Goals for keeps

Have you ever wondered why you have trouble sticking to your goals? Here's and invitation to scrap the traditional goal setting and do it in a different way, one that involves mindfulness, creativity, and wellbeing.

Ask your friends, fellow students, and parents what their goals are and you may find there’s a bit of overlap, be it to save money for a much-wanted outfit, eat healthier food, start exercising regularly, stop being late for school or work or to be kinder to people they cherish.

Most start out determined to include these goals into their everyday lives only to find that, soon enough, they seem to be a distant memory. At this point, it can be tempting to wonder why you bothered to draw up a list of goals in the first place. But goal setting presents a precious moment to pause, reassess where you are in your life and prepare yourself for the months to come.

Imagine your goals are like a cake. When you begin baking, it’s helpful to know what you’d like to make – that way, you can ensure you have the right ingredients, tools, time and even an idea of who might get to have a slice of the finished product. Here’s Teen Breathe’s recipe for a creative approach to goal setting.

#1 BREATHEPause before you begin

Take a moment to reflect on the key events or experiences that have brought you to your current mindset. A moment of mindfulness can help. Sit somewhere quiet, safe and comfortable and gently close your eyes. Take three long, slow, deep breaths and let go of any tension in your body with every exhale breath. Settle into the moment – mind and body.

Reflect on the months that have passed. In your mind follow your journey until you reach the present moment. Try not to pass judgement or be critical of any actions or decisions you or those around you have made. After this quiet reflection, open your eyes and take another few deep, energising breaths.

Take time to reflect – perhaps jot down some notes to help with your goal setting.

#2 THINKList your intentions

How many goals you set is entirely up to you, but try to find a balance between testing yourself and aiming for the impossible. Too many changes all at once will be difficult to sustain and make your goal intentions harder to keep.

Goals might include spending more time with friends, doing homework earlier or being kinder to yourself.

#3 PLANWhat tools do you need?

Reflect for a moment on the tools you need to achieve your goals. Could it be a second alarm clock placed out of arm’s reach; setting aside time to research healthy recipes; or planning easy workouts you could do in your living room or backyard with friends?

Make a note of the things – and people – that might help to keep you on track.

#4 ACTWhich activities will form part of your plan?

Whether or not resolutions become fixed largely depends on your daily actions. If, for instance, you set a goal to introduce more physical activity into your life, the daily action might be to take the stairs rather than the lift or to do 10 minutes of aerobic exercise or yoga when you wake up in the morning (perhaps set the wake up call on your new, strategically placed alarm clock a little earlier).

Think about easy and achievable ways you can introduce fresh habits into your daily routine.

#5 TIMEBe realistic – there’s no rush

For resolutions to fully come to life it takes time. Studies show that it takes 66 days to form a new habit, so allow yourself at least two months of regular patient practise before evaluating any changes.

Don’t get down if progress feels slow. If it would help, ask a friend for support or encouragement.

#6 TRIGGERWhat reminders could you set to make sure that goals become second nature?

These could be as simple as sticking a note of key words on your mirror; setting alerts on your phone so that each morning when you wake up you’re reminded of your goals; or jotting down an inspiring quote in a journal by your bedside. It will be there whenever you write down the day’s events and chart your progress, triumphs – big and small – and encounters that proved challenging. A gratitude journal is a great way to remind yourself of all the things that are good in life.

Be creative – an alert on your phone could remind you to take a deep breath after a presentation at school.

#7 SHAREAsk how your mission will help others

What is the fun in making positive objectives if you can’t share them with others? Think about how your goals or resolutions could have a positive impact on your family, friends and, yes, even teachers. Let’s imagine one of your goals is to improve your time management and stop being late for school. There are at least two positive results that could stem from this: you won’t get into trouble with your teacher as soon as you enter class and you’ll avoid the all-too-familiar (and endlessly tiresome) nagging sessions with parents before 8am.

List how each of your goals might have a positive impact on the people around you.

#8 LEARNMindfulness is a helpful tool

Introducing an element of mindfulness into your daily life can help you be more aware of your progress as you work towards your goals. When you can, take a moment to sit and be quiet and try to be aware of the sights, sounds and smells around you without judging or questioning them. Afterwards, think about your goals. Give yourself praise for those that are going well and let go of any mishaps when things haven’t quite gone to plan.

Give yourself a break and move on from any setbacks – few enduring successes happen overnight.

#9 CELEBRATENo explanation required!

When you realise that a goal has become a regular habit – perhaps getting to class on time is now second nature and no longer a big deal – reward yourself! But remember that part of the celebration is to enjoy and savour the experiences and journey that got you there, the positive and the not-so-great times. You might not reach all your goals, but your experience in striving for them will enrich you as a person. Good luck for everything you do and every achievement you reach, no matter how small it may seem.

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