Talking Mental Health: Setting Goals in 2013


New year, new term and new classes —this is the reality of beginning the winter semester at Laurier.

Perhaps this is a time for reflection or there are things in your life that you’d like to change. Perhaps the ways you’ve been handling your academics, relationships, finances or health haven’t been working as well as they used to.

In order to move forward, it might be helpful to think about your goals. Setting goals is like using a map or GPS from where you are to where you want to go.

You likely wouldn’t start a road trip without directions and setting goals is, essentially, the same idea.

There are many benefits to setting goals. Firstly, it gives you a chance to think about what is most important to you.

Consider your feelings in various areas in your life and think about what you, not your parents or your friends, want to achieve.

You’ll have more motivation and success in reaching goals if they are meaningful to you.

Setting goals can also help reduce anxiety since part of the process is making a plan so you won’t need to continually worry about what to do next.

This helps with motivation and perseverance since you build your skills, confidence and self esteem with every small success.

It’s also important to consider potential obstacles when setting goals. Sometimes you may feel so overwhelmed that taking on another task, even one that might be helpful, seems to be more than you can manage.

Often your environment may contribute to behaviours or habits you’d like to change.

The process of goal setting begins with deciding which areas of your life you’d like to change. It’s better to start with a few small changes than a complete life overhaul.

If you take on too much at once, it may feel overwhelming and decrease your motivation to keep moving toward your goals.

Think of your dreams and consider what steps you can make toward realizing them. Dreams are the destination, while goals are the steps to get you there.

Your dream, for example, might be to practice a healthy lifestyle. However, your goals might be changing your diet and regular exercise. You would then break that broad goal down into smaller steps of an overall plan.

Once you have decided on one or more goals, you may want to gather information to help shape your plan.

You want to ask yourself: what do I already know about this? What more information do I need?

Where can I get it and what other skills or resources could I use?

It’s also important that as you work on your plan, to be mindful of the realities of your life. If you want to exercise more regularly, don’t schedule a fitness class early in the morning if you can barely wake up for a 9:30 a.m. class.

There is an acronym that helps shape the goal setting plan called SMART. First get specific. Focus on the who, what, when, where, why and how of your goals. Next is to be measurable and track your progress.

Attainability is keeping in mind the reality of your life, realistic relates to goals that you want, and have a reasonable likelihood of achieving. Also ‘time-bound’ means setting deadlines for regular progress checks and completion of each step toward your goal.

Using the SMART tips is a good way to focus and plan your steps to achieving your goals.

Another tip that may be helpful is to make sure the goals you work toward are aligned with your own values.

It’s really difficult to keep yourself motivated when you aren’t working toward something you are passionate about.

Write your goals down, this is an effective reminder of what you need to do. Don’t underestimate yourself since fear of failure is sometimes paralyzing.

Start small and keep going. There is no reason to assume you can make significant changes to your life overnight. As long as you keep taking steps toward your goal, you will get there.

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