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Goal Setting Tips

Counsellor Lisa Bondarenko chats to us about the key to setting goals and sticking to them.

How to set goals you'll actually stick to

Setting goals and sticking to them is one of life’s many challenges. They are often set upon with great intentions, yet too often fall short of the mark. But what if it didn’t need to be so difficult, or if you had all the tips and tricks at your fingertips to ensure you had the best possible shot at seeing them through? Keep reading…

To achieve a goal, we need to have developed and “nailed” the specific habit that will play a vital part in helping you across the finish line. Habits are the key to success. They can often be really boring behaviours, however these habits, performed consistently, are the keys to success. Truthfully, without them: goals = even more frustration as nothing changes!

What are the best ways to form a habit?

  • Pick a small “to do action”, break it down i.e.: “Spending more time with family” is not small. Instead choose “I will not look at my work phone or computer in the evenings until the kids are in bed”
  • Attach the new action to a previous habit, one that is already established in your life. For example, when I am in a work meeting my phone is on DND/Silent, I respond when I am available. Therefore, I can engage the same process during weeknights between 6pm-9pm in family time.
  • The habit has to be easy and doable, it commonly takes 21 days to create a new one so make sure you are setting yourself up for success in those first few weeks. Pick two nights a week to begin with, and increase it incrementally.

Unsurprisingly, the most common themes for new goals are around exercising more, losing weight and eating healthier. These can be good healthy goals, after all, physical health is imperative to doing life well.

However, these types of goals only bring into focus to one-third of the trifecta! What about mental and emotional health goals? Are they even important, and what could they be?

Emotional health is an important part of overall health. It is probably not surprising coming from a Counsellor that I value these kinds of goals highly. It is simple. People who are emotionally healthy are in control and aware of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. These things in turn increase personal accountability for all things wellbeing.


Guilt is a wasted emotion: after all, we can’t change the past, only the future. Sometimes we are forced to make decisions that can cause pain for yourself and others. This doesn’t mean it was the wrong one. Life brings with it the light and dark, highs and lows and difficult conversations and choices. Sometimes we need to be brave and courageous for our health, but guilt holds no place in that.

Remove ‘should’ from your vocabulary

When you think you ‘should’ do something, it probably means you don’t want to do it at all but feel pressured because it is what is expected. It is so important to be aligned with your own core values and beliefs so when the big SHOULD raises its head you are able to say yes or no confidently.

Collectively, hindsight is a powerful experience “I should have done XYZ” is something I commonly hear. As an all-to-familiar human emotion, make sure it doesn’t hold you ransom. – It serves no purpose. If you could have done the “should”, you would have, but for whatever reason – you were not able too.

Mental Health has a huge influence on how we think, feel, and respond to daily behaviour. The state of your mental health is known to directly affect the ability to cope with stress, overcome challenges, build relationships, and recover from life’s curve balls.

We have all done it before; pushed ourselves to do something we didn’t want to, or said, “I’m fine” when in actual fact, we were far from it. Being honest and authentic about what you say and do is incredibly important for your mental health. Don’t remain out of sync. Become congruent from the inside out.

The ability to set realistic goals depends largely on having hope. But how do you find hope when your life has had a series of disappointment, failures, loss, and potential judgment due to a misunderstanding of your mental health challenges?

A far better approach to mental health “goals” is to identify interests, desires or aspirations. A purpose. Every human being on the planet requires and desires purpose, even without knowing it! What interests you, what have you always wanted to do, what awakens you or helps you jump out of bed in the morning? Dare to dream, it’s one of life’s greatest weapons especially in the face of building a healthy mental state.

From a biological perspective, finding meaning and purpose is essential to brain health as it can help generate new cells and create new neural pathways in the brain. It also is known to strengthen the immune system, relieve pain and stress, and keep people motivated in the pursuit of overall health and wellbeing.

So the moral to the story of setting goals, challenges, intentions or planning for what the year of 2018 might hold is: go slow, run our own race, plan, focus on every part of your “human being” less is best, and do something every day of every week of every month and the chances are, this time next year you will look back and be so glad you did.

Lisa Bondarenko is a counsellor supporting people to function more effectively in their lives and relationships. She has a holistic approach to physical, emotional and mental health, encouraging her clients to live consciously and proactively, as well as develop increased self-awareness, insight and skills.

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