It’s tempting to set new goals at the beginning of the year. As a counsellor, I encourage our clients to invite change into their lives. As a psychologist, I need to be able to share what makes change, through goal setting, more successful.
Here are 7 elements that will help you better achieve your goals.
If you want to achieve a goal its important that you know what that goal looks like. For example, you might want to lose 10 kilos in this year. What do you have to do to lose this weight? Normally this would involve a combination of diet and exercise goals to make the weight loss possible. So how often are you going to exercise? What kind of exercise are you going to do? Is this the kind of exercise that typically helps people lose weight? What kind of diet changes are you going to make? How often are you going to eat, or not eat, this way? These smaller questions make your goals SMART – an acronym representing Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound. Setting SMART goals will help you understand your success in specific steps. But this is not enough, our other six ideas will help you gain the momentum to actually get required actions done
2. Tell the world.
There is a plethora of research as to how public posting of information increases not only one’s perception of being accountable, but helps people achieve their goals better. If you are the only person who knows that you didn’t achieve your goal that day, there is no pressure. Telling the world, or a team your goals, is asking others to keep an eye on your achievements.
3. Be a groupie.
Find a group of people with similar goals. Often, we are better cheerleaders for others than we are for ourselves. Join or set up a group to help keep you on track with your goals this year. Helping others achieve their goals will also create out some competitive elements for you to also show you are able to do the work.
4. DO rather than DON’T.
Framing your goals in positive style language, rather than negative, helps you feel more positive about them. No body likes to feel like they are missing or losing something. By adding a goal, you can start with a more positive framework.
5. Plan for potholes.
People fail to achieve their goals because they do not plan to stumble or fail in their interim goals, and once they do, the abandon their overall goals. “I missed my exercise today, so I will just give up”. Planning for potholes, or small stumbles, is not only a compassionate way to treat yourself, its actually more realistic than expecting a flawless execution of your goal plan. If you missed a day of exercise, make up for it, or note it down and move on. A goal is a culmination of many days of effort, not one alone.
6. Own your goals.
Your goals should be set by you, for you. Other people do not need to tell you what your goals should be. Write about how you imagine you think your life will be better or different if you can achieve your goals. How might you feel? These are your goals to achieve, or to not achieve – no one else’s.
7. Set yourself some rewards to reinforce your success.
Did you like star charts as a kid? If you did, set yourself a new, adult star chart. Reward yourself with an appropriate reward at key junctures. If you want to lose 10 kilos, reward yourself whenever you lose 0.5 kilos. You need to select appropriate and supportive rewards. A piece of cake would not be a supportive reward when weight loss if your goal.
Anytime is a good time to Let it go, and as a result, let yourself grow. Past hurts and old injustices can keep people stuck in old patterns of behaviour and thought traps. Bad memories can be like emotional quicksand, and can consume your thoughts taking command of your day-dreams, and leave you feeling obsessed over perceived or real losses, betrayals, and inequities.
It is possible, and probably beneficial, to give yourself a “time’s up” mandate. Just as you might join a gym in order to support your commitment to new health behaviours, you can also decide that you will stop allowing old hurts to define you, in order to let new hopes, grow.
This can be easier said than done. Part of the reason that “Let it go”, is so hard is that it is a challenging is that it is not satisfying in itself, without a benefit or alternative activity. Replacing one type of thinking with another, is easier to contemplate than simply asking an active mind to STOP. An active mind wants to remain active. In order to let it go, we need also think about alternative thoughts and behaviours to actively replace old tired traps. Hence, I ask you to consider, let it go, to, let it grow.
There are a mirage of excuses and reasons to hold on to old patterns of thinking. I hear the cry of “COVID” many times from clients as a reason that behaviours, and even thought patterns, can’t be changed. COVID, and many other challenges exist. People have faced uncertainty, the possibility of death, severely restricted travel. This is true. But hanging onto old hurts doesn’t make those realities any better.
Some ways to let go of old hurts, thoughts and harmful behaviours.
Cease your magical thinking.
Magical thinking occurs when you assume patterns of reactions that have not previously been in evidence. For example, if you are thinking, “If I do x then y will happen”. For example, “if I get sick, he will come back and feel sorry for me” or, “If I just collect enough evidence of this betrayal, my family will finally realise they have wronged me.” The relationships that you thought you think you should be having are probably quite different from the ones that you are actually experiencing in real life.
Learn to accept that other people’s bad behaviour is (really) not about you.
It is common to become stuck when people have wronged us. Betrayal is often not about you, it’s more about our perceived “betrayers” desire to follow their desires at your expense. Whilst this feels unfair, and may not be what you signed up for in a work or personal relationship, focusing on the betrayal keeps us stuck in the role of victim. Lots of bad stuff has happened during the pandemic. Many jobs were lost. Much of this is not personal.
Challenge your labels.
Are you stuck playing the role of a victim, or as an unappreciated hero? Check if you are continuing to hold onto a role label that really has not benefit for your growth. For example, if your partner was unfaithful and ended your marriage, think about it are you not a little bit grateful for the end of a marriage that wasn’t working.
