• Donna Bird Bsc (Psych), MSc (ForenPsych), Research & Support Manager

Goal-setting and Habit-building - Your Goal is your Destination

A natural goal setter? Brilliant! Not a natural goal setter? Let’s get started!


People tend to treat goal-setting as a sprint to the finish line, adopting short-term willpower rather than long-term habits. Sustaining willpower is difficult to say the least… what we need is a habit, something we do by default without even thinking about it! Afterall, habits are the tools we need to create long-term change.


Firstly, you need to ask yourself, why this goal? To achieve? To change? To develop? What is your purpose? Understanding your purpose and knowing your ‘why’ will only aid in your motivation.


We then need to consider how achievable that goal is. Now this doesn’t mean assuming that a small goal is no goal at all and it doesn’t mean a big goal is unattainable. It means looking at the ways we can move closer to achieving that goal – no matter the size. Can we set bitesize goals to help us reach that big one? Can we break it down into manageable chunks? Can we at least begin to understand our barriers and can we stay on top of them?


Let’s think about the balancing act – the balance between motivation, willpower and your comfort zone. We need to push ourselves out of that comfort zone, whilst retaining willpower and maintaining that motivation. Thinking about these things, not just prior to setting your goals but continuously throughout the process of reaching those goals, will bring you great amounts of pleasure! You need to set out your intentions, get to know your barriers better and learn about the things which motivate you the most. So how? Read on…


Let’s get SMART.


Specific – what is it that you really want to achieve? Break it down.


Measurable – can you measure the goal? From start to finish, you want to be able to track that progress, can you see or feel that difference?


Achievable – be aware of what it is that you are working towards and understand that it takes time to develop. Your goal is something that is going to challenge you and push you out of that comfort zone but don’t make it impossible for yourself.


Realistic – make it realistic for YOU! Dream big and push your boundaries but remember you want to be able to achieve this goal… there’s nothing wrong with setting a goal, achieving it quickly and then setting another. Consider those bitesize goals!


Timely – set a deadline to give you something to push towards, bearing in mind, that too much time may mean you’ll procrastinate on it but not enough time is undoing the above few points. Making it timely and setting yourself this reasonable deadline, will keep you motivated and give you the time to learn and understand all of what we have discussed.


Indeed, it’s easy to say we’re going to set ourselves these goals and it’s easy to believe we will achieve them but let’s get back to thinking about those habits, and why they are so crucial for our goal-setting selves. Much of our behaviour and our characteristics are built around habits, in fact, it’s around 40% of our behaviour on any given day. For this reason, it’s important we know what our habits already are, this way, we can look at how we can change them – presuming they’re bad or negative habits of course! Essentially, recognising those daily habits is fundamental, for the changing or building of new habits. That’s when you can then look at eliminating them, by giving yourself an alternative. An enjoyable one!


Habit-building is a tool, a strategy, it takes repetition and to repeat something, we want to enjoy it, right? Right! So, think about the enjoyable things that will keep you going. Don’t make it too difficult for yourself along the way and celebrate your tiny victories. Embrace the changes you are making for yourself, your body and your mind! Celebrate yourself and the way you are developing! Small wins create long-lasting behaviour change – remember that!


Finally, set time aside for yourself in order to change and develop these new and healthy habits, make it easier by programming these things into you and your day. This will prevent excuses and build willpower. It’s the willpower and motivation at the start that really kicks off the process of habit-building and goal-setting. Therefore, succeeding in those small changes on this journey, will help keep up that motivation and retain that willpower, ultimately, leading you to achieving that goal!



PREVENT. PRACTICE. PROGRESS.

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