Goal Setting

Person centred care and setting personal goals is “all the rage” in aged and disability services at the moment. Participants in the NDIS are encouraged to set their own goals in their ‘plan’. In aged care, consumers are encouraged to identify and outline goals in a ‘care plan’ with the service provider. Wellness, reablement, autonomy, choice and independence are words which continue to pop up in communication, policies, plans and documents. This is a great thing, the more positive the language, and the more goals we set, the more chance we have of achieving optimum wellbeing.

Interestingly, we are often hesitant to set goals for ourselves. I remember when I worked as a case manager, asking people what their goals were – primarily to fill out the copious amount of forms required to deliver a service. Clients would usually look at me blankly and say “I dunno, I just want some help to vacuum the floor” (or something similar)! And when they asked me what I meant by ‘goals’, I found it difficult to help them to understand goal-setting.

I have always set New Year’s resolutions, none of which have ever been achieved I must admit! Early this year for some odd reason, I decided to write down some goals for the year ahead. This has (surprisingly) worked -so far. I wrote down quite a few goals, thinking that perhaps if I achieved one or two (out of the eight goals) this would make me feel pretty good about myself.

I wrote the goals down in black Nikko pen and blue-tacked the list to the side of my computer in my office. My thoughts were that if it was right in front of me I would have to think about them more often, even if subconsciously.  “Chop through a block of wood; Join a garden club; Save $4000 for a trip overseas in 2020……..” You get the picture……

When a lady rang the other day to purchase a bale of hay and mentioned that they were in the garden club, I took the opportunity to chat to her and am now attending my first ‘garden club outing’ on Sunday. When my husband said that he was going to chop some wood a few weeks ago, rather than skulk away to find some tedious job to do, I asked him to coach me a bit (and I chopped through the entire block!). My wood chopping is still not pretty, but I have already achieved the first goals and next year I might ‘increase accuracy and time when chopping through the block of wood’. You don’t need to be bored with my personal goals, but the point is, I think goal setting is a very good habit to get into, now and throughout our life.

We need to set goals so that we have something to aim for, so that we keep improving, so that we have a purpose. We don’t hesitate to write a grocery list, or to write down a list of tasks, but we seem to find it very difficult to write down some goals which will improve our quality of life! Why is that?

I have learnt a few things about goal setting that I’ll share with you.

  • You don’t have to set big goals; they can be as big or small as you like
  • You can set as many goals as you like and you don’t have to achieve them all, but try aiming for attainment
  • Your life is constantly changing, so some of the goals will not be achieved and that’s OK
  • You can just jot your goals down on a bit of paper (you don’t need an evaluation or a date or specific information)
  • It’s good to think carefully about the goals before you set them so that they are a bit realistic at least (don’t make your goals so difficult and hard to achieve that you lose interest altogether- make them something you have a chance of succeeding with)
  • Share your goals if you want to, the more you talk about them the more chance you might have of achieving them, plus, other people might be able to help you with your goal
  • Write the goals down and put them somewhere obvious (back of the toilet door, near your desk at work, near your bed or somewhere where you will look often).

Setting goals is particularly important as we age. We go through many changes in our life and setting goals helps us to think about the future. It helps to plan for the changes that might occur. For example, if you are planning on retirement, do you have things to keep you occupied during the day? Do you know what you need to do to remain healthy and well? Do you have plenty of social activities to keep you engaged and active in the community? Do you have enough money to do the things that you want to do?

I recently read an article which stated that many people who retire become depressed, largely because retirement was not what they expected and also, because they weren’t prepared for the changes that occurred. Sure, sometimes we may never be prepared for what happens to us, but if we have some goals it might provide a cushioning for what happens next, it might help us to focus on something positive other than what is wrong.

There are some really good goal setting apps out there. Some are quite complex, others are simpler. Or you might just want to jot down the goals and then have the absolute pleasure of crossing them out – there’s nothing quite like putting a black pen mark through a goal!. The good thing is that you aren’t going to lose by setting a goal, and if you achieve your goal, you will feel good, you will have achieved something that maybe you thought you couldn’t achieve…… Just have a go!

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