Women come to therapy because something isn’t going right and they are ready to make a change. Counseling for women’s issues involves taking action to make that change. I help women in my counseling practice in Portland, Maine make changes to live their best lives possible by setting intentional goals. Set yourself up for success from the start by creating goals that will get you there.
There's always a reason why people don't achieve their goals. If you have everything you need, you will be successful. If I want to make a cake but I’m missing ingredients, have a wonky stove or don’t know how to beat an egg, I will not be successful. I can only successfully make a cake if I have everything the recipe calls for, the right tools, and the knowledge and skills. This isn’t to say that it’s not worth doing something if you don’t have everything you need. And there can be very real reasons why you are missing something. A lack of skills, experience, or resources should not stop you.
Do what you can, when you can, with what you’ve got. This goes especially for skill development. Setting goals and making changes often involves developing a new skill. This makes things even more difficult. First you need to be aware that a change needs to happen which requires self-awareness and insight, second, you need to have the tools to make the change. I like the example of learning how to tie your shoes. Kids are always running around with their shoes untied and adults are constantly prompting them to stop and get them tied. At this point in your life you are not even aware that your shoes have come untied never mind actually being able to tie them, that’s a whole separate piece. As an adult you can tie your shoes (hopefully you’ve got that down by now). You can tell your shoes are untied usually without even looking at your feet, you can feel your shoe is loose and it prompts you to look down and tie your shoes. You can even tie them without a second thought often without looking. But when you were little you practiced over and over and it was awkward and you had to think about it and you needed help. You didn’t wait for your shoes to come untied to practice, you practiced all the time until you mastered it. And if you never did, there’s always velcro.
The same repetition and practice is necessary in shaping your life. Intentional goal setting is the plan of how you are going to learn to tie your shoes and what you need to get it accomplished. Once you master the skill it becomes a habit and you no longer need the plan of action to help you accomplish it. Keep this in mind for resources as well. It may be entirely true that you don’t have everything you need to make a change happen and that this change would be a lot easier with certain resources, tools, help or more. Again, do what you can, when you can, with what you’ve got. You may have to accept that there are things missing that would be helpful. It’s important that you don’t dismiss any feelings you have about something that might be missing from your life. If you would love a supportive caring partner and know that would make certain things, like a bad day, for example, easier to bear, it’s ok to feel sad about that and you probably ought to let yourself feel it. But there’s a line between allowing yourself to sit with something to feel it and wallowing. Know where that line is for you. Even small steps contribute to progress. We can get caught up in thinking something isn’t worth doing if we can’t do it perfectly. You may have to shift your thinking to accommodate less than ideal situations. If you consistently take action steps, you will create habits and eventually you will see progress.
When it comes to setting goals, I like to start with intentions. I prefer intention to goal because goals you achieve or you don’t. An intention is an aim or a plan. The intention is the thing you want and the goal is how you get there. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant or realistic, and timely. Specific is better than broad. Broad goals don’t narrow down what you are going to do. Think about the difference between “I’m going to get into shape” versus “I will use a planned weight lifting workout three times a week at my local gym”. With the goal that states exactly what you are going to do you are not left thinking about how am I going to do this? Making it measurable allows you to track progress. For example, drinking two liters of water is something you can measure. Staying hydrated isn't. Attainable goals are something you can actually do. They are achievable, accessible. Sticking with the fitness goal, I can’t go the the gym if I don’t have a gym membership. This is where yo breakdown what you need to accomplish your goal and can apply “do what you can, when you can, with what you’ve got” line of thought. Can you work out at home? Go for runs? And is it realistic? Are you likely to go to the gym 6 days a week or is two more attainable? Relevant goals match your intention. If your goal is to reduce stress but your plans increase stress, take another look at your plans. Does it make sense? And lastly, SMART goals are timely. Set out exactly when you are going to take the action steps. When are you going to do your fitness routine? For how long?
If you are ready to make set an intention, create a goal, and start living your best life possible, click here to schedule a free phone consultation to discuss how we can make that happen together.