If the new year has brought on a surge of spirit for goal setting, getting specific (and knowing you may stuff up) could be key.
Often people enter a new year bright-eyed and buzzing, having reflected on the year before and what did and didn’t work. Marny Lishman is a Psychologist who works a lot with people keen to set goals and achieve them. She largely works with her clients on their ‘game plan’ or ‘blueprint’, which is the perfect way to set manageable, visible goals.
“Essentially, creating your blueprint is goal setting – but souped-up!" says Marny.
Before you begin your game plan
If you haven’t started 2023 with a buzz and instead feel stuck or disempowered to make the changes you would like to in your life, you’re not alone and it’s important to take a minute of reflection.
Grab a pen a paper – because before you blueprint, you should bask in your previous years wins. Write down all the small and big wins, sit with them for a minute (no matter how small) and then get ready for a new year of goals.
In this article
Why do people set goals?
If you’ve ever set a goal, you know it’s easy. It’s the carry-through that’s hard and it’s not because you’re lazy or easily distracted. Creating new behaviours is considered hard1 and while the psychological explanation behind that is complex (and still not fully understood) it all comes down to how we pursue new goals – and it’s indeed useful to know why we do as well.
Setting goals is an effective way to increase your motivation and to help you create wanted change in your life.2 It’s something that can benefit your wellbeing, assist in recovery from mental illness and is often used as part of cognitive behaviour therapy to assist people in starting to get well.2
What does a yearly game plan look like?
Marny advises you to write down your blueprint in a way that works visually for you. Writing it down is important as it helps you feel focused, motivated, and excited.
“Writing down our goals helps give us clarity about what we really want, makes it feel more real and also most importantly, acts as a psychological contract we can have with ourself” says Marny
Some questions to ask yourself:
- What would I like to achieve this year?
- What areas of my life would I like to improve?
- Which of these goals excite me the most?
- Which goals are the easiest for me to achieve?
“Instead of just thinking about big overarching goals you’re actually strategising, prioritising, and getting really specific,” says Marny
By being specific, you can feel clear about your goals. This means picking the exact times, and days that you want new or adjusted behaviours to happen and also anticipating the roadblocks.
Importantly it’s also about being kind to yourself if you stuff up now and again. Which you probably will, and that’s ok.
Applying your game plan to real life
- Pick one at a time – and pick the easiest one first
It’s hard to work on too many goals at once. Pick one and focus on that one only. By prioritizing and picking the easiest ‘goal’ first and the ones you are most excited about - you will hopefully achieve them quickly and can ride on the back of the self-efficacy you’ve built from achieving them.
- Think about what you enjoy
"We are happiest when we use our strengths," says Marny. So, use this superpower and identify any goals associated with your strengths.
- Identify the actions and behaviours you will focus on
Focus on the actual behaviour itself so you can tell your brain exactly what action it needs to do to achieve it, Be specific, even down to when, where and how much you need to do that behaviour.
- Focus on the want, not the should
Make sure you focus on what you want to do, not what you think you should do. Setting small goals will be easier to achieve.
- Dedicate a support or accountability person
Tell everyone about it! Sometimes when you say things out loud, it’s more like to happen because you are accountable to others. Try and tell the most supportive people and tell them what you need for them.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself.
"Part of the behaviour change process involves relapsing or going back to our own ways. Don’t panic – just try again the next day. The important thing is not to give up,” says Marny
Setting health-related goals
Health goals are important and come with benefits you can physically feel.
When setting your health goals, be specific. For example, instead of saying “I will get more sleep”, you could say “I will keep my phone out of my bedroom at night”.
Healthy habits can help you feel better, live longer, and maybe even avoid developing chronic conditions. Even if you’re a picture of health or already suffer from a chronic health condition like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis or obesity, there are many things you can try to improve your health. HBF’s Health Programs Coordinator and Registered Nurse Rebecca Kierath has the following advice for setting a health-related goal.
“Make sure you focus on what you want to do, not what you think you should do. Start with setting a smaller goal that will be achievable. For example: if you wanted to run a marathon with no running fitness, you could start by saying “I want to be able to run two kilometres without stopping” and build up the distance goal as you achieve it," says Rebecca.
If you’re unsure of where to start, consider getting a check up from your doctor. It's generally recommended that you get the all-clear from your doctor before you start new forms of exercise or diets. After your check up, your doctor can advise you on what types of changes you can make, help you to track your progress and avoid harmful stress on your body.
Looking for more support with your health goals?
Your HBF health cover can include access to a range of programs that provide deeper support for health goals around weight management, managing chronic pain, and support for those living with osteoarthritis.
Visit myHBF to see what you're covered for or call us on 133 423.
Some other ideas for your game plan
Mix it up, have fun, and make your blueprint feel uniquely you. Below are some areas you may like to reflect on and set goals against in your blueprint.2
- Career and business. Maybe you want to get a promotion? Does your workplace off courses you could look to enrol in or is it time to steer your ship in a new direction and change careers?
- Education. Your first goal might not be learning a new language but that can still be in there – and this is a great way to gain social connectedness too if you attend a class. Furthering your education can be as small as reading a certain amount of books a month, or joining a book club!
- Relationships and family. Social connectedness is vital for your wellbeing. Creating goals around how you get this could involve selecting a group to join within your community, creating your own group with friends where you meet up on a certain date for a certain activity you all enjoy, or maybe it’s finding ways to spend more time with your partner or family.
- Creative/artistic. Some favourites in this category include learning a musical instrument, cooking (“I want to learn how to cook my grandma’s lasagne”), starting a photo album or blog, even writing a novel – but think about the baby steps too.
- Community or volunteer work. There is always an opportunity to help in your community, social media is a great way to find connections in this space and discover how you can give back as part of your blueprint.
- Financial. This often lands on most people’s lists and involves looking at specific ways you could save money (make your morning coffee at home) reduce debt or achieve investment goals. Again being specific will help, and looking to apps that might help you manage a finance goal is a great place to start.
New year, healthier you
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Find out more
The Neuroscience of Goals and Behavior Change –
National Library of Medicine
Goal Setting –
This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or
needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether
the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances