Goal Setting – Beneficial or Burden?

Hello and welcome to my new blog!

It’s the New Year – that time when we set resolutions for the next 12 months, only to abandon them, in many cases, even before the Christmas decorations have been packed away.

Lose weight? Tick!

Stop drinking? Tick!

Exercise more? Tick!

Study Portuguese for an hour? Every. Single. Day. Tick!

Are goals important to help us achieve our aims in life, or do we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves by setting arbitrary targets? Is it better to plan ahead or to take life as it comes?

Imagine going on holiday and – rather than doing any research - just turning up at your nearest airport (Corona permitting), taking the first available flight and then catching a random bus at your destination and hoping off when you see somewhere you like the look of. Would this fill you with delight or horror??

If you don’t set goals, if you don’t aim for anything other than to fulfil your basic requirements of life – food, water, shelter and sleep – you might attain a sense of freedom and peacefulness that is rarely achievable in today’s world, but the sacrifice of foregoing any sort of security and social contact is a step too far for most people.

So, for the majority of us, goals are part of life. Goals can be defined as either mastery (learning, accomplishing, improving, either individually or as part of a group) or performance (outcome based and often associated with being better than other people who are doing the same thing). Performance goals tend to be quite short lived but are essential in a competitive environment – sports, sales, etc. Mastery goals, on the other hand, doesn’t put you in competition with anyone other than yourself.

As an example, “I want to come top in the Portuguese language exam” is a performance goal, “I want to speak Portuguese fluently” is a mastery goal.

To give yourself the best chance of achieving your goals make sure they are SMART

S. Specific – dig into what you really want to do in as much detail as possible. So rather than “I want to lose weight” try “I am uncomfortable with the way I look and feel at my current weight therefore if I lose weight, I will feel happier and be healthier.”

M. Measurable – by setting regular checks on meeting your goal you will have a tangible record of how you are doing, which is a great incentive to keep going. So instead of “I want to learn Portuguese” try “I will aim to pass the A1 exam by the middle of the year and the A2 exam by the end of the year.”

A. Attainable – many people set goals that they have little chance of reaching so it is really important to be realistic, otherwise you can feel overwhelmed and despondent by the challenge. So instead of “I will completely renovate the house this year” try “I will aim to have the kitchen and bathroom updated by the end of the summer.” Remember you can always set new, small goals as you progress.

R. Relevant – does your goal fit in with your personality and your lifestyle? Is it important to you or are you doing it because you feel you ought to? Your goal is only going to succeed if it will improve your life in some way. So instead of “I want to find a partner because all my friends are in relationships” try “I would like to meet someone who shares my views and values and my love of independence.”

T. Time limited – if you set a date or a time period in which you can reasonably expect to achieve your goal, you have a much better chance of reaching it. So instead of “I want to get fit” try “I want to be able to run for 20 minutes, three times a week, by the end of September.”

I hope this helps with your resolution setting for 2021! If you’d like to chat about your goals please leave a comment. And if you’d like to talk to me about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and how it can help you, please mail me at

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