New School Year, New You: Achieving Your Goals
As the school year starts and many of us return from summer holidays, we start to think of plans for the time ahead. Some will be starting a new job, or coming to Shanghai for the first time. And, many of us will be ready to settle back into a routine and think about things we’d like to change or accomplish. This is the perfect time to set goals, whether short-term improvements or long-term plans. Here are some key tips for setting and achieving your goals:
- Start by asking, “Why is this important to me?” Be honest with yourself about your motivation and desire. Is this goal internally or externally motivated? For example, you may be externally motivated to get a new position because it sounds prestigious or the salary would be more impressive. Or, is it something you’ve always hoped to achieve and feel excited to pursue? Unfortunately, goals with external motivation often aren’t lasting. Personal desire helps you overcome the obstacles that will inevitably arise.
- Visualize yourself having achieved the goal. Think about how you will feel when you succeed. That feeling is what you’re reaching for, and will continue to help motivate you.
- Develop a realistic plan to achieve your goal. Start by thinking “What do I need to achieve this?”, “What time will it take?”, “What help will I need along the way?” It is challenging to break habits. The mind equates routine with safety, so it resists when we change our patterns. We typically need at least three weeks to start developing the new habit.
And, when we make our plan, we should specifically account for challenges and doubts. It is important to put solutions to potential challenges into our plan. In other words, we should brainstorm the problems we might encounter and make fallback plans.
For example, you want to be able to complete a run around the full route of Century Park. Your plan could be to run three times/week after work and build up the distance each week. You realize some days you’ll feel tired and unmotivated after work. So, to help overcome this obstacle you put your running shoes right at the front door. It also helps to share goals, perhaps having a friend check in regularly or running with a partner. Having a buddy, community or coach for support and planning for obstacles can help us maintain progress.
For long-term goals, make a concrete plan for a week at a time. More than a week is hard to comprehend. You can realistically know what’s going on in the next week and lay out specific tasks and small goals.
Helpful hint: Write down the various things you need to achieve your goal on little pieces of paper. Put them in a bowl. Pick one/day (or week) to get done. For example, if you want to get a new job, some initial tasks might include updating your CV, getting new professional photos, and asking for recommendations on LinkedIn.
- How will you realize you’re on the right track? Take time to see the outcomes you’ve achieved along the way. If you’re doing something for your health, listen to your body and notice when you feel better or can move around more easily. Value small steps too. Celebrate the tasks you complete. Be proud of yourself. Appreciate what you’ve accomplished so far. It is hard to wait for the ultimate achievement, so we have to realize the small successes along the way.
- Allow yourself to have “bad days” without working on goals or falling back into old behaviour. Be kind to yourself and don’t see setbacks as failure. You can get back on track, rather than allowing it to derail you completely.
Julia Söllner is a psychologist and coach who uses a solutions-based approach to help clients access a range of tools for improved communication, self-awareness and stress management. If you’d like to kick off the rest of 2019 with help to set goals, change habits and achieve more via innovative methods, contact Body & Soul to make a consultation appointment with Julia.