How to Set Goals that Evolve and Reduce Stress

How to Set Goals that Evolve and Reduce Stress

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Goal setting is one of those things that everyone seems to be doing each January (and August if you work in a school). It is a way to harness the new timeframe, get solidified in what you want to accomplish and make a plan for it to come to fruition. Unfortunately, most of these goals are often left in the dust after a few weeks, or even days, and our year doesn’t quite have the impact we had hoped for. Or worse, we reach our goals but then are left to fumble through the rest of the year or not know what to do when the next year arrives.

The reason for this is simple.  Most of us are taught to set hard deadlines with our goals, and to set firm, measurable goals that allow us to see when we achieve the, much like the goals we set for our patients and students. While this can be helpful, it also has a major flaw. What do you do once the goal has been reached?

The idea can be a bit daunting when you realize your entire life is set up be one goal after another, checked off on a calendar or notebook. If you meet the goals, you are “on track” ad keep setting more, if you don;t meet your goal, you have “failed”.

This might be even more true for Helping Professionals and Speech Language Pathologist than most other people. Before we even graduate with a Bachelor’s degree, we are setting goals and mapping out our life.

  • Score high marks on the GRE
  • Get into a competitive Graduate School
  • Make the grades in grad school
  • Prepare for and fight for the best clinicals
  • Get the best job recommendations
  • Find a job in your setting of choice
  • Work to be the best in your setting

But then what comes next? We often shift into our life goals (get married, buy a hose, have children) or compete to be the best in our field, or work even harder for both. But this constant push and drive can become ingrained in us making it difficult to stop, relax and just enjoy life.

Setting hard and fast goals tends to exacerbate this  constant push within us, and can eventually lead to a bit of burn out or a feeling like you are missing out o some key pieces of life. You don’t have to give up goal setting completely. Having a goal in mind is a good things and can help you to have a healthy push towards what you want to achieve in life. It’s more about shifting your mindset within the goals to have them work for you, instead of you working for them.

Instead of setting super driven goals, try to set Goals with a Purpose. Goals with Purpose allow you to continue to grow, whether you “meet” them or not. This can be a difficult concept to get started with, and hard to define,especially if you aren’t sure of what your “purpose” is or what you really want in your life. Another way to think of this is to set goals for how you want to feel, not what you want to think you should do.

Here is an example:

Let’s say you set a New Years goal to eat healthy foods for the next three weeks, without fail. That’s a good start,and a common goal, but what happens after 3 weeks? Do you go back to eating what you ate before, keep eating only the new foods, or slowly add in healthier habits? Instead, try to tweak your goal to focus on what you hope to feel after eating better for that amount of time. Your goal could be to feel energized and fueled by your foods, with less stomach aches, for 3 weeks. This leaves you plenty of space to let your goal evolve as you grow and change. It gives you space to breathe, space to stray and come back, and gives you plenty of room to evolve during and post-three weeks.

Goals with a Purpose are made to keep changing with you and evolve naturally, as we do naturally in our own lives. When you shift your focus to how you feel within your goals, instead of specifically what you want to achieve, you are able to set goal that follow you through your life, instead of a short time period.  This is especially true for goals related to reducing stress, overwhelm and burn out. You want these to be flexible, so they can adapt as you make changes in your lifestyle and support you in your journey.

Let’s start to workshop this a bit to help you have a clearer picture of your goals and purpose for the future. Grab a pen and paper or open a new window to take some notes.

Start with these 3 goals:

  • 6 week goal:
    • 6 weeks from now, how do you want to feel? What habits to do you want to have started incorporating into your lifestyle?
  • 6 month goal:
    • 6 months from now, where do you want to be with your life? What does your life look like when you imagine half a year from now?
  • 1 year goals:
    • In one year, how much do you want to change or remain the same? How can you maintain that or make the changes happen? What does your vision of your life look like?

Jot down a few notes for these goals, but know that you still have some edits to make on them.

Now that you have a bit more of an idea as to what you want to feel with your goals, it’s time to clarify them a bit. Take a moment to look at the goals you set above and the notes you took. What do these goals really mean to you and for your life? What is their purpose?

As you look at these goals, think about how you wish to feel during these periods in your life. Look more at what they represent, rather than the specifics (like a job title, paycheck), and focus on the feelings you wish to have or create.

Here are a few examples:

  • Think about having an abundance or money, or enough for a certain think, rather than a finite salary/hourly number.
  • Looking at your job, what do you want out of it, rather than the title or position of your job (do you wish to help people, lead people, create more, etc). How does that job reflect what you want in life?
  • When focusing on your stress and overall health, look at the bigger picture rather than the amount of yoga classes, meditation, self-care or hours in the day that you think you need to create this balance.

Now that you have a little more of an outline for your goals, let’s dig a little bit deeper.

  • Why are these goals important?
  • How will you bring them into your life?
  • How do these goals make you feel?
  • How and where can you develop more of this feeling in your daily life? PS This step is key to working through things you can’t control, like paperwork, caseload, management, etc. Those things may not bring you ease and relief, but where can you find more ease and relief in your day.

Now that you have a little clearer picture of how to set Goals with a Purpose, go ahead and make your goals for the year, or any timeframe you chose. Write them down in a notebook, plan out a vision board (more on this coming soon), share them in the FB Group or in the comments below, or even frame them and hang in your office.

For more on goal setting and a little downloadable guidance, sign up below for access to the SLP Toolbox. It’s free and contains tons of self-care, stress reducers, meditations and goal setting help.

Much Love,

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