By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Self-improvement programs fail when you set wrong goals.
Another year, another bunch of resolutions and by now most are headed for the same old failures. The reason most self-change programs fail – wrong, fuzzy and poorly defined goals.
Most resolutions are made with little or no thought about where you are going and how you will get there. If this new you is not worth the trouble to plan, then it probably will not be worth the effort to take action, and next year, long about this time, you will be in the same place you are now.
What are the specific things you need to think about if you want your plan to succeed?
1. What is your goal?
Set the wrong goal and you end up at the wrong destination or you don’t get anywhere at all. Fuzzy goals lead you around in circles.
A common form of resolution this time of year goes something like:
I want to lose weight, exercise more, get in shape and improve my health.
Some of these goals may conflict. One easy way to lose lots of weight is to get sick, physically or mentally. Worry enough or get really depressed and you may stop eating. Good for weight loss but not for getting healthy.
Exercising more may result in that fat being converted to muscle. You will be healthier but may not lose any weight.
Improving your health may involve seeing a doctor, getting your flu shot and a lot of preventative screening tests. Hard to do when you are starving yourself and running marathons. Severe calorie restriction and aggressive exercise may result in a hospital say, not really what you had in mind when you set your goals.
Second goal problems example.
You decide you want to be wealthier. For most people, this means wanting to be able to afford to buy the things that you or your family wants. So you work harder, take a second job, save some money and then you buy your kids that new video game console they wanted.
One problem – now you are broke again and you are working more hours than before. When most people say they wish they were wealthier what they really mean is they would like to be able to spend more. The wealthier goal self-destructs the closer you get to it.
To build real wealth you need to scale back your consumption and save. That is exactly the opposite of what most people mean when they say they want to be wealthier.
Getting really clear on your goals can improve your chances that this year’s resolutions have some chance of succeeding.
2. How big a priority is this goal?
Many people set goals that sound all nice but they are not really committed to getting there. If you would like to lose weight or get richer, as long as you do not have to actually work for that goal, there is little chance of you arriving there.
To make achieving a goal a reality it needs to be something that you want more than you want other things. Do you want that goal enough to give up time on the couch? Will you forego spending or eating something to reach that goal?
Just how committed are you to this thing and what difference will it really make in your life if you get there?
3. Is the goal consistent with your values?
You value time with family, especially those family get together dinners. That time with family is pretty inconsistent with working more, spending less and improving your finances. Those entertaining times are also inconsistent with losing weight.
Despite these inconsistencies, lots of people will say they want things mostly because they would like the praise of others for getting to this goal even when that goal is in direct conflict with their personal values.
4. Can you see clear benefits in reaching this goal?
Some things are kind of nice to have but really getting them will not change much in your life. Unless you can picture yourself reaching this goal and visualize how your life will be better off for having made the sacrifices needed to get there, you are not likely to be motivated to do the work.
So consider now, as the first month of 2014 is well underway, what happened to those New Year’s resolutions? Did you get clear on what you wanted and how that is influenced by your values? Can you see this goal becoming a reality? And most of all is this change thing something you are doing for you or is it something you think you should do because of what others will think about you?
Are you one of the rare ones who decide to make a change and then does the work to get there? Maybe we will check back in about a year and see who has made a success of their change plans.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.