Thursday, June 5, 2014

Group: Goal Setting

OK, so you committed to change. You have identified what behaviors are ineffective to a fulfilling life. You are ready to make the needed changes... the only thing standing in your way now is how to stay the course? The mountain seems so big, the climbing seems too difficult. How do you get motivated and stay motivated?

Can you relate to this? Many can. In fact, when learning anything new it can feel overwhelming at times, but there is something about learning skills to better your mental soul that seems to take on extra weight. It can feel even bigger and even further from reality. Have no fear, you are not alone and there are methods to overcoming those very natural feelings.

In our recent group, 5/25, we discussed productivity and motivation. For many of us, no matter where we are in the recovery process, we do well seeing things outlined for us. A clear path from where we are right now to where we want to be in a month, or year or eventually.

Seeing a pattern to work through takes the unknown out of a very challenging task. The best way to do this is to literally write down your goals and what you are going to do to reach those goals.

During group we filled out a goal setting sheet as an example, a blank copy of that sheet can be found here. Some key points I'd like to highlight with the goal setting sheet are these:

  • #2 - The reason why you are making the changes. - Do not under-estimate the power this reason has on your motivation to make changes!
  • A goal should be measurable, "I" centered, realistic, desirable, and behavioral. - If your goal is not measurable, you will have taken half of it's ability to make a change away, straight from the beginning. It needs to be realistic, obviously we have large goals and want to eventually be somewhere in life. Keeping the goal measurable and realistic leaves open the way for that future of yours to form itself and therefore easier for you to mold to it. 
Notice the sheet is designed to set up your path with a larger, further in the distance goal, outlining specifically and clearly why you want to make that change. Then it breaks it down into to 2 smaller goals that will assist in reaching the larger one. Then it breaks it down even further, 3 steps that you can make daily or weekly, to help you reach your smaller goal, which will in turn help you to reach your larger goal. Can you see the structure that is being set up for you? A clear path, straight to your end-game.

The sheet goes even further - it has you put, in writing, what things you can foresee that could potentially be problematic to you reaching your goals. This is golden. It is forcing you to stop and think about what could potentially interfere before it interferes. The benefit of thinking through this before it were to happen is that you would have the greater potential to problem solve this from wise mind instead of being in the moment, feeling down and frustrated because you have hit a road block, and attempting to problem solve it from all emotion mind. The latter does not have the degree of success that the former would.

Next, you are asked to write out the action plan of what others can do to help. This is also very useful because it would instigate the need to have a dialogue with your support system. This gets you talking about the change that is needed and it gets others involved, putting weight to accountability for you and assistance and empathy from your supporters.

Almost there! Next, the sheet reiterates the importance of why you are wanting change. It is reminding you, and asking you to put down in writing, your commitment level to making these changes. You are owning this change every time you write out that you are committed to it.

Finally, you are asked to visualize what your life will look like if you were to reach this particular stepping stone of a goal to your final, broader goal. Putting yourself into the success before you get there is so very important! To see it, feel it with your mind and put it into words. By doing this, you are reinforcing your desire to reach the goal but you are also creating a safe place to revisit at any time along the way if you were to feel your motivation wane. You can go back to your goal setting sheet and re-read and re-commit.

Once you fill out that portion for both smaller, stepping-stone goals, then you have a completed a goal setting sheet. The next thing you do is put that sheet somewhere that you will see it daily. Don't put it back into your notebook or in a file drawer. Put it next to your vanity mirror in your room, or on your night stand. Somewhere you will not be embarrassed about it, but that you will connect with it every day. 

Periodically, at assessment periods (usually every 2 weeks or maybe a month, depending on the goals)go over your goal sheet. Look at what is working and what is not. You can make written adjustments on your sheet or you can write a revised goal sheet. Be sure to jot down on the top that it is a revision of the original. At the end of your outlined goal reaching period (depending on the goal, 2 weeks, a month, 6 months etc) You pull this goal out (or its revised version) and assess it with yourself (possibly with your support system or group) and determine how you did. 
  • Was this is a success? 
  • Was it a failure? 
  • What went well? 
  • What didn't go so smoothly? 
  • What could you differently next time?
  • How do you feel about the experience?
Then, you pull out another sheet and do it all over again. Before you know it, your goals will be being reached and the distant person that you want to become will be far more clear and that mountain won't look so big. Remember, there are going to be successes and there are going to be failures! That's part of DBT, or any life changes for that matter. The key is to fail well when you do and no matter how you feel about the goal setting experience, save the goal as you move onto another one. Over the course of time, you will want to reflect back on what you have done and to see where you have been.

Group will meet again on June 8, 2014 @ 5 p.m. Pacific Time. We will discuss how we each did on our goal sheet and how the two weeks went with it. We will also incorporate mindfulness daily - which is the foundation on which to be reaching out for these goals that change our lives.

Anyone who is not already on our group hangout invite list, please email me and I can assist with getting you an invite.


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