Setting goals

Having a goal is a helpful way of noticing and recording the progress you make over time.

However, as a carer, sometimes reaching your goals can be so challenging that it doesn’t even seem worth trying.

While it’s true that achieving your goals as a carer may take longer and require more planning, this does not mean it’s impossible.

And there are lots of things you can do to make it easier . . .

How setting goals can help

Goals help you to:
  • Focus on the things that matter to you
  • Help you progress towards these
  • Get back control in different areas of your life
  • Increase your self-confidence
You can set goals for any area of your life.
For example, you might want to:
  • Be more physically active – you could set yourself a goal to walk.
  • Be less lonely – you could focus on an aspect of maintaining relations.

How to set goals

When you set goals, you need to think about:
  • Is it a short-term goal (e.g. mow the lawn) or longer term goal (e.g. learn to drive)?
  • What is blocking you in achieving this goal?
  • What do you need to achieve it?
  • What kind of journey are you going to take to get there?
Rather like a train taking you on a journey, you may have to change routes, deal with delays, faults on the line or timetable changes, but in the end you will get there.

A true story

“I was always striving for some time away from my responsibilities. I found a friend who liked walking outdoors too and we planned walks together. We found the canal was a sensible route to start on and we had regular stops to enjoy the views and wildlife.
Over the weeks we built it up and rewarded ourselves with a café stop at the end of the walk. We kept a record with photos on our mobile phones of how far we had walked since we started. This shifted my ‘cannot find the time’ thinking.
We kept up the regular walks and over the course of the next year I found myself becoming a different, stronger and fitter person. Giving myself rewards worked well and gave me more energy for my commitments.”

SMART goal setting

SMART goal setting is a way of setting goals so that you have the best chance of achieving them. To understand this, let’s start with a goal:

I want to be more physically active and less lonely.

This is a good start, but at the moment it’s a bit vague. This is where SMART comes in. Quite simply SMART is way of focusing your goals to make sure they are:
Specific   Measurable   Achievable   Rewarding   Timed
Specific – means setting out exactly what will be achieved
Measurable – means deciding often something will happen, or for how long
Achievable – thinking about this ensures your goal will be realistic
Rewarding – this is a reminder to make sure your goal will be enjoyable
Timed – means planning how much time is needed to achieve the goal
If you apply these SMART rules to your goals, you’ll have a much better idea of how to go about achieving them. And you’ll be far more likely to get there!
Once we’ve applied the SMART rules, our goal might look like this:

“I will walk along the canal path with my friend Mollie, for 30 minutes, every Saturday, for one month”

This goal helps us work towards being physically active while meeting up with a friend and thus being less lonely. It is specific, which helps planning; it is measurable, realistically achievable, enjoyable and set for a defined time of one month: it’s SMART!

Goal setting – some more tips

  • Avoid an unpleasant chore or a really tricky goal like losing weight, as these can demotivate you.
  • To get started with SMART goal setting, experiment by trying a fairly easy goal.
  • Don’t overdo it. People with pain often aim too high, or try to do things too early or quickly, which can lead to a sense of failure.
  • Your goal should be a bit of a challenge but not too difficult.
  • Don’t be afraid to review and revise your goals as you go along.
  • It isn’t a test. So if it seems a struggle, try a more fun or rewarding goal.
  • Try sharing your goals with other people – it will help them to understand what matters to you and how they can help you make progress.

Rewards – a valuable tool in your goal setting toolkit

Another useful way to reach your goals is to use rewards. Rewards are tiny treats or pleasures that can provide a boost when you are working towards goals. For example, ending the walk with a coffee and cake at the local café.
Rewards, when used in conjunction with goals, give a sense of pleasure, satisfaction or achievement and help build confidence. They give us the drive to keep going, even when it seems difficult. They encourage us to think ‘it is worth a try’.
Rewards also help us to repeat activities. We tend to do more of something if we feel rewarded for it, either by ourselves or by others.

Goal setting
Key ideas

✔ Having goals helps you to focus on the things that matter most to you
✔ Developing goal setting skills will increase your ability to achieve your goals
✔ Using SMART goals will give you a better idea of how to go about achieving them. And you’ll be far more likely to get there!
✔ Don’t forget to build in some rewards!


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