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Depending on who you are, goal setting and achieving  may be daunting. Especially at the beginning of the year,  a “new year, new me” mindset surrounds us. Imagining change in any area may feel exhausting before you even begin the steps towards change. With the right approach, creating goals and achieving  them doesn’t have to be a stressful or disappointing experience. Achievement can come with imagination, honesty, community, and resilience. 

To help make the shift from draining, stressful goals to invigorating, exciting goals it’s critical to ensure they are well aligned with your own values and sense of purpose. Taking time to assess what is most meaningful to you can help you imagine a future that aligns with your passions and identity. Taking the time to set goals is essential. It can be tempting to chase after lofty goals, but to chisel things down to an honest picture of what you truly want, rather than what you think you “should” chase after, is the key to sticking with goals. 

Consider your aspirations and map out what is most important to you. Paint a picture of what this looks like. These larger dreams can then be deduced down into smaller stepping stones, and goals that can take you there. 

The size of the stepping stone goals that allow you to reach a larger goal can be tailored according to both what motivates and discourages you. The level of challenge you need to be captivated is personal to you as is the level of realistic achievability that will allow you to stay committed. Visualization can be helpful when creating goals. If visualizing each step towards the greater picture leads to feelings of impossibility and hopelessness, then perhaps break down the steps into even smaller and more achievable goals. You can always readjust.

The balance of creating goals that are enticing as well as reasonable may involve some assessment of your circumstances and some honest evaluation of the risk versus reward for you. Considering your environment, timeline, your desires, and your own capacity, what is truly attainable? Sometimes large, overarching goals are appealing, but, if the goals we set aren’t realistic then we are more prone to feeling like we are failing and giving up. Setting goals that feel challenging yet within the bounds of what we can actually achieve can help us move towards what we ultimately want and give us the encouragement to keep moving as we check off each stepping stone goal. 

Breaking down the larger goals into smaller, attainable steps is especially helpful if we can do so in a way that leads to specific and measurable goals. Having more amorphous goals can keep us from noticing our progress and deter us from moving along. Creating goals that are specific and measurable allow us to more concretely move towards them and experience progress. Fulfillment in smaller steps yields the growth and sense of accomplishment that continues to motivate us towards more. 

After honest visualization and breaking that down into the goal setting  that suits you best, you can assess what kind of support you need. Visibility enables support. It may be helpful to share your goals with others to create accountability and encouragement through community. Keep the goals visible to yourself as well. Continue visualizing yourself accomplishing each goal. Ensure you are holding yourself accountable at the end of the day.

Lastly, when things don’t work out, try again. Rearranging or reimagining goals allows us to be adaptable and resilient rather than merely giving up. Not accomplishing a step along the way or recognizing things feel overwhelming may be a sign that something needs adjusting in order for you to be most successful. What can be perceived as failure is really an opportunity to learn and grow. A sense of accomplishment can come from learning what we want or need and choosing to continue on the path of discovering how to get there. As the old adage goes “it’s not about whether you fall down, it’s about whether you get back up.” So, don’t be discouraged. Head into goal setting ready to see achievement. 


About the author – Intern therapists at Pacific Mental Health contribute their expertise to help people through writing regular blog posts about mental health topics. You can read more from our team here.

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