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Are You Setting Up Dreams for the New Year

  By Valarie A. Williams-Siler, Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist

We are entering a new year and many of us are looking to determine what our next steps will be. Have you found yourself dreaming of starting a business, returning back to school, or perhaps entering marriage or a new relationship? The Webster dictionary defines dreams as “a cherished aspiration, ambition, or ideal; a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep”. So how does one move from dreaming about the future to making goals for future endeavors?

Man in gray shirt and black hat writing in journalOne way to begin is to stop dreaming and start reflecting. I believe you need to spend some time analyzing what was accomplished in the past i.e., what worked well and what failed. This will help you to devise a plan of action.  Spending time in this way creates insight to ensure you don’t attempt the goal using the same methods or ideas.

Second, consider using the SMART approach to goal setting. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Sensitive. Using this approach will ensure that your steps toward setting up a goal are concrete. Let’s say you want to begin an exercise program for the new year. How do you go about building a goal around this? 

Let’s say your desire is to lose 10 pounds by April. The SMART approach to this goal would go something like this: “To lose 10 pounds by eating healthier foods, journaling my meals and working out 3x per week over the next 4 months”. Certainly, this is Specific (lose pounds) Measurable (10 pounds) Attainable (eating healthier, journaling, and working out 3x weekly) Realistic (2 to 3 pounds weekly is an ideal and realistic number), and Time Sensitive (by April). 

As you move from the dream phase to the goal-setting phase, the idea is to build accountability for yourself. I am a firm believer in writing things down. When it is written, this becomes a more reliable way of reminding ourselves; the things we write down have a better chance of becoming real and more concrete. 

Here are some ways you could document your progress. One, use a calendar to indicate the days you are working on your goal. Two, use a whiteboard, which is a great way to spell out the goals. Be sure to write out any incentives you would like to use to keep yourself encouraged. Three, create a vision board; yes, if you can dream it then you can see it come to pass. Four, keep a journal as a way to measure your steps toward your goals while providing a space to record your feelings and thoughts. Five, consider creating a daily to-do list that will help you to create momentum each day, and prioritize the task as needed. Lastly, for all of you who love using apps, there is one called Goal Setting Tracker Plan. This app will provide reminders and check-ins to ensure you stay the course.

Let me end by saying practice compassion with yourself. As humans, we may fall short at times and that’s okay. Acknowledge this and get back on track, to begin again. Zig Ziglar says “A goal properly set is halfway reached”.  There is also a saying, “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”. Goals require planning, strategizing, continuous effort, and accountability. I encourage you to take this new year, as a new opportunity to be the best you can and want to be. Please contact our trained therapist if you feel like you are struggling with anxiety and/or depression which may be the very thing that is preventing you from setting goals and sticking with them. We at Symmetry Counseling are here to help you.

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