by Caroline Rudin, LMSW MS.Ed.
These goals that we create are made with the best of intentions, we are feeling optimistic, excited even, to achieve these quests within the next three hundred sixty five days. Some people set goals to lose weight, redesign their spaces, or make all new friends to socialize with. Often, these goals are created using all-or-nothing language: I am going to lose thirty pounds. I am going to purchase all new furniture, paint, and decor. I am going to go out every single weekend. This wording leaves very little room for reality and the potentially difficulties we may encounter. What happens when this newfound hope turns into acknowledging that this goal may be out of reach?
What do we do when the weight is not coming off and the cravings return? When the budget and the list of items do not align? When the weekends become exhausting rather than fulfilling? We give up. We begin to feel disappointed and discouraged that we cannot achieve these goals as intended. This false hope we created in designing these resolutions leaves us feeling depleted in self confidence and esteem, and back to the drawing board.
This is where we scrap the original goals and shift the rhetoric. The word “resolution” is defined as a firm decision to do or not to do something. What would happen if instead of resolutions, we created aspirations? The word “aspiration” is defined as a hope or ambition of achieving something. The idea of creating aspirations has a dreamy quality, where we can be realistic and honest in creating a positive affirmation of something you would like to achieve. We can start by reflecting on your successes. For example, instead of stating “I am going to lose thirty pounds” maybe we choose an aspect of health to focus on such as, “I want to include healthier choices into my daily eating patterns” or “I want to move my body intentionally three to four times per week.”
There is a softer, almost gentle flexibility that exists within these aspirations that allow for the ebbs and flows of life. You can still enjoy that piece of birthday cake or have a rest day without feeling like a complete failure because those moments are built into your aspirations. Creating a master list of SMART goals for the year can redirect feelings of success. These goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound. Let’s focus on that last aspect. Time-bound goals can have flexibility, too. We get sick, we can become overwhelmed with work, we can regress and progress. These goals are fail-proof in the sense that they can continue into the next year and beyond. Some of these goals may slip away naturally or evolve and change as we grow.
One of the great uses of therapy is to reflect on aspirations, develop plans for achieving them, and acknowledge their evolution over time. Your therapist can support you in creating an appropriate master list of your SMART goals in your next session!