feedback on how realistic and attainable your goals are while also helping hold you accountable to them. We are only three weeks into the New Year so there is still plenty of time to accomplish all the goals you had and more so let’s get to work!