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22 December, 2023.

Advice for the New Year

The Family Counseling Center of Fulton County recognizes the pressure many of us feel to set our resolutions for the New Year. Focus has begun to shift away from resolution setting toward two separate avenues – Goal Setting and Intention Setting, both of which can have a positive impact in our overall mental health.

Goal Setting

Goal setting is the act of creating clear, specific, and measurable objectives that you aim to achieve within a defined timeframe. These goals involve specific actions to be accomplished and are outcome-focused, requiring planning and steps to achieve. Most importantly, goals usually revolve around tangible accomplishments or external results; for example, reaching a target weight, finishing a half-marathon, etc.

SMART Goals help to ensure a clear plan for the accomplishment of stated outcomes. SMART stands for:

  • Specific & Clear – What exactly do you want to accomplish? Be as clear as you can – the vaguer your answer, the less likely you are to achieve your goal.
  • Measurable – How will you measure success/the reaching of your goal? Is there a number or an end skill that is the final ribbon for success?
  • Achievable – Is this goal realistic? Are you in control of achieving the goal? If you answer “no” to either question, you may want to re-evaluate the goal itself.
  • Relevant – Is this goal relevant to your life? If it isn’t then you may not stay committed to it.
  • Time-Bound – Do you have a deadline for accomplishment? You should have a deadline in order to focus your efforts.

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.

“For many people, having a goal to work toward is a real motivating factor in their outlook,” says Peter Lawrence, Deputy Executive Director at The Family Counseling Center. “It’s important to reach for the goals you set, but not make them the marker of personal success or failure,” adds Lawrence. “Any progress is a measure of success, that’s why small and large goals are important. 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 every success as you work toward your goals.

Intention Setting

Intention setting has a mindfulness focus. Intentions are more about setting a guiding principle, mindset, or perspective for how you want to live or act in a broad sense. They are about setting a tone for your actions and attitudes for the year. Intentions are also more abstract and not as quantifiable as goals – they are more internal and are about cultivating a way of being rather than achieving.

Intention setting can have a profound impact on overall mental health because it affects mindset, behaviors, and the approach toward emotional well-being by increasing mindfulness, enhancing clarity and purpose, reducing stress, strengthens self-awareness and self-compassion, and encourages resilience. Intentions provide a framework for resilience-building by focusing on values and guiding principles for life. Individuals are better equipped to navigate challenges, bounce back from setbacks, and maintain a sense of purpose, contributing to better mental health overall.

“The driving force of goals and resolutions is that you have a due date, be it the end of the year or in six months,” says Sydney Gabryshak, LMHC, an Outpatient Mental Health Therapist at The Family Counseling Center. “Intentions don’t have an end date, they are about how you intend to change your life – in little or big ways. If you don’t achieve the intention, it’s okay, life happens. You may want to pay off your car but then your furnace dies, you may want to focus more on the positive but sometimes a negative news article can send you into a bad mood. You rally and move forward, focus on the positive the next day, form a new plan to pay off your car in a longer span than you initially thought. Your intention and effort is there and that’s the success in the end.