Having personal goals helps keep us going. They give meaning to our lives and help us feel good about ourselves as we work towards them.
Are some kinds of goals better than others?
Our goals should be personal to us.
If we set goals that depend on or compare us to other people, we're less likely to succeed.
For example, 'I want to be the best tiddlywinks player I can be' is a personal goal.
'I want to be a better tiddlywinks player than Bob' is more about Bob than it is about me.
Also, it has a hidden criticism in it - I'm not as good as Bob.
This hidden criticism can be disheartening, especially if Bob surges ahead in the tiddlywinks league.
And what happens if Bob breaks both his hands and can't play? The goal is suddenly meaningless.
Lastly, our goals should be the ones we set for ourselves because we want them.
It's much harder to succeed if we chase goals other people set for us and there's a big risk we'll feel we've wasted our lives and not done the things that are important to us.
Can I change my goals?
It's natural that our goals should change as we grow and change.
Just make sure that you're not giving up just because you've had a setback or hit a hard patch.
Being able to commit to your goals is as important as setting them in the first place.
How can I reach my goal?
Once you've decided what you want to achieve, you can start figuring out how to get there.
This usually means breaking it down into mini goals - a series of smaller steps you can take to get you closer to your overall goal.
The smaller these goals are the better. Putting a time to your mini-goals is also important.
Getting help can be a good mini-goal. For example, 'I'll attend the tiddlywinks master class next Wednesday' could be a good mini-goal for becoming a tiddlywinks ace.
What if I reach my goals?
Congratulate yourself, celebrate and set more goals!
Be aware that there can be a bit of a slump after we reach a goal, especially if we've worked hard for a long time to reach it.
If you know you could reach one of your goals soon, spend some time thinking about what you'll do next.
How can I set goals that will really help me?
Be S-M-A-R-T - set goals that are:
Rather than 'get fit', a better goal would be 'to take a half hour brisk walk after lunch on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays'.
Set goals that can be measured. 'Get fit' is hard to measure, but it's easy to know if you walked for half an hour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday or not.
Start small and set goals that are within your reach.
Choose changes you'll feel the benefit of. If you're slim, you might not notice losing a little weight but stopping smoking could make a huge difference to how you feel.
Set a target date. Without one, it's easy to put off making the change.
How else can I help myself reach my goals?
Set rules that make change part of your life
Create 'if...then...' rules that fit your daily routines. For example, 'If it's Monday lunchtime, then I'll take a half hour walk straight after'.
Soon, you'll find yourself automatically thinking about a walk as you eat lunch.
Give yourself a treat for achieving goals - or parts of them. Whatever rewards you choose, make them healthy ones!
Write your goals, rules and rewards down and keep a diary of how you do each day. Did you do what you were supposed to? Were there any unexpected obstacles?
Your notes will help you when setting new goals and rules and when working through any setbacks.
What if I hit setbacks or an obstacle?
Setbacks are not unusual, so don't be disappointed.
Was the goal SMART? Could you break it down into smaller goals and try again?
Think about any obstacles that prevented you making the change - can you do anything about them?