How to Set Goals in a Healthy Way

mental health Mar 30, 2021

The Science and Psychology of Goals

Goals can be some of the most fulfilling, purposeful things to have. According to research, the brain doesn't know the difference between what it wants and what it has, therefore goals are seen as a part of us - our identity, in a psychological sense. This makes it all the more important to make sure we are staying mindful while setting goals and the process for going about achieving them.

The reason why working towards a goal is so fulfilling is because once the goal is achieved (and even as progress is made along the way), the neurotransmitter dopamine is released. Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that makes us feel elated, motivated and pleased. It helps keep us focused and rewarded - climbing further towards our goal.


Advantages of Setting Goals for Our Well-Being

Setting goals is powerful and important anytime, but some of the advantages of setting goals for our wellbeing around the New Year or new seasons (welcome spring!) are the collective energy around goal setting as well as the "fresh start" mindset that already exists (think: new year/new season, new me). With the media, your friends and your favorite businesses all marketing their way of stepping into the new year with style, it's easy to feel motivated by the external world's direction. Whether it's everyone else, or something that comes deep inside you when the clock strikes twelve on New Year's Eve, we've already decided to clear the slate and begin anew. Mindset is half the battle, so let this fuel your drive.


How to Set Goals Without Unhealthy Pressure

Goal setting is important, but putting too much pressure on yourself defeats the purpose. Goals are for your wellbeing and your personal betterment, not your detriment. If they become hurtful, it's time to re-evaluate or ease up on the gas pedal.

1. Let go of ownership. These goals can be personal, but they aren't you. They certainly don't define you either. Find a healthy relationship between working towards something for yourself and realize if your self-worth is getting too involved. You are not defined by your goals or if you meet them or not. Relax and do it out of self-support, not compulsive possession.


2. Be flexible. Similarly, when you find that your goal isn't really fitting after all, be able to adjust it. Whether you modify the time-frame to make it more reasonable, or switch it out all together, allow your goals to bend. Being too rigid will only cause them (or you) to break, anyway. Flexibility is authenticity and it is key.


3. Compare nothing. You are not other people. Other people are not you. Read these words loud and clear: there is no one-size-fits-all and if anyone tries to tell you there is - you're in a cult. Ask yourself, "what do I need more of in my life?" Or, "what do I aspire towards?" Keyword: "I." Do you, for you and ignore the rest - it simply doesn't fit.


What We Can Learn from Unmet Goals

Unmet goals have so much to teach, but they're different from person to person and situation to situation. Resetting and readjusting is always option A, yet sometimes you'll find yourself failing all together. CEO and founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely says she was taught to always make sure to fail. Why? Because without failing, we don't learn. Failing is the greatest teacher and growth-stimulator. Learn your limits, reveal your true desires, discover your "why" and truly find alignment. If something means enough to you, you'll find a new way, but learning that for yourself is everything. Make your goals yours this season. Just yours.

Should you want to go deeper here with a coach by your side, reach out to me so we can see your goals through and do it with your wellbeing in mind.

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