Can you believe January is almost OVER?
Hang on, what? The last time I checked it was Christmas and suddenly there are hot cross buns and chocolate eggs popping up on the super market shelves for Easter. It is mind blowing just how fast 2018 is whooshing by!
Along with time, I know what else is whooshing by… Remember those 2018 goals you set for yourself? WHOOOOOOOOSH!!
If you have lost sight of your goals I can guarantee you are definitely not the only one. (And if haven’t then WELL DONE you! Go you good thing!)
Recently there has been a lot of research into goal setting. Researchers have found a relationship between goal setting and our mental wellbeing. Further, dysfunctional patterns of goal setting and misconceptions of happiness obtained from achieving goals has been linked to the development of depression.
So, is goal setting safe for our mental wellbeing?
Many people fall into the trap of choosing goals that are non-specific and vague. One example of this is The goal of Happiness.
E.g. “I want to be happier.”
Studies show that those who conceptualise happiness as an outcome related to achievement and acquisitions are more depressed (and more susceptible to the development of depression) than those whose happiness is a process independent of goal achievement or failure.
Happiness is simply a byproduct of our day to day experiences. It is not an achievable goal. You cannot physically acquire happiness because it is a state of mind. You simply are or are not happy. Further, using “happiness” as a goal is dangerous and will ultimately lead to failure and feelings of disappointment.
Happiness is a state of mind that exists independently of goal pursuit and achievement. Happiness is related to the ongoing, every day experience of being alive.
:: So are goals dangerous for our mental wellbeing?
To put it simply, no. As long as the goals we set for ourselves are appropriate, goal setting can be highly beneficial to our wellbeing. In fact, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V) identifies having goals as an important element of good mental health. Having goals is important to our mental wellbeing especially during those times we have a lack of motivation or are depressed. These difficult times are when planning and structure are so important!
:: So what is an appropriate goal? How do I create one?
You need to make sure your goal is CONCRETE and not ABSTRACT.
Firstly, don’t be a Conditional Goal Setter.
Conditional Goal Setters (CGS) are vulnerable to depression because they:
- They believe happiness and wellbeing are achievable goals.
- They believe that happiness and wellbeing can only be achieved through the achievement of abstract goals.
A CGS will set goals like “I will be happy if I achieve my goal of being a millionaire.”
:: So how do I avoid being a CGS?
You need to ensure your goal is CONCRETE (not abstract) Like, solid, hard, bulletproof concrete:
Abstract Goals are
:: loosely defined
:: are unattainable, or vague a time period
e.g. “I want to be happier.”
Concrete Goals are:
:: well defined
:: have an achievable, specified time period
:: challenging (but not ridiculously difficult or impossible)
:: focused on WHY you want to achieve the goal
e.g. “I will go to the gym every Monday morning for the month of January because exercising makes me feel really happy and motivated.”
:: :: ::
If you follow the above Concrete Goal checklist each time you set yourself a new goal you will be setting yourself up for greater success, and greater wellbeing. How AWESOME is that!