Confidence and Success with CBT/REBT – Blog #6

Blog #6 Setting Achievable Goals

Welcome to blog number 6 in our series looking at how you can achieve confidence and success with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy / Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy.

In this blog, we’re exploring step number three: Setting achievable goals. Read our previous blogs for steps one and two, identifying what you want and fact-finding to see the story so far.

The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don’t define them, or ever seriously consider them as believable or achievable. Winners can tell you where they are going, what they plan to do along the way, and who will be sharing the adventure with them. Denis Watley

Goals are about what we really want and desire. Setting clear and strong goals which you can visualize triggers your creative subconscious to create the energy and creativity to reach the goal. Humans are naturally goal orientated. In our daily lives there is a sequence of mini goals, whether it is getting to work, what we want to achieve in each day, what we are going to eat and longer term goals such as, looking forward to a holiday, planning Christmas and so on.

If you want to succeed, you set clear goals. Without goals you lack focus and direction. Goal setting not only allows you to take control of your life’s direction; it also provides you a benchmark for determining whether you are succeeding or not. For example, having a million dollars in the bank is only proof of success if one of your goals is to amass riches. If your goal is to practice acts of charity, then keeping the money for yourself would be contrary to how you would define success.

To accomplish your goals you need to know how to set them. You cannot simply say, “I want” and expect it to happen. So this Step 3: Setting Achievable Goals is about how to set your clear goals in the most efficient way.

Goals can sometimes be too far away from where we are at present. You may ask ‘how can I achieve it?’ Cognitive psychology explains that, provided we can see the end result clearly and provided that we are emotionally committed, we can achieve the goal. It is important to set goals that:

  • Motivate you
  • Are SMART
  • You can visualise

When you set goals, it’s important that they motivate you: this means making sure that there is value in achieving them. If you have little interest in the outcome, or they are irrelevant, then the chances of you putting in the work to make them happen are slim. Motivation is key to achieving goals. It is important that goals are based on constructive motivation as opposed to coercive motivation. Constructive motivation is based on personal values, desires and rewards. Coercive motivation is based on fears and ‘musts’. Goals are best achieved with the “carrot” versus the “stick” approach!

The most achievable goals tend to relate to the high priorities in your life. Without this type of focus, you can end up with too many goals, leaving you too little time to devote to each one. Goal achievement requires commitment, to maximize the likelihood of success, choosing a single goal where you experience a sense of urgency and having a strong desire for the outcome is more likely to result in that goal being achieved. If you don’t have this, you risk putting off taking the action to making the goal a reality because it is just not that important to you.

Try this exercise:

To make sure your goal is motivating, write down why it’s valuable and important to you. Ask yourself, “If I were to share my goal with others, what would I tell them to convince them it was a worthwhile goal?” You can use this motivating value statement to help you if you start to doubt yourself or lose confidence in your ability to make the goal happen.

You have probably heard of “SMART goals” already. But do you always apply the rule? The simple fact is that for goals to be powerful, they are best when designed to be SMART. SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time Bound

Specific Goals

Ensure your goal is clear and well defined. Vague or generalized goals are unhelpful because they don’t provide enough direction. If you say I want to lose weight, get fitter, work harder, be more successful, these statements do not give a clear picture as to exactly what that means. So specific is about identifying what “fitter” or “successful”, for example, means. For some, it may mean be able to run for the bus without becoming breathless and for others it may be completing an “Iron man” challenge. Goals show you the way. Make it as easy as you can to get where you want to go by defining precisely where you want to end up.

Measurable Goals

Include precise amounts, dates, and so on in your goals so you can measure your degree of success. If your goal is simply defined as “To cut down on expenditure” how will you know when you have been successful?

In one month’s time you might have a small reduction or at the end of the year an overall reduction but that does not give you the result you wanted because it was never clearly identified. Without a way to measure your success you miss out on the sense of success that comes with knowing you have really achieved what you set out to do.

Achievable Goals

Make sure that it’s possible to achieve the goals you set. Setting a goal that you have no hope of achieving will leave you vulnerable to demoralize yourself and erode your confidence. If you want to become an astronaut and you are unfit and over 50 it is unlikely to be achievable.

Goals that are too easy on the other hand can be unrewarding. Setting challenging yet realistic goals is a good balance, the degree of difficulty is achievable with effort and so you experience satisfaction on completion. For example, setting the goal that you wish to pay off a mortgage in 1 year when you have a £250,000 mortgage and you earn £30,000 per annum would be unachievable unless you buy lottery tickets and get very lucky. A realistic goal would be to plan a savings plan that could reduce your mortgage in a set number of years based on a realistic appraisal of the amount you could save.

Realistic Goals

The most effective goals are congruent with reality. Setting goals that are unrealistic are less likely to be achieved. One of the most common initial goals we come across with our clients is the “I want to be happy” one. This goal is unrealistic. Is it realistic to be happy at all times? No, in reality everyone experiences times of sadness or frustration during their lifetimes. Realistic goals are based in what can be evidenced. If you set a goal that you want to achieve a size 48inch chest in the next three weeks, when you have 40 inch chest is unrealistic. No matter how many protein drinks you take or visits to the gym you make, the desired goal is unrealistic. However to increase your chest measurement in 3 months by 2cm is more realistic.

Time Related Goals

Goals that have clear timelines are effective. It maintains focus and motivation if you have a clear timeline, you can introduce critical points of achievement in the timeline to remind yourself you are on track. This enables you to enjoy small successes along the way. When you have a stated time to focus towards, your sense of urgency and energy is triggered, and achievement will be far more likely.

Five year goal: Become manager
Six month goal: Started on management training course
One month goal: Signed up for the training course
One week goal: Found out how to sign up for the training course
Today’s goal: Called H R to make an apt to discuss the training course.

As you can see from this example, breaking big goals down into smaller, more manageable goals makes it far easier to see how the goal will get accomplished and gives you a clear timeline

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