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Beyond the Goal

Authored by: Ashley DeVito, Director of Programs

Psychologically speaking, a goal can give us a powerful sense of direction, a sense of order. It feels good to process and check off milestones but, perhaps more importantly, goals can affect our overall sense of connection and purpose. Achieving your goal likely took a great deal of effort, passion, time, and likely money. The process usually involves an enormous amount of personal growth, and every achievement is worth celebrating.

Completing a goal begs the question: What happens when the objective you worked so long and hard for is suddenly behind you? How will you take what you've experienced, the tools you’ve put in place, the lesson’s learned, and continue moving forward? Easier said than done, right? With these tips from our McCahill Group Wellness Coach, it may not be as difficult as you think.

Exercise Honesty and Empathy through Reflective Habits

As you begin the deep work of processing and reflecting on your goal, it’s important to recognize the value of processing with honesty. Your ability to transparently evaluate your wins and shortcomings will serve as your greatest tool for planning ahead. While it's good to give yourself grace, holding a critical eye to your strengths and weaknesses, wins and missed opportunities, will better serve you long-term than a quick analysis now.

Imagine you set a goal of exercising for thirty minutes four days a week throughout the Make Your Move Challenge. Then, life happened. Two new time sensitive projects at work were added to your plate, a family member became sick so you picked up a bit extra at home, and you weren’t feeling your very best. Life throws us curveballs and it's sometimes easy to look at the “glass half empty” when you feel that the weight on your shoulders is getting a bit heavy. Recognizing, not ignoring, this thought pattern and shifting your mindset to focus to “glass half full” will carry you through that curveball. Be kind to yourself as original goals, plans, and overall expectations may have been limited due to circumstances outside of our control. Resilience is built over time, challenged often, and with these tools can be overcome. As you reflect on Make Your Move and other goals you've set in the past, don’t forget that you kept going despite chaos happening around you - a huge kudos in our book!

Building a Reflective Habit and Mindset

Processing and reflecting on your goal looks different for everyone and while there's not an exact formula to follow we find it helpful to first notice your ability and willingness to reflect on experiences to learn from them. Reflecting repeatedly over a series of short-term experiences is one way to gain and build value from this process. We can also regularly reflect over a longer timeframe to identify patterns and opportunities for learning that may have been missed. Having some distance from the experience itself can help us reflect critically with a bit less emotion. For example, some people find it helpful to add structure to their reflective habit by setting specific times to reflect, whether it be daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. You may create a set of prompts for broad reflection like, "What were my biggest challenges and highlights in working towards my goal over the past month?” or “What situations had/could have had a positive impact on my health over the last week?” These approaches can be used individually or in combination.

Planning for what you may do differently in the future can be extremely helpful in setting your next goal and moving forward on your wellbeing path. Ensure that you are concrete in your action plan, avoiding generic thoughts like, “I will do things differently/better.” The more specific you can be regarding what you want to do, how you will do it, and how you will remind yourself, the easier and more likely it will be to implement. For example, “What specific tools can I put in place to help me work through a plateau phase in my workout regimen?” This process can encourage greater success and an even better experience the next time you set a goal.

Five Tangible Tools to Use When Looking Ahead

We’ve all heard the phrase “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Although we usually associate it with money and investments, the same can apply to wellness goals. If you have multiple goals, or baskets, when one is achieved you can switch gears and refocus instead of feeling aimless. This is not to say that you need to be working simultaneously on each of these baskets, but rather having a few baskets ready to put eggs in to ensure you have a bit of direction when its time to reset and refocus, keeping your momentum going.

Set out a logical sequence for what’s going to follow your current goal. Mentally associating the end of one goal with the start of the next will help it feel more like a milestone rather than a total termination. Do what you can to make the transition between goals as smooth as possible, such as gathering supplies or information as soon as you can.

Consider moving the goal deadline out a bit further. Can you build off of your previous goal or expand your current efforts? Rather than looking for an entirely different goal, explore building on your original goal to hit a new milestone.

Remain in touch with other parts of your life and identity. The goal you had was part of you, but just one part. Take a step back to remind yourself how far you’ve come, the principles and standards you believe in and held true to throughout the process. Consider what excited you about your goal and the process, remembering even if it didn't turn out exactly as planned, there are still silver linings to be found. Use your achievement as an example that you can work toward things you may be uncertain about and have confidence in new situations!

After pausing and reflecting, take the next step of being specific about what you appreciated, or didn’t, about your goal. Write down a growth and learning list and come up with a way to apply your new knowledge or skills to the next goal. The idea is to connect your past goal to your future goals through learning and knowledge building.


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