There’s no doubt about it—change is difficult. Therapy is a great place to find support and success in making changes and achieving your goals. So why is therapy so helpful?
Therapy is collaborative. You and your therapist work as a team to clarify and define your goals, come up with a plan of action, and identify both supports and obstacles to attaining your goals. Throughout the process, your therapist will be there to hold you accountable and to support you in problem-solving and learning from setbacks as they occur.
In addition to your therapist providing support and accountability, they can also help you to set goals in an effective way. In order to make successful changes, we have to make sure that we are setting goals that are realistic. One strategy for coming up with goals is to use the SMART acronym. Below outlines the process of creating a SMART goal using the goal of increasing meditation as an example.
Avoiding setting a goal that is too general. We are less likely to feel successful if our goal is too broad and the specifics of who, what, where, and when aren’t answered. For example, “My goal is to meditate more” is too broad and is setting us up for failure for a number of reasons. So it’s important to answer some clarifying questions to help put us on the path for success:
Set parameters so you are able to track progress and identify when you’ve achieved your goal. In addition to setting parameters, determine how you can track your progress. Will you use an app on your phone? Your calendar?
Example: My goal is to meditate three times a week and I will mark the days in my planner.
While goals always include an element of challenge, we also want to make sure that it’s realistic. We don’t want to set a goal that is setting ourselves up for failure. Be realistic.
Example: Instead of “I am going to meditate every day for 30 minutes,” adjust it to something more realistic such as, “I am going to meditate three times a week for ten minutes.”
Make sure that your goal is consistent with more long term goals and values. This will impact your motivation and your ability to be successful.
Example: Setting a goal related to meditation supports my longer-term goals of practicing regular self-care and stress management techniques.
Set a time-frame with your goal. If we don’t have any urgency it’s hard to build up the motivation. It also gives the opportunity to evaluate. Set a time limit and then you can spend the time to reflect on the obstacles that got in your way and the supports that helped you to be successful.
Example: “I am going to meditate three times a week for one month.”
So, if we think about all of the above criteria, an effective SMART goal maybe: “My goal is to meditate three times a week (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays) in the morning after breakfast for one month. I will keep track of my progress by making a check mark on my calendar.”
Creating SMART goals is one of many techniques that you can learn and practice with a therapist. While the decision to start therapy can be intimidating, it can support you on the path to make meaningful change. Call us today and start creating meaningful positive change in your life.
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