Teri Vance: The art of goal setting
After writing last week about the 10 things I was grateful for in 2016, I planned to write this week about the 10 things I was looking forward to accomplishing in 2017.
I tossed it about in my head all week, but ran right into a mental block each time I thought about it. I was hoping the pressure of the deadline would spark ideas. It didn’t work.
I spent much of Friday staring at a document on my laptop — the page remained blank except for the No. 1.
Then I realized that’s the story. I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets stuck when trying to craft goals for the new year.
So I did what I’ve been trained as a journalist to do. I consulted an expert.
I called Dr. Rebecca Bevans, psychology professor at Western Nevada College.
The first thing I wanted to know is if it’s even a good idea to set New Year’s resolutions at all.
She said it is, but you have to do it the right way.
“We feel a sense of accomplishment when we fulfill goals,” Bevans said. “I think we all need goals. We need to feel motivated, but we have to find that balance.”
She said the key is to find a goal that’s challenging enough to motivate us to work hard, but not so overwhelming as to discourage us from trying.
“You don’t want them to be too big, too easy or too unrealistic,” she said. “You want to find that sweet spot.”
She advised taking long-term goals and breaking them down into smaller targets.
“We need those short-term goals to keep us feeling satisfied,” she said. “They keep us on track.”
Sometimes, we need to reframe the objective. For instance, she said, rather than resolving to lose 20 pounds before summer, a person could decide to walk around the block three days a week.
“It’s realistic and it’s attainable,” Bevans explained. “We sabotage ourselves when we set unrealistic expectations.”
It’s also important to acknowledge our own emotional states when we sit down to draw out our goals. January, Bevans said, can be a difficult time for most people as the holiday season wraps up and the weather is cold and dark.
“People need to lighten up on themselves a little,” she said. “Be grateful for how far you’ve come.”
Attitude, she said, makes a big difference.
“We tend to look more at our own failures,” she said. “It comes down to optimistic thinking. Looking at all the little things you’ve accomplished keeps you motivated to do more.”
After talking to Rebecca, rather than feeling paralyzed, I feel empowered. Goals don’t need to be grandiose, they’re more of a benchmark to remind us each day, each new year, is a fresh start.
We can do this — I even thought of something to write after that lonely No. 1.
Teri Vance is a journalist, freelance writer and native Nevadan. Contact her with column ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.