The problem with New Year's resolutions is they are mostly expressions of hope rather than plans of action. A review of where we are would be a good way to begin a plan for where we want to be --emotionally, personally, physically-- next year at this time.
What's the old saying? You can't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been? Something like that. It sure sounds profound, anyway*Û¦.
Imagine if General Motors were to build a car without a plan. Would you want to buy such a vehicle? How about if a carpenter built a house with no planning? How would this turn out?
Now consider your own recovery.
One of the important aspects of using cognitive methods for recovery (or any other purpose) is to utilize goals. (Some other important aspects are functional analysis and skills training. These are done with the ABC*Ûªs and other tools here at SMART.)
Goals are not challenges; our challenges exist in the *Û÷now*Ûª. Goals are simply our preference for what we would like to accomplish by a future date; goals represent what we would PREFER.
What advantage do goals have for our recovery?
*áGoals provide direction
*áGoals direct our attention to solutions
*áIdeally, goals provide ways to measure progress
*áOur goals are unique to our situation. When we create our own plan, we are more likely to be successful than if someone else creates one for us.
Effective Goal Planning
It is useful to define the things you hold as important to clearly define your values. The toughest fundamental question you can ask yourself is "What are the most important things to me?" My children, my education, my work, my self-fulfillment?
Goals ought to target those values.
Values have a way of changing over time, so goals are often flexible. The goals I have today are not the goals that were important to me twenty years ago. Adjust your goals according to your values.
When planning your goals, don*Ûªt let your BUT get in the way. Recognize when your goals may be in conflict. There are specific behavioral tools you can learn to help you overcome the beliefs that are acting as impediments to progress.
Examples of conflicting values would be:
I would like to be healthy BUT I donÕt like to exercise or eat healthy foods.
I would like to achieve 6 months abstinence BUT I donÕt want the initial discomfort of quitting.
I would like to spend more time with my family BUT my work takes priority.
Now, re-read the statements without the BUT:
I would like to be healthy....
I would like to achieve 6 months abstinence....
I would like to spend more time with my family....
If you find that you have conflicting thoughts when establishing your goals, use your disputation skills! Also, check your goals to see if they are realistic.
Urgency is NOT Priority
Often we confuse the urgent tasks with the highest priority tasks. Do daily tasks crowd out more important activities? Urgent yet unimportant issues in our lives should not take precedence over our high-priority items.
The purpose of establishing goals is to become effective at achieving what we want rather than to simply be busy. It is easy to be caught up in the activity trap and stay quite busy while accomplishing very little.
Set your goals with the end in mind - look at what you want, based on your values, and then set a path for that goal.
Finally, set aside time for active planning.
Achieving goals is a process of conscious planning, not just an earnest desire. Planning is best done in a calm atmosphere and can be done quite effectively in 10 minutes a day.
Start simple and build your value list and goals.
Establish and review your short-term and long-term goals.
Plan your activities with those goals in mind.
It may seem hard to get started on this. To help you feel more successful, at least some of your goals should be short-term, concrete, and verifiable.
Set a time to look back and see whether you've accomplished them. Rather than dwell at that time of reappraisal about what you haven't accomplished, answer these questions without judging yourself or labeling yourself a success or failure:
-did you meet your goals?
-what did you do to meet them? What worked?
-what else did you accomplish? What were the unintended consequences?
-did your goals change?...is it time to make some new short-term goals?
-are you still on track towards your long-term objectives?
An example might be:
Six months from now I want to have a better relationship with my daughter.
Regular communication will help us achieve that goal.
I can set aside time each evening to write some thoughts about her.
A week from now I can outline those thoughts into a letter.
Two weeks from now we can go out to lunch.
At lunch we can set a time to meet regularly. Then I'll give her the letter.
In three months I will know we are on our way to that goal if we are meeting regularly and communicating effectively.
If we are not, then I will assess whether that goal was realistic--was it based on assumptions that were incorrect? on things I can't influence? will it take more time than I originally thought? can I readjust my goals and actions based on this new information?
Keep in mind that REBT is based not on 'positive thinking' but on realistic thinking. So a goal is not something we hope for, but something we plan for based on reasonable information.
Make a healthy New Year, and recognize happiness when it is occurring!