Most of us know how to set a goal. Even if we don’t all physically write them down, most people have a basic understanding of determining what they want and how they’re going to get it.
For things like school, it’s simple: I want a grade of 90 or higher on a test, I want my class rank to move down 5, I want to study for an hour a night. When goals are simple, they’re easier to track, and so it’s easier to achieve them.
For hobbies, it’s much the same: I want to learn this new piano piece by next month, I want to crochet 3 scarves in the next month, etc.
But when it comes to setting goals about ourselves, we suck. If all you know is that you want to become a little bit happier, how can you possibly know how long something like that should take?
Well, recognizing that improving your mental state, especially if you suffer regularly from anxiety or other mood issues is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.
But that’s okay if you learn how to set realistic goals about it.
The Problem with Setting Personal Goals
We tend to think very extremely of ourselves. If we mess something up, we tend toward dejection and self-loathing…Since the harshest critic we have to deal with will always be ourselves, it makes sense that we’d function this way. But this makes it difficult to set adequate goals.
By thinking either extremely of ourselves, we tend to set proportionally extreme goals for ourselves. (At least I certainly did.) And that creates an unhealthy pattern that sets us up to fail.
For a long time, I would try to wrangle with Anxiety over the course of a week or a month. I would promise to do everything right for an entire week, and then somehow, I’d be rid of Anxiety and on the fast-track to a happy successful life. But that’s extreme. And not realistic.
If we can recognize this, we can consciously try to filter out the unrealistic things we expect of ourselves.
How to Set Personal Development Goals
And now for my personal favorite part of many of my posts: Get out a piece of paper!
Now, write down two mental health goals of yours. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Just simple stuff. As vague or as specific as you want it to be. For example:
1. Become generally happier
2. Improve levels of Anxiety with coping strategies
Whatever. Those are goofy examples. But it doesn’t matter. Next to or under those goals, try giving yourself a realistic a mount of time to achieve those things.
And remember! mental health goals are tremendously time-consuming, but not necessarily difficult or impossible to achieve.
So instead of giving yourself a week, two weeks, or a month to achieve your goals, extend it out. For example:
1. Become generally happier: 1 year
2. Improve levels of Anxiety with coping strategies: 6 months
These are arbitrary examples, but it’s so crucial that, if you want to actually achieve a goal, you give yourself enough or more than enough time to achieve it.
If you give yourself a meager amount of time, it’s only natural that you’re less likely to achieve that goal.
And it’s not your fault! It’s simply the tendency of our brains to think extremely about all things and especially ourselves.
Words of Encouragement
If you’re reading this post, you’ve probably been struggling. That’s okay, and it’s not your fault. Instead of expecting too much of yourself and then becoming overwhelmed and frustrated, give yourself the opportunity to take your time.
You’d never expect a novice to be able to assemble a computer in 15 minutes.
You’d never expect someone to spend a week diligently practicing tennis and then being able to beat Serena Williams.
You’d never expect humans to make it to Mars after one year of realizing they want to do it.
So why would you expect so much of yourself, when it comes to handling some of the most intense, personal, complex, and important battles of your introspective mind?
Give yourself the opportunity, give yourself a chance, and I’m sure you’ll take it.
And, I mean, so what you’ll struggle a bit longer than you might with unrealistic goals?
You’ve struggled before—it’s made you brave—and you’ll struggle again. But at least, if you crawl toward your personal goals at a snail’s pace, you’ll eventually get there instead of being frustrated at your inability to do so.
I want to thank Vincent from the bottom of my heart for letting me write this post on his blog. If you enjoyed this, I have a lot of similar content on my own blog, Above Cognition. I’d be so grateful if you checked it out! I’m also working on setting up a YouTube channel where I’ll post simple guided meditations and hopefully interviews with experts in the fields of Psychology and Neuroscience. If that sounds good to you, please check that out as well. Link to YouTube. If a few people interact with my channel, I’ll be sure to get content coming quickly!
Check out the meditation I uploaded and subscribe for more of it! Once again, I appreciate everyone who cares enough about the world to want to help themselves, and I appreciate the opportunity Vincent has given me!
This is my first ever guest blog post. And I’m very happy that Ethan approached me for a guest post.
Please check out Ethan’s wonderful blog. He is a really great person with loads of wisdom readily available to be consumed by you.