I believe that goals are an important part of everyone's life. They give you passion, drive, aspiration, inspiration, motivation. And ultimately I believe they give you hope.
On some of my darkest days, it's the heavy weight of hopelessness that's probably the hardest thing to overcome. Depression is a cruel beast, and being able to see any light on the horizon can be very difficult when you're in that dark place.
But I believe that hope combats despair, so having a glimmer of hope amongst the darkness has been one of the best methods I've found to help lift me back into a better space.
Earlier this year I decided that I needed to set a lot more realistic and achievable goals than I had in previous years, and that goal setting (and, in a way, 'life planning') was going to be a priority and a new method of managing myself, my wellbeing and my time.
I need routine and I need goals - and I need to try to keep my mind occupied with good, healthy and positive thoughts.
While there's part of me that will always rebel against routine and structure - because I don't like not being able to be as much of a free spirit as I'd like to be; the reality is that I need a certain level of routine and structure. And I certainly need goals.
The reason I believe goal-setting hasn't been as effective as it could have been for me in the past is because I wasn't setting the right kind of goals.
I also know that, with some of the goals I was setting, I was already in a place of despondency. And often the goals we set at those times are more reactive and crisis-driven - because we're in a space of desperation - compared to those we set when we're in a good space.
When we're in a good headspace we're better able to plan and properly consider the goals we want to set for ourselves - and taking adequate time to determine, define, and set our goals is vital.
I find the following 3 things most helpful for me in goal setting:
1. Making 'SMART' (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic/Relevant, Timely/Time-bound) goals can be helpful. (Google 'smart goals' - there are a few variants). Don't get too caught up in having to make perfect 'SMART' goals, but use this as a guide to help you set your goals.
It's no good just saying "I want to lose weight" - because how much do you want to lose? How are you planning to do it? What sort of timeframe are you setting for yourself? Is that realistic?
By making your goals 'SMART' you'll have a much clearer picture of what the goal is and how to achieve it.
2. Break your main goals into smaller goals. This is all about positive reinforcement, and allowing you to map out your goals into logical, structured and achievable pieces.
For example: If your goal is about weight loss; break the main goal down into smaller weight loss milestones so you can be rewarded with the smaller milestone achievements along the way. (NB: if you feel you need a reward for each weight loss milestone reached (ie. in addition to the reward of the satisfaction of having achieved the milestone) then I suggest not using food or drink as the reward)
Break the goals down into whatever suits you best. Some people even turn their goals into daily to-do lists, so use whatever method works for you and motivates you.
3. Don't beat yourself up for not achieving your goal BUT don't let this be an excuse for getting slack.
Don't get disheartened and give up on a goal just because you didn't achieve it yet - and don't let this be an excuse to revert to your old behaviours.
You can always redefine or modify your goals. But keep striving for what you want to achieve. If it's something you truly want, then keep working towards it. It's worth it.
If you're the type of person who likes using a journal, vision board, or something else. Then go for it.
Whatever motivates you will be helpful.
Accountability is also an important component to successful goal setting and achievement. But that'll need its own blog, so I'll save that for another time.