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21 December, 2022.

Goal Setting can have a Positive Impact on Mental Health

The start of a new year often brings with it the expectation of resolution making – and the universal experience of dropping our resolutions within the first few weeks. Experts in mental health, however suggest that instead of making resolutions, we consider focusing on setting goals. Goals involve a process of planning, intention setting, and action that resolutions often do not.

The impact of goal setting on mental health can be extremely positive. The New Year is the perfect time to take a moment for self-reflection, checking in on your mental and emotional health, and finding goals you can work toward achieving. Studies have shown that individuals who consistently set and achieve goals have a more optimistic view of life, are more resilient when facing failures or roadblocks, and have higher self-esteem.

Regardless of the goal, self-reflection is key. “Goals are very personal,” says Dana Collier, LMHC, NCC, CASAC-T, MBA, Director of Clinical Services at The Family Counseling Center. “Because of this, an individual needs to reflect on their personal values, self-evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, and have a realistic outlook on what they can achieve. The purpose of goal setting is to stretch our personal growth in some form or another.”

As you begin to set your goals for 2023, here are a few questions to help you in the process:

  • What is important to you?
  • What are your hopes and dreams for this year?
  • What would you like to do more of?
  • What does being happy mean to you?
  • What is an area in life you would like to improve?

There are many different strategies for goal setting; here are some tips to help you set goals for 2023:

  • Goals should be Achievable, Believable, and require Commitment to working on them.
    • Achievable goals are targeted and individualized. They take into account your ability and are set in a way that encourages growth and success.
    • Believable goals are practical and planned out in a way that can be easily done in real life.
    • Commitment to the goal is critical to successfully accomplishing it. Creating a means of accountability – for example, having a friend to whom you update on where you are in achieving the goal, is a good way to maintain commitment.

Making a plan on how you are going to achieve your stated goal helps to make the goal attainable.

  •  “Great big goals are wonderful things to reach toward,” says Collier, “but you need to set smaller goals, both long- and short-term in order to achieve success. Having a solid plan, plotting out the how, and celebrating each and every time you cross one of those smaller goals off the list helps you stay motivated. Success, no matter how small, is important to our view of ourselves and the world around us.”

Check in with your progress and adjust your strategy if needed.

  • Life has a funny way of making us adjust carefully laid out plans. The ability to evaluate our progress and re-adjust creates resiliency. Check in with your goals often, perhaps monthly, in order to see where you are, how far you’ve come, and what you need to change in order to keep moving forward.

A final word of advice? Collier says that it is important to be accepting of our failures and forgive ourselves. “Any progress is a measure of success, that’s why small and large goals are important to the process. For some of us, just the act of setting the goal, taking time to self-reflect, and the exercise of making the goal plan is a success. For others, overcoming a roadblock is a success, whether the final goal is reached or not. Celebrate each and every success as you work toward your goals.”