It’s that time of year when we change our calendars, and many of us make resolutions and set goals for the new year.
So often, we approach building habits and setting goals from the perspective of what we want to accomplish. I want to get out of debt. I want to learn the piano. I want to travel more. Outcome-based goals feel inspiring in the moment, but motivation wanes easily the longer the outcome remains unachieved.
How can you set goals that you can follow through on not only the first week of January but also into February, March, and beyond? How can we build habits that turn into a lifestyle?
Build a plan that helps you achieve your goals
A goal gives us our direction; our plan is what gets us where we want to go. Without a plan, a goal is merely a wish, a dream, or an intention. So, you want to learn piano? How are you going to make that happen? A plan for that goal could be signing up for (and attending) lessons, practicing 20 minutes a day 5 days a week, listening to piano music when you drive, and not skipping your scales. The stronger your plan, the more likely you are to reach your goals.
As James Clear, the author of the New York Times bestseller Atomic Habits, says, “we don’t rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems.” Your aspiration for your goal won’t sustain you in the long run. But, if you’re committed to your plan and exercise it with consistency, you can reach your goals even when you’re feeling uninspired.
Set goals you can actually follow through on
Even with a plan to achieve their goals, many people still have trouble following through. Why is that? So often, when we set goals and build our plans, we are thinking about the outcome or what we want to achieve.
When setting goals, it is essential to explore your desired outcome and what it will take to achieve that outcome, and if you are willing to accept the work and investment, it will take to achieve that goal. For instance, plenty of people might dream about winning an Olympic medal, but very few are willing to or even able to train like an Olympian. The truth is, the process of achieving our goals shapes our lives even more than the effect of their outcome. We need to choose habits that help us live the life we want to live and be the people we want to be.
This, of course, requires looking a little deeper and asking ourselves why we want to do and achieve these things? Most of the time, what we want to do really comes down to who we want to be. Building habits and setting goals are highly rooted in our identities— who we think we are, who we think we ought to, and who we want to become.
The Eisenberg Family Depression Center at the University of Michigan says that, “working toward specific goals can help you live the life you want while managing your mental illness.” As you set your goals, ask yourself, what kind of person do I want to be, and what kind of life do I want to live? And what kind of habits and actions do you need to commit to in order to be that person?
Prove your progress with small wins
Identity-based goals are often more sustainable than outcome-based goals because even small achievements and commitment to aligned habits along the way to your dream outcome matter. Your definition of success expands. The progress you make, no matter how incremental, is success in itself. And the longer you can remain committed and consistent, the more likely you are to actually achieve the outcome you are after.
For instance, if you want to be an author and write a book, you might build a habit of writing 500 words a day. If you can follow through on the behavior, you’ll prove to yourself that you are the kind of person who writes. You show up to your desk and put in your words, even when you don’t feel like it.
The most effective way to believe something about yourself and your identity is to prove it to yourself through your behavior. You’ll notice in the example above that it doesn’t take drafting and publishing an entire book to prove to oneself that you’re a writer. Small wins make a huge difference in establishing your aspirational identity and building the life you long for.
Commitment to consistency over intensity isn’t always glamorous, impressive, or exciting. But that’s what works. Celebrate your progress and dedication as you are practicing to keep you motivated and keep you committed to your small steps, even when the results feel invisible.
So, your New Year’s Resolution is to find support for your mental health?
This attitude is especially helpful when pursuing therapy for mental health issues, where all progress, no matter how small, is important and well worth celebrating. If you are reading this and your goal is to seek treatment for your depression, congratulations. At Nashville NeuroCare Therapy, we are so proud of you for seeking help. That in itself is a huge step. By looking for support, you are proving to yourself that you are the kind of person who values themselves and believes they deserve a fulfilling, joyful life.
At Nashville NeuroCare Therapy, our team is passionate about helping people experiencing depression find substantial and lasting relief with TMS Therapy or transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy.
Here’s how it works: In depressed brains, centers that regulate mood and behavior are often underactive. Using non-invasive, gentle and side-effect-free magnetic-pulse technology, we stimulate these underdeveloped centers in the brain. The innovative treatment encourages the brain to build and strengthen neural pathways so your brain can start regulating your mood and behavior all on its own without the aid of medication. This offers long-lasting, self-sustaining relief without any nasty side effects commonly associated with antidepressants or painful, invasive procedures. If traditional medication or talk therapy has done little to help your depression, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) recommends TMS Therapy as a proven safe and effective treatment option.
About the Author: Dr. W. Scott West
Nationally recognized, board-certified psychiatrist, Dr. W. Scott West, blazed the trail for TMS therapy in Tennessee as the first physician to offer this advanced technology in 2010. With 30+ years experience in clinical depression, Dr. West leads the Nashville NeuroCare team.
- Board Certified Psychiatrist
- Specialty: Certified TMS Psychiatrist since 2010
- Diplomate: The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
- Distinguished Fellow: American Psychiatric Association
- Residency: Vanderbilt University, Hospital Department of Psychiatry
- Medical School: University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Center for the Health Sciences
- Hospital Affiliations: Vanderbilt University Hospital, St. Thomas Hospital