The start of a new year is a time when many people set goals to improve their lives. Goal setting can be a helpful activity that clarifies what you want to achieve and how you can get there. Achieving goals can also boost mental health by giving you a sense of accomplishment and increased self-esteem. However, goals can also have drawbacks for mental health, particularly if you struggle with anxiety or depression.
Setting goals may make you feel under pressure and anxious about whether you can accomplish the tasks you’ve set yourself. And while achieving goals makes you feel better about yourself, not meeting a goal can lead to feelings of failure, self-criticism, and even increased depression.
So, should you simply not set any goals? On the contrary. The key is to set smart goals that will allow you to reap the benefits of goal setting—including better productivity, personal growth and experience, and greater happiness—without the negatives.
SMART Goal Setting
You may have heard of SMART goal-setting. SMART is an acronym that helps you remember to make sure that your goals meet the following criteria:
Frame your goal in detailed terms so that you know exactly what you want to accomplish and why.
Think of this as making sure that your goal is checklist ready. You’ll be able to tell when it’s been completed.
It seems obvious that a goal should be achievable, but sometimes we set ourselves a task without fully considering what it entails. A good goal is one you can realistically accomplish.
Motivation is a key factor in whether or not you’re able to reach your goals. Make sure the goal you set matters to you and that now is the right time to tackle it.
Without a deadline, the things you hope to do can feel more like dreams than goals. Set a date for when you want to finish. Depending on the length of your goal, you may also want to set dates to achieve milestones on your way to reaching your goal.
After you’ve set a SMART goal, break it down into manageable steps. Your brain gives you a boost of feel-good dopamine every time you accomplish something you set out to do, so breaking down your goal can help you to stay motivated as you check off tasks in working towards it. It can also be helpful to find a friend or mentor who can keep you accountable and provide support and encouragement.
By setting SMART goals, breaking them into manageable chunks, and establishing a support net, you can set and achieve goals that will help you to grow as a person without harming your mental or emotional health.