Go-Getters, Unite!  Working SMARTer, Not Harder, Towards Your Goals

By Julia Suklevski, LMSW

Intrigued by this blog’s title?  Perhaps you are finding yourself at a crossroads of working towards accomplishing the next best thing in your life, whether that be personally or professionally.  Whether you are the self-proclaimed “go-getter” within your social group, or tend to lean on the side of the unabashed procrastinator, working towards goals that are in alignment with what you what to bring into your life can be challenging.  Chances are, you have expectations for beginning therapy, and will be collaborating with your therapist about treatment goals because you envision a change in your life. 

The SMART model of goal setting has been proven to be an effective model of remaining on task with accomplishing whatever one’s vision, aspiration, or expectations may be.  SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time sensitive. 

When you are developing a broad idea about what you want to accomplish, it might be difficult to settle on the pathway to reaching that conclusion.  You might have ideas bouncing back and forth because there is so much energy and brainstorming happening that it may be difficult to settle on just one thing.  It is important to be very specific about what you want to accomplish.  Specific goals incorporate detail, proactive language, and are truly an outward expression of your inner desire and speak to what your authentic interests are.  Some specific treatment goals might be wanting to experience less anxiety or depressive symptoms, having improved communication with a partner or significant other, or developing a greater sense of personal identity and confidence.  

Once you have come up with a goal, measuring your progress towards achieving that goal is important.  You want to have a clear understanding of how you will recognize when you are making progress towards your goal.  It is helpful to keep in mind that this can be broken down in quantifiable evidence or qualitative evidence.  Quantifiable evidence can range from the number of days you have practiced mindfulness to how many times you have been able to journal in a week.  Qualitative evidence can range from tracking your overall energy levels over the week to the intensity of your mood and emotions.  You want to use a method that you know will help you best determine if you are making your way towards accomplishing your goal, and would help you analyze if there are any contributing factors to reaching a plateau. 

Part of setting up a goal is to to make sure that it is realistic and attainable.  It is wonderful if you are shooting for the moon - wherever you land, you'll be among the stars.  However, you want to be mindful of setting up a goal that can be achieved, and that you are capable of fulfilling.  Set yourself up for success by starting small - and working your way up the ladder. Smaller goals that are achievable in the short term are confidence-boosters, help us understand our own inner strength, and bring about a sense of mastery and accomplishment that enables us to tackle larger goals.  

You are the agent of change in your own life, and it is important to keep this in mind when goal setting.  You want your goals to be relevant. They should align with your values, your aspirations, and your vision. It is wonderful to have goals established for other folks in your life - it shows that you care about them!  However, we want you to pursue what brings meaning, joy and a sense of accomplishment. Make your goals relevant to your own interests and dreams. Relevant goals are those that are worth devoting your time to, those that are important to accomplish at this point in your life, and that will open a world of opportunity for your future. 

Just as measuring one’s progress towards their goal is important, so is setting a definite timeline and end date for accomplishing one’s goal.  It helps us stay organized when we know that something is coming up, or we are working towards a benchmark in the overall trajectory of goal achievement.  Keeping goals with time sensitivity helps us remain on target, avoid distractions, and help us prioritize objectives and action steps towards achieving our goals.  

You may encounter moments when you begin to doubt the possibility of accomplishing your goals because of roadblocks, obstacles (literal and those fueled by negative self-talk or a dip in self-confidence), and other factors. This is completely normal, and many highly ambitious and successful people experience this. The important thing to recognize is that this entire process is just part of the learning curve that comes along with being an individual who has a zest for success.  One of the great things about therapy is that you have the opportunity to process these moments with your therapist, navigate through them, and find yourself back on track. 

Julia Suklevski is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you are looking for support in finding solutions to enhance your overall wellness, contact Cobb Psychotherapy by calling 718-260-6042 or emailing reception@cobbpsychotherapy.com, and see how therapy can help.

Elizabeth Cobb