Every year many of us will set new goals for ourselves and have good intentions to improve our personal or professional life. It feels great to start off a new year and think about how we can enhance our lives and make meaningful change. It's relatively easy to come up with a list of things we want to change, but it’s often difficult to set those goals into action. Goal-setting has its own set of criteria that we need to consider before jumping into implementation. Here are a few things we need to consider.
What is my Why?
Before we set any goal, we need to have buy-in as to why the change in habit or behaviour is necessary. Consider how the goal will impact your physical, mental, social or financial health. Understanding your why builds motivation for the goal.
For example- reducing sugar will improve physical health by leading to less risk of diabetes and weight loss, improve mental health by less emotional eating and cravings and financial health by less money on desserts and snack foods.
What are the downsides of the goal?
Ask yourself, if I achieve this goal, what will I lose? Many times we focus on what we will gain by achieving our goals, but we may also need to consider what sacrifices will be required in being successful.
For example - reducing sugar may make it hard for me to say no to sweets and socialize - especially during the South Asian wedding season!
Set S.M.A.R.T. goals!
SMART goals are ones that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. If goals are too general, unrealistic, vague or don’t have a timeframe it's easy to lose focus and stay accountable. We have created a SMART goal worksheet that can be located on our website (Future-ready Minds,)
Learn how to use your brain to your advantage.
Have you ever wondered why setting goals feels so good, but when we don’t accomplish them there is a sense of disappointment? Any time we set a new goal our brain releases chemicals which give a rush of positive emotions and propel us towards action. However, if a problem arises, we get stuck in our thoughts and it becomes difficult to regulate our behaviour.
The key to accomplishing goals is understanding how your brain works and how to motivate yourself for success. Often, personal or professional goals are based on changing habits. Changing a routine or pattern can be difficult to do without recognizing how our brains create new habits and what motivates them.
Once you’ve re-evaluated your goals to make sure they’re smart and explored the costs/benefits of changing you can then look at ways to use brain science to accomplish them. Here are a few tips on achieving your goals and why these things work.
Prime your brain.
Priming your subconscious can drastically affect your behaviour. To be more successful, create subconscious visuals to motivate yourself. If your goal for the year is to pay off debt, create a tracker that you can fill out each day and visually see your progress. Perhaps your goal is to exercise more. Create a vision board of all the workouts you want to try and the visual representation of success in your mind. Seeing these things, consciously and subconsciously, can prime our brains and create motivation.
Focus on creating a new routine.
The thing with the human brain is that it loves routines. When it comes to goal-setting, we’re often trying to change a pre-existing routine. Want to be an early riser? That means changing an established routine and belief that you’re just “not a morning person.” If you turn your goal into a pattern or a habit, it will be far easier to accomplish. To do this, you have to convert a goal into a habit within your brain. This means moving it into a completely new location, from the subconscious lower brain to the conscious top brain. This can be as simple as changing a few variables like eating popcorn in a movie with your non-dominant hand.
Make sure you set mini-goals along the way to measure progress. Say you plan to run a 10km race by the end of June can seem daunting on the days you struggle to run even 1 kilometre in under 30 minutes. Setting smaller goals within your resolutions will help you stay motivated, thanks to all of the mini celebrations that will excite you and motivate you to keep going. This method works because your brain gets rewarded when you accomplish mini-goals, encouraging your brain to continue to the next milestone for the next reward.
Change your location.
Some say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. When it comes to accomplishing goals, if things aren’t going according to plan, try changing the technique or method of accomplishment. This change could be as simple as a new location. This location change can make it easier for your brain to learn a new habit or change a pre-existing one as it removes the familiar cues that cause the default routines.
Do you have a particular habit or routine that you’re finding difficult to overcome? Speaking with a professional can help. Perhaps you’re looking for a motivating way to unite your team before accomplishing company goals this year or create healthier habits for your children. Reach out to Future-ready Minds and we can work together to ensure you are successful in meeting your goals.
Dr. Shimi Kang is an award-winning Harvard trained medical doctor, researcher, and expert on science-based solutions for health, happiness, and achievement. Dr. Kang is a practicing psychiatrist with over 20 years of experience. She is the author of the #1 bestseller The Dolphin Parent & The Tech Solution, a Clinical Associate Professor at UBC, the founder of Future-ready Minds, Co-Founder of Get Sparky app, & host of the YouTube show, Mental Wealth with Dr. Shimi Kang. She is a proud mom of 3 & the recipient of the Governor General’s Award for Leadership, and the Jubilee Medal for community service.
Jas Hundal is a Registered Social Worker and the Clinical Director of Counselling at Future-ready Minds, She has her Masters of Social Work from the University of Victoria and a Certificate in Advanced Facilitation & Consultation from the Justice Institute of BC. In her career Jas has worked predominantly with South Asian men and women, to provide essential services in the Punjabi language. She is trained in a range of therapeutic modalities and has worked diligently in the field of mental health and addictions since 2006. Jas is passionate about helping members of her community learn ways to improve their mental health by using holistic and strength-based practices.