If you want to accomplish something significant, setting goals is the way to go. That, and finding someone to help you keep you on track.

Set goals to master a healthy mindset

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It may not be obvious, but setting goals occurs constantly. They may be short term — getting groceries, paying bills or filling up your gas tank. Or, they could be long term — losing 20 pounds, getting a promotion or buying a house.

Setting goals helps achieve a healthy mindset. It provides something to look forward to and work toward. Once the goal is achieved there’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment.

“It puts you on a certain course, and gives you something that’s meaningful to you,” explains Leanne Lewis, clinical nurse manager for Sentara Healthcare. “It’s no different than quitting smoking or losing weight. It’s how you get there and how good you feel after the fact.”

First steps

So, where does it make sense to start? “Determine what your overall goal is,” suggests Leanne. “Usually people have an idea they want to achieve in life, and from there simply break it down into smaller chunks.”

Leanne recommends using a specific approach called the SMART method, developed by Dr. George Doran, to set goals.

S: Set a goal that is Specific.
M: Make sure it’s Measurable.
A: Figure out how to make it Assignable.
R: The goal should be Realistic.
T: Set a Time frame for completion.

Be specific about the small steps taken toward intermediate goals. For example, if trying to lose weight, know ahead of time exactly when you will go to the gym. Also, have a system of how to count calories.

Once in a routine of following the small steps, it becomes a habit, making a goal much easier to accomplish.

Accountability matters

In addition to the SMART method, another important thing to do is find someone who will hold you accountable. This could be a friend, family member or maybe even a doctor. Choose someone who truly cares about the goal being reached.

Find a support person who can check in and give an added push to go that extra mile when quitting seems easier. “Having someone to tell you that they are on this journey with you keeps you accountable and keeps you on track,” says Leanne.

Why is goal setting so important?

Some may be satisfied by winging it. However, setting and accomplishing small goals that lead up to the main goal provides a sense of satisfaction.

“Just like finishing college or quitting smoking, there are steps along the way to take pride in and push you farther along the path toward getting to where you want to be,” says Leanne.

This is especially true for mental health goals. Many people tend to neglect setting these types of goals, and it may take a back seat to other plans and goals.

Because of this, discipline is key for self-improvement. Having a specific plan, getting into a routine and having support makes it easier to reach goals and achieve a healthy mindset.

What happens if you fall short?

Falling short of a goal is not the end of the world. Finding out why you failed and learning how to fix those missteps are critical to future success. Maybe it was not following all of the planned steps. Perhaps there was no one to make sure your goal was met. Or, maybe the goal was too ambitious.

“Choose something that is realistic,” suggests Leanne.

“It’s great to have a lofty goal,” she says. “But if so, give yourself enough time to achieve it. A goal like this will take a significant amount of planning. And the intermediate steps have to be properly constructed.”