Setting goals is a very effective way of achieving what we want from life. Setting effective goals with a clear strategy is also a really good tool to helping us treat depression and is one small way that you can help yourself if you are feeling lost and don’t know which way to turn. Setting goals in life helps us to get direction, be motivated and keep us focused.
Most of us have big goals in mind but don’t really use an effective plan to turn these goals into reality. Often the goals seem impossible, too hard to achieve or so far away that we just wish that we had what we wanted and leave it at that as we get on with daily life.
Setting effective goals gives us a clear plan, shows us what areas we need to put work in, shows us where we are perhaps letting ourselves down in meeting these goals and provides motivation.
So, how do we achieve goals?
Brainstorm your goals
Grab a pen and paper and brainstorm the things you want to achieve in life. Writing things down makes them more real and makes you feel accountable. It is also easier to track your progress.
Make sure you cover all areas of your life. This is the big picture so you don’t need details at this point. Make sure the goals are realistic and what you want, not what you think you should achieve or what others want for you. Try and focus on a timeframe of about ten years.
All goals don’t need to be big. You can include anything that you would like that will make you happy. Look at areas of your life that you aren’t happy with and try and turn those into positive goals to change them. All goals should be written in a positive form. So don’t write, “I don’t want to rent any more”, instead write “I want to own my own home”.
Try and cover all areas of your life that are important to you. Areas that you can consider are:
Financial – How much do you want to be earning and by when. Is this achievable in your current career or do you need to consider a career change?
Career – Do you love your job or need a change? Do you want to get a promotion and need further education to do this?
Education – Have you completed your education or are there areas you still need to work on? Does this impact your social life or career?
Family – Are you happy with your family structure? Do you want a partner or kids? Do you need to change the direction of your parenting or work on your relationship?
Hobbies and Interests – Do you have a hobby? Do you want to improve at it? Maybe you have an interest you have never explored or don’t have a hobby at all and need one.
Physical – Are you happy with your health? Do you want to lose weight or get fitter?
Emotional – Are you happy with your mindset and how you think about life? Perhaps you would like to explore your emotional or spiritual self.
Be as creative as you want with this first list. Work on it over a few days and add to the list as you think of new areas.
Trim your list
Now you essentially have a wish list of what you want, it is time to bring some reality into it. Look at your list and pick the things that you most want from your list. The things that mean the most to you and you really want from life. Make sure they are real and achievable.
Write down the key things you want from this list. Be honest with yourself, this is the life you are creating for you. Be as detailed and specific as you can. So, if you want to buy a house, include what size, how much you want to spend, where you want to live.
Some of your goals may be dependent on other goals. For example, deciding that you want to buy an expensive house may be dependent on you changing or furthering your career. Make sure you include this on your list of goals.
Try not to have too many things listed to work on at once or it will become overwhelming. Look at what is the thing you need to change most, right now, to be happier. Use this as a starting point for working on your goals.
Break it down
Now you have an idea of what you really want, we need to break it down into smaller goals. One of the things I see a lot with clients is that they have an idea of what they want but it all seems too big to achieve so they don’t bother trying.
Big goals seem so hard, so we set small goals that we can achieve and these eventually lead to realising our bigger goals.
Take the first item on your list and break it down into smaller goals that you need to achieve in order to reach the larger goal.
Then write down the specific steps that you will need to take to achieve the smaller goal. Make sure you are really specific in this step and break each step down into smaller and smaller goals.
Do this with each item on your list.
Include timeframes and deadlines
Goals are great but if we don’t put a timeframe around them then we often put it off until tomorrow and never get started. Go through each small step on your list and put a timeframe against it. Some you may be able to start today and others may need a date further away as they are dependent on other steps.
Try and have some easily achievable goals listed first as having small successes can help to motivate us to achieve the harder, long-term goals.
Again, be realistic because if it isn’t real and you can’t achieve it then it is disheartening and has a negative impact on our motivation. Having realistic and achievable deadlines provides motivation and keeps us focused.
Start working on the List
Now you have a clear plan of what you want from life and the steps you need to take to achieve this. Start taking those first steps on your list. Be sure to mark them off as you achieve them and be aware of your achievement. Be really positive about those small steps as they are the foundation of your bigger goals. If you are having trouble starting, look at what it stopping you. Is there a step missing or do you lack the motivation to start? Think of steps you can take to manage this.
Review your goals and progress
Every week review your written plan and make sure you are staying on course. Be positive about the achievements you have made and revise your plan if you need to in order to stay on course. Also be careful who you share your list with as people can often be negative which can stop us in our tracks. This is your life and your personal goals so make sure it is what you want for you and stick to it.
If you are falling behind or not achieving the steps you set out, look at why this is happening. Maybe you need to break your goals down further or perhaps you need to change the order of your goals. For example, if you have a negative outlook on life, maybe you need to set a goal around self exploration before you can achieve other things. If you want to learn to surf, maybe you need to improve your swimming skills before you jump on a board.
Effects of goal setting on depression
While setting goals alone does not overcome depression, it is an effective tool to help get some focus and direction which can be a big part of getting our lives back in order. This in turn can often help to improve our mood which has a direct impact on controlling depression.
Setting goals based around overcoming depression can also help. Having goals such as taking up exercise, eating healthy, starting a hobby or even getting some professional help can all help in the treatment of depression.
Perseverance is often the key to success so don’t give up and you can achieve your goals.
If you need some help or direction, don’t be afraid to ask. Call me on 0468 950 420. This is your life you are creating.