How to Set Goals for the New Year
Many people set goals at the beginning of the new year only to stop working towards them in mid-January. One of the reasons this happens is because people set goals that are unrealistic or difficult to work towards. Then it becomes too difficult to hold themselves accountable to the goals or provide a way to measure if they are reaching the goals. How you set goals matters.
Pick an Area to Work On
The first step is to consider the area you most need to work on. What is important to you? Where are you struggling? For women who have borderline personality disorder (BPD), the following are common areas of difficulty that you might consider.
- Managing emotions
- Maintaining relationships
- Controlling impulses
- Remaining in stable housing or employment
- Following through with counseling or treatment
- Practicing coping skills
Do any of those areas stick out to you? What do you need to work on most?
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Set SMART Goals
Once you know the general area of life you want to work on, one effective means of setting goals is to use the SMART method. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. This acronym helps people set and meet objective goals.[i] Consider each part of the acronym as you set your goals for the new year.
Specific – Make sure your goals are not too general. Instead of resolving to “maintain friendships” in 2018, you might resolve to “call my friend Jen once a week,” with the purpose of keeping up with that specific friendship. Specific goals are better than general goals.
Measurable – When a goal is measurable, it means it has been quantified so you can objectively tell if you have met the goal or not. Resolving to “work on my anger” is not measurable. On the other hand, it would be measurable to set a goal that you will “read a book on anger and discuss it with my therapist.”
Attainable – It is important for goals to be realistic and attainable. It is extremely discouraging to set a goal that you won’t be able to meet. For example, it would be unrealistic to set a goal to “always manage my emotions in an appropriate way.” This would not be attainable because nobody manages their emotions in exactly the right way every single moment of the day. Instead, a more attainable goal might be to “decrease emotional meltdowns from once a day to three times a week.”
Relevant – Ensuring that a goal is relevant goes back to picking the area of life you would like to work on. Make sure it is an area that is most in need of work.
Timely – Finally, a timely goal means that it can be completed in a reasonable amount of time. Instead of setting a huge goal, it is more effective to set several smaller goals along the way to where you ultimately want to end up. This helps people stay motivated. For example, instead of setting a goal to “decrease impulsive spending and get rid of all my debt,” you might set a smaller financial goal on the way to getting rid of all debt. A timelier goal would be to “decrease impulsive spending and pay off $100 of debt.”
Take Steps to Follow Through
Now that you know how to create goals that are more likely to be successful, let’s talk about following through. Research shows that people are more likely to follow through on their goals when they write the goal out, find accountability, and provide ongoing reports of their progress to their accountability partner.[ii]
A friend can be a great accountability partner, but another option is to find accountability in the context of counseling. Women who have BPD often require dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) or another form of mental health counseling to manage their symptoms and live a healthy life. Oftentimes, an essential part of counseling for BPD is setting goals, maintaining accountability, and tracking progress. Borderline personality disorder treatment for women is a great place to consider what you want in life and how you will get there.
What goals do you have for the new year? What steps will you take to meet them? If you have goals you want to meet, but know you will need regular accountability, call us today to ask how we can help.
[i] Lawlor, K. B. & Hornyak, M. J. (2012). Smart goals: How the application of smart goals can contribute to achievement of student learning outcomes. Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning, 39, 259-267.
[ii] Matthew, G. (2015). Goals research summary. Retrieved from https://www.dominican.edu/academics/lae/undergraduate-programs/psych/faculty/assets-gail-matthews/researchsummary2.pdf
Since 2004, Lori has worked with the behavioral health treatment community to bring awareness about mental health disorders and evidence-based treatments. Lori strives to help people better understand mental illness and provide support to those needing help and their families. As a mental health advocate, Lori works to be a voice for those suffering from borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, trauma, or any other disorder.