Goal-Setting in the Age of Anxiety
There’s no doubt that we’re in a time in life where almost everyone experiences some form of anxiety, whether it’s from work, creative projects, family, friends, romantic relationships, or even yourself. Mostly, though, it’s from work – and I can relate to that more than anyone! Maybe you quit your job without a plan, you’re feeling brain burnout from too much soul-sucking work, or your business just isn’t giving you the inner satisfaction that you thought it would. Now, you’re left feeling stuck or wandering without direction. So, how do you go about making your life better?
You set goals.
Often, the simplest answer turns out to be the best one, and it’s true in this case. As small as it sounds, setting goals is a great way to reduce anxiety, hone your focus, and give you a sense of purpose. Not only does it allow you to regain control over your life and the actions you take, but it also acts as a benchmark to determine whether you’re succeeding or not.
If your anxiety stems from being stressed or burnt out about work or business, setting goals with actionable steps is a great way to help you figure out what needs to be improved and how to do it. This will take you out of that work-induced mind fog and give you a feeling of intentioned calm.
So, now you know why goals are great. How do you get started?
How to Set Goals
Seek advice from people who were in your shoes
Read self-development books that were written by people who overcame burnout, stress, and anxiety by reflecting on themselves and making plans to improve their lives. I go into more detail about getting to know yourself and working on your new life in my book, Imagine My Life!
You can also hire coaching and/or training services for more direct help. I offer these services through my website, where I give you one-on-one guidance that’s tailored to your personal situation.
Identify what you want
If you don’t know what you want, then you won’t know what goals to make. Take some time to really reflect on yourself, your situation, and what you want to see out of your life within the next 5 or 10 years. Write them all down, no matter how big or small it may seem. Then, write down what you can do to achieve those things (i.e., goals).
Break large goals into smaller ones
Goals, especially lifelong ones, can be big or take a long time to accomplish – such as buying a house or losing that beer belly you can’t get rid of. These types of goals can seem impossible to achieve, but breaking down those goals into smaller, easily achievable goals, will motivate you and make you more likely to reach it.
Let’s say you want to lose that beer belly. Break that objective into smaller goals, such as working out 2 times a week, or only drinking during social events. You can break those down even further, where you must do specific exercises per workout or only have 2 drinks during social events. As you accomplish these little goals, you’ll be making progress toward your ultimate objective until you eventually achieve it.
As you write down your goals, think about what potential obstacles you might face that prevent you from achieving them. If your goal is to quit your job and travel the world for a year, a major obstacle would be finding a source of income to pay for everything. If that’s the case, then maybe you’ll want to continue working and save up. Maybe you’ll get a remote job that you can do from anywhere in the world.
In my book, Image My Life! I talk about all the obstacles I faced in my life’s journey. These were obstacles that you might be facing currently: bad career choices, burnout, business debts, divorce, and more. In the book, I explain in depth how I was able to overcome them and improve my life for the better.
Schedule time to work on goals
Make an action plan for your goals and schedule them into your daily routine, otherwise you’ll never have time to work on them! If you want to get rid of that beer belly, make a recurring plan to go to the gym every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after work at 6:00pm. Having scheduled time to work on your goals will significantly increase the likelihood of you achieving them because you’ve already blocked out time for them on your schedule.
Reward yourself after every success
If you don’t reward yourself after accomplishing little goals, you’ll lose motivation to continue doing them. Our brains love being rewarded from doing tasks, and rewards wire us to want to do them more. If you met your goal of drinking only 2 drinks during that last social event, go ahead and reward yourself with something that makes you feel good. In moderation, of course – don’t eat two boxes of cookies or drink a 12-pack of beer!
You may or may not have heard of SMART goals, which are goals that fall within the parameters of the S.M.A.R.T system:
Set specific, well-defined goals that tell you exactly what you want to do. If it’s too vague or general, it won’t provide you with any direction or where to go or what to do.
Wherever possible, set goals with defined amounts, distances, dates, etc. so that you can measure your success. Your goal shouldn’t be “lose weight” but rather “lose 5 lbs”.
Always write goals that you can actually achieve through hard work, consistency, and/or money (that you can afford). It’s a nice thought to experience weightlessness in space one day but unless you have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spare, you likely won’t be doing that in your lifetime. Instead, more attainable goals could be scuba diving, skydiving, or going to a zero-G facility.
Make sure that the goals you set are realistic and relevant to your life, career, or direction that you want to take in the future. This will help you stay focused on what will help you instead of what will distract you.
Give your goals a deadline, otherwise you may find yourself procrastinating and pushing it off until later. Later never comes – trust me. Establish a deadline and stick to it; this will give a sense of urgency and motivate you to work on your goal.
Incorporate these tactics into your goals and you’ll find that it’ll be much easier to accomplish them.
It may come as a surprise to you that the action of setting goals can also cause some anxiety. This is normal! By taking these steps to change your life, you’re taking the steps to actually change your life. It’s normal to stress about change, especially when you’re already accustomed to your current lifestyle and situation. However, change can be a good thing, and if you’re the one making the change then it means you aren’t happy with your current life in the first place.
Still, you might be feeling anxiety all the same, so try these tips:
Think about and express your goals positively. You’ll feel more confident if you think “any step is progress” rather than “don’t make any stupid mistakes or else I’ll fail”.
Prioritizing your goals (by time, importance, etc.) can help alleviate anxiety over not knowing where to start first.
Set performance goals, not outcome goals. Things happen in life, and many of them are unpredictable. If you were working toward your goal to run 100 miles in one day by the end of the month but then you sprain your ankle before the end, you’ll be anxiously thinking about how you couldn’t complete your goal and failed. Instead, focus on the fact that you trained every week, improved your physical fitness and health, and were able to run 50 miles in one day before you sprained your ankle. Progress is still progress!
- One of the best ways to eliminate anxiety when setting your future plans is to enlist the help of someone who’s been in the same position! I offer personalized coaching and training services to help you deal with stress, anxiety, and burnout. My book, Imagine My Life! also offers detailed guidance regarding challenges I faced on my journey to improve my life.
Life is too short to stay stuck in complacency. If you feel like you’re running in place, burnt out, anxious, stressed, and all you want is for something to go right in your life – you’ve come to the right place. In fact, working on yourself and improving your life isn’t as difficult as it seems. All it takes is putting one step in front of the other, or in other words, one goal.
If you’d like some one-on-one guidance and direction to help kickstart your own journey of life-improvement, don’t hesitate to reach out to me! As someone who’s been in your shoes, I know exactly how you’re feeling and how to get out of that rut. Feel free to explore my website, take a look at the different services I offer, and contact me if you have any questions.