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How to Set Goals You Can Actually Achieve

by School-Based Mental Health Therapist Amanda Culp, RCSWI at Tatum Ridge Elementary School

SARASOTA COUNTY, February 5, 2021 – It’s just the beginning of 2021 and many of us are looking for ways to make this year better than the previous one. New Year’s resolutions are a common way for people to make positive changes in their lives, but these resolutions are often forgotten mere weeks after they are set. How can you ensure the goals you set for yourself and your family are attained? I recommend using the S.M.A.R.T. strategy. S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-measured. It’s an effective way to break down your goals so they are manageable.

Get specific - When you set a goal, make sure it is specific, so you know exactly what it is you are working towards. For example, instead of making a goal to exercise more, try taking a walk after dinner three days per week.

Pick something that’s measurable - Measuring your goal will help you maintain consistency. If your goal is to meditate three times per week, put a demarcation on your calendar so you can log the number of times you meditated.

Do something attainable – Your goal should be something that you are truly able to accomplish. If you set a goal that is too big, you may run the risk of getting burned out, frustrated, or calling it quits early on. For instance, if your goal is to go back to school full-time, while also working full-time, that may not be feasible with your schedule. Instead, try taking a class or two so you can balance your responsibilities.

Make sure your goal is relevant - When you set a goal, it should be something you want to work towards that will benefit you and/or your family. Don’t set a goal to become a marathon runner if you hate running, and don’t try to become an astronaut if you have no interest in outer space. Instead, pick something you are passionate about and willing to put an effort towards.

Take the time to time-measure – Make sure you set some sort of time limit. If not, then you run the risk of getting frustrated from progressing too slowly. For example, if your goal is to save money, say you’d like to save a specific amount by a certain date.

It is easier to add in a behavior than to remove a behavior. So, rather than focusing on eating fewer potato chips, try adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet. With any behavioral change, consistent rewards help to solidify these changes. So, after completing your biweekly Zumba class, treat yourself to a nice bubble bath or a massage!  Sharing your goals with the people around you will help keep you accountable. You could even choose to work on a goal with another person to hold each other focused.

By utilizing S.M.A.R.T goals, you will surely be able to make positive changes in your life. Good luck!

Amanda Culp is a school-based mental health therapist at Tatum Ridge Elementary School. The Florida Center for Early Childhood's School-Based Mental Health Program is a partnership between the Florida Center, Sarasota County Schools, and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. It is meant to keep high-risk children in school and help them meet their academic milestones through multi-generational therapy for the students and their families.