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Have you ever set goals for the new year that you were not able to accomplish by the end of the year? You are not alone! It is a very common experience because simply listing goals does not ensure that they will be met. Research shows that there are three reasons why a list of goals is ineffective:

  1. People do not structure their goals well. It is common to set too many or ones that conflict with one another. Some may set goals that are too ambiguous, too difficult, or too far in advance (Baumeister & Heatherton, 1996).
  2. People set goals for external reasons such as social pressure or expectations, rather than ones that reflect personal interests and values (Sheldon & Kasser, 1998).
  3. People fail to create a detailed plan on how to reach their goals, making it difficult for them to decide when/where to start, or ways to stay committed when faced with distractions and challenges (Gollwitzer, 1999).

The Solutions

  1. Set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART). For example, instead of a goal such as “workout more,” one may consider writing “go to the gym twice a week for one hour each day” (Bowman, et al., 2015). 
  2. Goals should align with personal values to enable inner strength, and the drive to consistently put in effort (Sheldon & Elliot, 1999; Sheldon & Houser-Marko, 2001). 
  3. Setting a clear plan that maps out how to achieve each goal connects the desired behaviors with specific situations, making it easier to respond in a way that automatically informs decisions that are in accordance with accomplishing one’s goals (Gollwitzer & Schaal, 1998). 

Further Treatment 

If you find yourself not knowing where to start, or it becomes evident that you or your child would benefit from further support, you may consider facilitating a formal evaluation or referral here at Protected Roots Integrative (PRI) Treatment Center. Once the roadblocks are identified, we will create a treatment plan using interventions including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and psychoeducation to help you or your child meet your goals. 

References

Baumeister, R. F., & Heatherton, T. F. (1996). Self-regulation failure: An overview. Psychological Inquiry, 7, 1–15.

Bowman, J., Mogensen, L., Marsland, E. and Lannin, N. (2015), The development, content validity and inter-rater reliability of the SMART-Goal Evaluation Method : A standardized method for evaluating clinical goals. Aust Occup Ther J, 62: 420-427.

Gollwitzer, P. M. (1999). Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans. American Psychologist, 54, 493–503. 

Gollwitzer, P. M., & Schaal, B. (1998). Metacognition in action: The importance of implementation intentions. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2, 124–136. 

Sheldon, K. M., & Elliot, A. J. (1999). Goal striving, need-satisfaction, and longitudinal well-being: The self-concordance model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 482–497. 

Sheldon, K. M., & Kasser, T. (1998). Pursuing personal goals: Skills enable progress, but not all progress is beneficial. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24, 1319–1331.

Sheldon, K. M., & Houser-Marko, L. (2001). Self-concordance, goal attainment, and the pursuit of happiness : Can there be an upward spiral? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 152–165. 

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