Any type of goal setting is often considered a fundamental part of any type of personal development or life coaching or 12-step recovery. The idea is simply to set objectives that you then try to achieve. At some point, you evaluate your efforts and results and make any necessary adjustments that may be due.
The question of realistic goals is really important. The goal must be achievable in some way, and at the same time must not be too easy so that it does not require any effort to stretch on the part of the person trying to achieve it.
When looking at goals that other people are setting, it is quite easy to be reasonably objective about what you think they can and cannot achieve. This is especially true if you know the person well, or you know their situation or environment.
Where it becomes more difficult, is where the individual has real levels of self-doubt about their own capabilities, and find the very notion of goal setting difficult to imagine.
It is not, usually, that the person does not want to achieve things. It is more that they struggle with the notion of how much control they have over their own life. On the whole, people tend to set goals that are not achievable, either because they aim too high, or they sometimes give up too easily.
Setting realistic goals is a very hard thing to do. Failure to meet goals can reinforce a lot of negative thinking about someone’s ability to have control of their life. This can make any type of meeting future goals even more difficult.
One of the ways through this is to stop setting goals that are very specific. This tends to go against the standard advice about goal setting. People normally say set very clear and specific goals, that can easily be measured. Whilst this is sound advice in one sense it does make the whole issue much more black and white than it needs to be.
What sometimes works much better, is for people to set goals that are really about a process, rather than a specific milestone or event. The nature of the process is much easier to grasp, is actually very easy to evaluate and does not tend to be so judgemental.
When talking about being judgemental, it is important to realize that it is normally the person themselves who are quite judgemental about their abilities of performance. This sense of judgment is likely to be about their sense of self or their identity.
The nature of the process allows people to move forward from a position of where they are, at their own pace. In some ways, this is a good thing, as it does not force people beyond the capabilities. At the same time, one of the benefits of goal setting is to stretch people to do more than they thought they were able to.
Goal setting that revolves around a process can do this by instilling a sense of self-belief in the person, that can overcome a sense of negativity or judgment that maybe there in the first place. Using a process-based goal-setting agenda involves a different mindset to a normal goal setting.
It is, however, just as achievable, and in many ways can be of much more benefit to people who struggle with their sense of self, or low levels of self-worth or self-esteem.
Peter Main is a freelance writer who specializes in issues around alcoholism and 12 step recovery. This includes articles on the Serenity Prayer and whether or not AA is a Cult.