For example, think to yourself, “He had an affair which ended the ‘not the best ‘marriage. I have been stuck feeling bitter and as a victim because I didn’t cheat (even when I wasn’t as happy as I wanted to be). The affair gave us both a way out to the marriage whilst allowing me to be the good guy. I wanted that, but now I want more than just that title… “. Choose to thrive.
Check your goals.
You may be consumed with a controlling desire to acknowledged as being wronged. It is possible that you will never receive anywhere near the level of acknowledgement you aspire to. Ask yourself, why do you believe you need this acknowledgement? Will this make you feel whole? If everyone you could list acknowledged that you were wronged, would you feel complete? Why can’t you be complete without the acknowledgement that you crave? Is that real, or perceived?
You set your own value, not anyone else. Others do not need to acknowledge that you have been treated unfairly in order for that be true. True for you is true enough. This is a trap that many abused people can fall into. Without the abuse being s acknowledged it can be hard to move on, but it isn’t really necessary. People who have been complicit in your abuse rarely acknowledge that any abuse occurred. If you were wronged, this is your fact, your truth, and that is enough. Feel it. Own it. Live it. Now you can move toward recovery.
Take responsibility for your role in a situation – and no more.
Each party in a hurt played their role, including you. Take some responsibility for maintaining, creating, even exacerbating a situation. Make a promise to yourself that this can end, and you will end it. No situation is one sided. By admitting your careless or harmful actions, this does not automatically cast you as the bad guy. In any hurtful situation any party can be the bad guy, and the victim.
Acknowledge forgiveness, even if only for yourself.
Whilst forgiveness can feel like you are letting a bad guy off, even potentially endorsing their behaviour, there is some benefit to forgive rather than feel angry. Elizabeth Smart who was held captive for 9 months when she was 14 could have hated her captors forever. Instead, she chose to realise that she holding onto the pain and negativity of what had happened to her allowed her captors the opportunity to steal more of her life than they had already dominated. She chose to forgive them and instead focus on her happiness and freedom.
Explore possible rigidity with the power of “YET”.
Thinking rigid thoughts such as “I can’t do that” will keep you trapped. So will thinking “it is not okay for me to move past this hurt. Add the word YET and this changes everything, suddenly you can’t do this yet, you can’t get past this hurt yet.
Write a ‘let it go’ letter
Write a letter to those who you feel hurt by. For example. “You have wronged me. I didn’t deserve the abuse you have wrought upon me. I’ve been angry long enough. I’m letting go of my feelings of anger, resentment, hurt and betrayal because I don’t need to carry those around with me anymore. I choose not to give you any more of my energy”. You do not need to send the letter. This letter is for you to capture your hurts and thoughts on a page.
Channel your energy into positive change. Let new thought patterns develop.
Transform your narrative
Rather than label yourself as wronged, or as a victim, think about who you are in the story of your life. Are you a survivor? Are you working to make yourself a better person? What are your strengths? How can you be more empathetic and realistic in your view of yourself? You are a work in progress, celebrate where you are going and what strengths you have to get yourself there. Cast yourself in a different role as you have in the past.
What is in the future for me? What do I want in my life? What am I choosing for my future? Do not focus on what you leave behind. Imagine the past is like the border of an old country of hurt, and now you live somewhere else, and that border is closed. This doesn’t mean that you can’t look back at old albums from the ‘old country’. Rather continue to acknowledge that you no longer live there.
Get on your DIVA amour Utilise the amour and weapons of a true diva. Being strong, being clever, continuing a struggle, are values within a cloak of amour that you put on. For me, I celebrate being a diva-hustler, (thank you #Michelle Visage #DivaRules). This means I remain determined to build opportunities for myself and take chances. Other people I’ve worked with have found their diva in other self- visualisations (eg Madame Butterfly, BadAss). The weapons you have to support this Diva-amour are your strengths (your smarts, your friendships, your focus, your commitment, your creativity.)
Write a mantra specifically for you.
A mantra is a passage that becomes an instrument of the mind. What the mind sets as an intention and belief so that this can to fruition. Phrase this in a positive voice. Celebrate your strengths. Remind yourself of your goals. For example:
I am strong, calm, loved and forceful. When I face a challenge, which will invariably happen, I will draw strength from the people who love and support me, remember all that I have already achieved as a result of my skills, and my commitment to my family, and myself.
I can respond to challenge, I can respond to change, I am more than enough.
Decide to pursue internal love over external anger.
The cure to external anger is internal love. Even if you are still working on accepting yourself, remember that it is OK to be not okay, as long as you are a work in progress. Be kind. Keep working on supporting yourself. That project is never ending.
Being grateful reminds us want we have, rather than focusing on what you perceive may be missing from your life. When we see what we have we learn to that we are more complete than we first realised and have more than enough in life, and even more importantly, we are enough.
I hope you find these activities helpful. If you find yourself stuck in old hurts you can consider to consider therapy to help you let go. All of us need help sometimes, and that is okay.