For the Q: How do you set goals?

This is kind of long so while I hope you’ll read all of it, I’ll write key sentences in bold. 

They often suggest goal-setting in psychiatric environments, and I have to say that this is one totally generic, simple thing that has effectively worked for me. For two years now, I’ve used “resolution” binders in which I try to set goals daily in accordance with my New Year’s resolutions. I feel like the biggest problem with achieving New Year’s resolutions is not necessarily motivation (or lack thereof), but the fact that people so often lack a formula or plan to achieve those resolutions. There’s additional complication to that.

In 2015, I set goals such as “lose weight” and “live in less clutter” and wrote down ways to achieve them in bulleted lists. The only goal I accomplished in 2015 was “read 30 books,” which was fairly easy-ish for me, since I love to read, counted some children’s books, and I had just bounced back from a long period of not being able to focus and was so elated that I could. But the way I worded the goals by and large was the problem. 

CBT is a proven therapy for many people. It stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and the module, boiled down to its simplest point, is that your thoughts change your feelings and your feelings change your behaviors. For me, many of my goals in 2015 were touchy and emotionally charged. With my history of restricting and purging, “losing weight” was not the best thing to set for myself.  I wound up giving up too soon because I found myself going back to old habits and feeling stagnant and frustrated.

Many people have heard the “S.M.A.R.T.” acronym overused to death, whether you’re in mental health, business, or otherwise, but it’s a helpful formula for a lot of people. This is what it stands for:

Specific

Measurable

Achievable 

Realistic

Time-bound (or Timely or Timed

So, take it apart!

In 2016, I changed it up a bit. My resolutions became “1. commit to self;” “2. commit to creed,” (essentially meaning “practice what I preach;” “3. commit to mind;” “4. commit to body;” “5. commit to home;” “6. commit to art;” and “7. commit to financial stability.” These seven areas basically are the consummate of my entire human existence.

Okay, so you do these in a year. But what are “these” exactly? How do you define these words?

So, like in 2015, I came up with a system of bulleted lists detailing my plans, only I got super detailed (almost obsessively, I guess.) But it’s been helping, and the wording is much better. Because I worded these as commitments right in their titles, their value as having a place in my life and future and beyond 2016 was enhanced–and also the connotation. “Lose weight” is great and all, but what did I really want to achieve with it? I no longer had a goal here of starving myself to death. I want and wanted to feel better about the body I’m in, both physically and emotionally.

If you’re a perfectionist, as I used to be, it takes some time to adapt to not getting everything right, not doing everything 100% accurately or perfectly, which people don’t generally do anyway, but for some reason the mind is displeased when things look great and not flawless. That being said, I poured out subgoals–for “3. commit to mind,” I came up with “study ≥ 30 minutes per day,” “read 52 books” (which was far too much and I tweaked it considerably by the time June rolled around), etc. These are Specific goals, pertaining to more “concrete” things. Time is not exactly “concrete,” but you generally can acknowledge when it passes; “read 52 books,” where “books” are things you can mark off. Measurable is then implied here, as well. Are the goals Achievable and Realistic? Uh.. for my situation, not so much. But knowing how to forgive myself is part of my recovery and development. So, I tweaked the number of books, and I blew off a lot of studying, but I’ve passed 2/4 GED exams with flying colors, so I’d say throwing myself back into the world of academia just generally helped a lot.

“Study ≥ 30 minutes per day” and “Read 52 books” weren’t the only subgoals. In fact, I have a ton of subgoals for each commitment. But part of the wisdom one needs to develop is knowing when to implement pressure and when not to. It’s a careful balance, and it’s different for everyone. Sometimes setting too relaxed of goals can cause further damage by not being challenging enough and offering no room to grow. Sometimes setting too strict of goals that demand a perfect frequency also cause further damage because of the stress one can take on from them.

So going into 2016, I said to myself, “I will write these subgoals as guidelines. If I can’t follow them for the day, then that is okay. I will work on learning balance and actively participating in my recovery, not on numbers or formulas themselves.”

Every day, I set goals that correspond with my resolutions and subgoals but are different every day (or almost every day.) For instance, today’s goals involve printing out new logs for August (such as cleaning logs, physical activity logs, etc.), getting further in the Assertiveness Workbook and using its score cards, starting one+ book that will help me with the next exam, etc. I write down my accomplishments which are extremely important because they are good measurements of my health, stamina, and personal successes, however “small.” (I count getting dressed as an accomplishment, for instance.)

I am happy to report I have gone down from 190 to 165 already this year. I am eating more of what I need and less of what I don’t. I am cleaning more often and more dedicatedly (although I have a long way to go, for sure.) I have set deadlines for my GED exams and passed the two I took. It’s been awesome, although certainly not without problems.

I have been hospitalized 3 times this year, and it’s been a rough ride. But the more I learn about myself, the more I can acknowledge what I need and what I need to live without. More and more, I am discerning, creating, and becoming. Growth and development are vital to life.

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