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Hello Readers,

First let me apologize to those of you who tried but were unable to reach me by replying directly to my newsletter.  A few months ago I took over aspects of my newsletter that I used to delegate.  It is a learning process for me.  (You’ll notice there have not been any pictures with the articles.)  I believe I have corrected the problem but you can also reach me at or 301-340-3050.

This month I take a look at effective goal setting.  In the Feature Article I describe the difference between fear-based and love-based goals and then in the Top Ten I suggest ways to set effective goals.

Take care,

We are now a few weeks into January.  For most people who have made New Year’s resolutions this is the time of year when those resolutions begin to unravel.  What makes it so difficult for us to follow through on our plans to reach the goals we genuinely desire?  It is rarely a question of capacity or willpower.  Oftentimes it is the way we conceive of our goals and measure our successes or failures that has the most impact on our outcomes.

Goals can be thought of as either something we are trying to avoid (fear-based) or something we are trying to achieve (love-based).  Either type of goal can be effective under the right circumstances.
For several reasons a fear-based approach is best when limited to short-term goals.  First, the level of fear it takes to motivate action (a plan) can only be sustained for a short period.  After a brief time fear becomes worry and worry is counterproductive to effective action.  Another reason that fear-based approaches should be reserved for short-term goals is because being motivated by fear is an unpleasant experience. No one wants to wake up each morning thinking of some dreaded outcome and planning the day around ways to avoid it.  Also when we are in a mindset of fear we tend to create plans that revolve around things we cannot do.  For example, if your goal is to lose weight you may set up a plan that includes foods you can no longer have and times you cannot eat. Then, if you do eat one of those forbidden foods not only has the plan failed but you feel like a failure.  You may vow to start again but now you are starting with the idea that you are a failure.  For most people it will only take one or two more slips ups before the goal will be abandoned in order to stop the cycle of misery.

In contrast, a love-based approach is applicable to almost every goal.  This approach focuses on what you want to achieve not what you want to avoid.  It is much more productive to visualize yourself having reached your goal and then decide what steps you need to take to create that outcome.  This approach is generally centered on positive actions steps.  For example, instead of having a goal of losing weight a love-based goal might be to live more healthfully in order to be able to participate in an activity you enjoy.  Your action plan would be based on positive actions to take such as eat more vegetables or take more steps.  With this approach you count successes not failures.  You can have your first success of the day at breakfast.  And success breeds success.  We are much more likely to stick with something when we feel good about ourselves and our progress.  So, a mid-day cookie isn’t cause to throw in the towel.  We can feel joy when we are moving toward something but not when we are running away.  

If you are struggling with reaching a goal that seems to remain just beyond your reach and you would like some help, I am here to help.

Top Ten Ways To Set Effective Goals
  1. Be sure it is your goal.  No matter how important a goal may seem, if it is your spouse’s or your doctor’s and not your own, you will not follow through.
  2. Why is it your goal?Be clear about the reason you want to create this change or accomplish this dream.
  3. What will it look like?  Visualize how your life will look when you have met your goal.  What will be different?
  4. Be excited.  Allow yourself to be excited about achieving this goal.  Don’t allow self-doubt to dampen your enthusiasm.
  5. Break it down.Create small steps to take on the way to your goal.
  6. Celebrate small successes.  Stop and acknowledge yourself when you have completed a step toward your goal. 
  7. Stretchy but achievable.  This is a phrase an coach used to say to me.  It means a great goal pushes you past your comfort zone but doesn’t set you up for failure.
  8. Stay the course.  “We are kept form our goal not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.”- Robert Brault
  9. Accept missteps.  Mistakes will happen.  Don’t undermine yourself by expecting perfection.
  10. Assemble your team.  It is always easier to achieve a goal when you have a team behind you.  Gather as many people as you need for moral, emotional and technical support.

About Barbara Hill
Barbara is a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience helping individuals and couples to achieve happier, more fulfilling lives. She assists clients to better understand themselves, improve their relationships and develop more effective responses to life's problems. Barbara works with adults confronting all types of challenges but is especially skilled at helping survivors of trauma.

Barbara always welcomes the opportunity to work with new clients.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Hill, LCSW-C, All rights reserved.

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