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  • Writer's pictureEve da Silva Msc, PgDip

How to achieve your goals in life and turn your dreams into reality.

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

Think about a moment in your life where you set a goal and reaching it, while it was hard work, was achievable. Now think of a goal you find yourself setting time and again but don't seem to be able to quite follow through with attaining.

What are the differences between these two goals and how do you harness the motivation, energy and momentum that you know you possess to work towards the tricky goal?

The answer to this question differs dependent on the situation you are in and the attitudes you have towards yourself and your goals.

Goals: questions to guide you

1. Is your goal specific? You may have a vision, an image in mind, that pulls your imagination or that thrills you but deep down you may not see the many small, specific steps (and missteps) you will need to take to reach the vision you have. You may also know that being too attached to the vision itself may distract you from enjoying the process of learning, gaining skills or sticking to repetitive habits in order to reach your goal. Start by breaking down your vision into specific goals and focus on how it feels to complete these, both the highs, the lows and indeed the boredom. When you can tolerate all three you will be on your way!

2. Is your goal in line with your personal value system? You may have an aspect of yourself that for some reason that you may not yet have explored, is pulling you in more than one direction. On the surface your goal makes sense, but underneath something about it niggles you. To find out what that is it may be a good idea to start exploring your personal value system. Take some time to write down the things that you believe are important in life and the things about yourself which you feel are line with those beliefs. Personal values vary and are precious, this is a task which is best done from a space of non judgement where you simply begin to explore how you could adapt your vision or end goal to fit in with your personal value system.

3. Are you being held back by difficult circumstances? Life isn't easy and there are many setbacks on along the way. Some people see these setbacks as opportunities for growth but sometimes the setbacks are simply too overwhelming to be able to grow, you may indeed actually be focusing on survival. In these circumstances, goals are important and your first goals should be in line with gaining greater safety, healthy support networks, and if necessary, help from social services, mental health charities or other providers. Once you have begun to gain allies to work with you to change your difficult circumstances, then you will be one step closer to being in a position to focus on your vision.

4. Are you too hard on yourself? You may have achieved a great deal in life by internalising (taking on someone else's opinion or a certain way of thinking and doing things) the voice of a critic. The internal critic is a valuable ally when setting goals, undertaking creative work and learning from our mistakes. It is important to have a balanced relationship with your internal critic; that voice that tells you that something isn't good enough can affect your willingness to accept that mistakes, failures, mediocre results or backsliding are part of the process of change. A helpful inner critic identifies when things can be improved and doesn't inflict pain in the process.

Do you notice that you find it unbearably painful to experience your inner critic? The likelihood is that this is leading you to avoid the very work you need to do to improve as it will be too painful to have to contend with thoughts about not being good enough along the way. If that is the case your internal critic has shifted from valuable ally to unbearable nuisance.

The good news is there are many evidence based ways to practice new ways of thinking; to create within yourself a constructive critic rather than a destructive one. A simple yet effective technique is to begin to notice when your inner critic is getting a little too feisty and gently remind yourself that you are working on improving and that there is no need to beat yourself up because you are well on your way, step by step, day by day.

Once you have the end goal in mind and some strategies to keep the inner critic in check; the next step is to break it down into smaller strategic goals.

'SMART" goals can help with this.

Specific: Define your goal down to the finest detail.

For example should your goal be to be healthier then define what healthy looks and feels like to you. Break it down into specific areas and set a defined goal for each.

Measurable: If you can measure the progress even better!

Achievable: Think of this as the achievable first step. For example if being healthier would mean being able to run 5k perhaps start with a couch to 5k programme.

Realistic: How do you fit this goal into your current schedule? What might you need to reprioritise to make this happen?

Timed: Set a deadline for your goal to keep yourself on track.

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