Action 47

Identify doable, achievable, observable, measurable goals and plans. The goals I choose should be concrete, and not abstract, relevant, meaningful and important for me and others like my spouse to work on. I need to define my goals in small steps to increase the likelihood of success and to develop a sense of accomplishment. I can break large problems into smaller ones. I can focus my energy and concentrate my attention on a few important goals. I can prepare ahead of time for stressful events. I can also develop back-up plans to achieve my goals and be able to follow-through. I can ask myself,

“What is one thing, even if it is a little thing, which I can accomplish today that will help me move in the direction that I want to go?”

It is important to state goals in positive action terms, rather than in words of what should not occur. For example, “not shouting” should become “please speak calmly.” There is a need to track progress toward achieving such goals. Keep in mind that “small steps can lead to big changes.” It is like throwing a small stone into a pond and watching a small splash generate ripples that have an expanding effect.

Use Solution Talk that focuses on the language of what works, rather than on the language of what is wrong. It puts the spotlight on discovering and implementing solutions in the here and now with the goal of improving the future. Solution Talk includes “how” and “what” questions.

“How would I like things to be?”

“How have I handled challenges/problems like this in the past?”

“How did I do that?”

“How could I repeat (recycle, revisit) my skills and use them now?”

“What can I bring forward and use in this situation?”

“What can I do differently?”

“What is working? Can I do more of this?”

“What is a first step that I can take?”

Keep in mind that I need to make “S.M.A.R.T. Goals.”

  • Specific goals—establish targeted goals in behavioral terms of what I wish to achieve. The stated goals should answer, “What, When, Where, How often and With Whom?”
  • Measurable goals—should be something that I can assess relative to where I began (my baseline), or what I am doing or not doing now. I need to be able to measure or count my behavior in some way and track progress.
  • Achievable goals—these should be doable objectives. Start small and then make goals gradually more challenging, as compared to setting unrealistic goals. Focus on initiating or starting new behaviors, rather than on trying to eliminate negative behaviors. Frame my goals in “positive terms.” It is easier to increase, as opposed to reduce or stop or eliminate “bad” behaviors.
  • Realistic—be optimistic, but do not overshoot my goals. Anticipate barriers and what I will do if I encounter roadblocks or obstacles. Formulate “If . . . then” and “Whenever I encounter . . . I will” plans. Don’t be a perfectionist. Learn from setbacks. Set goals that are important and relevant to my life, really meaningful and consistent with my values. Values orient people towards goals. Prioritize my goals and start off with those that are most doable, so I have the best chance of success.
  • Time-limited goals—should have an end-point in order to keep me motivated. Set a realistic deadline and a doable time frame for achieving my short-term, intermediate and long-term goals. Share this “game plan” with someone I trust and make a public commitment statement. Remember, “Think Big, but Act Small.” Every big goal is accomplished in small steps. Reinforce my efforts along the way. It is not the outcome, but the effort that contributes to resilience.

New Year’s resolutions usually do not work. Setting and sharing “S.M.A.R.T. Goals” have a better chance of working. What are the “goals behind the goals” and how can they be achieved? Finally, two different sets of goals have been identified by Carol Dweck. (Dweck, 2012) One is called mastery goals and the other is called performance goals. The mastery goals are established by oneself and reflect intrinsic motivation, engaging in an activity for its own sake. Individuals are more likely to demonstrate greater persistence and accept mistakes as part of learning, ask for help, demonstrate curiosity when setting one’s performance standards. In contrast, performance-based goals, whereby the objectives and standards of performance are established and evaluated by others, are more likely to lead to giving up, fear of being outperformed by others, fear of mistakes and lower motivation to achieve. When establishing goals, it is better to employ self-established mastery goals.

Action 48