If you struggle to set goals, let alone reach them, you are definitely not alone. In fact, it is thought that roughly 92% of the population has found it hard to stick to goals. This constant cycle of trying to set beneficial life or health goals, but never quite reaching them, can ultimately lead to depression.
That’s because reaching goals is empowering and helps us feel we are in charge of our life. When we don’t reach goals, we feel powerless and even hopeless that our lives can change for the better!
How Counseling Can Help:
Just as you must follow a recipe to the proverbial “T” to end up with something edible, there is a formula that must be followed to the “T” to set reachable goals. This formula is often used in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) to help individuals set and reach goals that will help them change behaviors and better their lives.
Goal setting has actually been shown to be a useful tool for those suffering from depression according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE. The study found that individuals suffering from depression had more trouble setting goals and were far less likely to believe they could reach them.
The study found that those who were depressed had more difficulties setting goals and they were also less likely to believe they would achieve those goals. The participants also tended to set avoidance goals rather than approachable goals.
An avoidance goal is one you set to avoid a negative outcome. “I need to lose weight so I don’t develop type 2 diabetes.” An approach goal, on the other hand, is one that you set to ensure a positive outcome. “I want to lose weight to have more energy and feel younger!”
The study shows that counseling and especially cognitive and mindfulness-based therapies, like Dialectical Behavioral (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), are great for helping clients adaptively set goals and overcome obstacles that get in the way of achieving them.
These therapies can help you problem-solve when obstacles do arise. In DBT, the problem-solving model that is used is:
Step 1. Figure out and describe the problem
Step 2: Check the Facts (all the facts) to make sure you have the right problem situation
- If facts are correct, and the situation is the problem, move on to step 3
- If your facts are not correct or do not match, then go back to step 1
Step 3: Identify a simple and doable goal in solving the problem
Step 4: Brainstorm lots of solutions
Step 5: Choose 1 solution that fits the goal and is likely to work
Step 6: Put the solution into action, one small step at a time
Step 7: Evaluate results. If it doesn’t work go back to Step 5
These skills, help people with depression set and achieve realistic and achievable goals as well as help them stay on track mentally in pursuit of that goal.
The goal-setting formula used by most DBT and CBT therapists is as follows:
1. Identify your goal.
2. Choose a starting point.
3. Identify the steps required to achieve the goal.
4. Take that first step and get started.
A trained therapist can help you with each one of these steps. From ensuring you select realistic goals that are approach goals, to helping you identify where you are in relation to your goal, breaking down the goal into smaller, actionable steps, and helping you take that very first one, a counselor or coach will be in your corner, helping you every step of the way.