We all have something in mind that we would like to see change. Some of us are skilled at making the change we want to see happen, and some of us are stuck trying to change for what seems like forever. There are some key behaviours that we know can help with making the change we want to see happen. These include goal setting, self-awareness, hope, motivation, planning, support from others, and a lot of patience! This blog will focus on the importance of goal setting in achieving the change you hope to see.
I understand that many of you reading this may be rolling your eyes getting ready to move onto the next article. You have set many goals, possibly even helped other people set goals, only to fall short, or failing at achieving the goal in the end. The idea of setting a goal for many people can seem daunting, and even pointless. For those of you who can relate to this I would encourage you to read this blog through to learn a little just how important setbacks, and even failures are along the road to change. For anyone who has found success and achieved goals they have set for themselves, you will find a change process full of these kinds of experiences. For many of us, in order to prepare for change, we must first develop a tolerance for the bumpy road that lies ahead.
In our Wellness Planning programs at The VK Wellness Initiative, we offer clients the opportunity to achieve their goals, or as we like to call it, their “desired change”. According to humanist psychology, human behaviour is motivated by the inherent human desire to change for the better (Cain & Keenan, 2016). Our emotions are completely bound up in this behavioural predisposition. We know what we want to change by the way we feel about certain aspects of our lives. Emotions are much more complicated than this, but I am sure we can all relate to feeling frustrated about something and how much better it would be if we could make a change here? Can you relate to this personally? I know emotions like frustration, guilt, shame, and sadness, are difficult to tune into, because of their discomfort, but they possess a huge source of motivation if we can bring them into our awareness and understand what they might be trying to show us about our experiences and behaviour. Emotions like excitement, love, and gratitude can also be huge motivators guiding us towards what types of experiences and behaviours will best suit us right now. The first step for setting goals is to ask your emotions what they are saying about what needs to change. But don’t stop here or you will become stuck in these feelings and never do anything.
The second step is to share these motivating emotions with another person who can support you in understanding them a little more. Collaboration in setting goals is another key element that increases your chances of success along the way. Through the process of empathy (shared human experiences), we begin to understand our emotions better through the validation of another person. We are highly social creatures, which is our super-power in the animal world. It is what makes us top of the food chain. Be selective in who you share this with, ideally someone you trust, who knows you well, and is generally supportive.
Now you are ready for the third step which is to write this goal down. Research shows you are almost 2x as likely to do something if you write it down. If this is not available to you, you could have someone write it down for you, or you might record it using a voice recorder, or perhaps typing it somehow onto a screen. The key is that the goal has moved from inside of you out into the world in a way that is more permeant than just thinking about it or saying it. When you write it down use the words that make you feel the most motivated and satisfied. Don’t worry so much about it being SMART (Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic and Time-based); focus instead on what sounds right to you. If you’d like, after you have written it down, check-in with yourself internally. Close the eyes and ask yourself if that sounds like the change you would like to see happen. If you feel a sense of joy or a calm assurance, with a tinge of excitement, then you probably have it right. You may feel a little apprehension and fear as well, which is healthy. If you feel a lot of fear, or overwhelmed it is likely that you have not written a goal down that is appropriate. Try rewording it or making it a little smaller.
After you have it written down, we move to the fourth step which involves beginning to imagine what life might be like if you achieved this change. Here is where we are applying the SMART acronym in a meaningful way. This is about understanding how you will know you achieved the goal. Here you want to explore these points in detail. It is ideal if, once again, you invite another person on this journey with you. For this step it does not have to be someone who you know well, in fact, doing this with someone who does not know you well, can be very effective. Here you are looking for lots of information about yourself and your experience, and a new (trusted) person will be curious about who you are and what is important to you, without having any (or little) pre-conceived ideas about you because they don’t know you well. Here is where some people might enroll in counselling, coaching, or online peer-support networks. This is also the key stage where you are preparing for what needs to happen in order to get to your goal. You will understand what stands in the way and what sorts of resources you already have at your disposal that can help you with getting to where you want to be.
That’s it for goal setting, but you will not get to where you want to be by stopping here. The next stage is preparing for the change itself, followed by the essential part where you hit the road and make it happen!
At The VK Wellness Initiative we are all about facilitating this change process, including goal setting. We help you on your journey towards your desired change and wellness related experiences. If you want to learn more about how our Wellness Planning model could work for you, your family, or your organization, reach out today.
May you be well,
Kara Fogwell, RSW, RCC
Cain, D. J., Keenan, K. (2016). Humanistic psychotherapies: Handbook of research and practice (Second ed.). American Psychological Association.