Setting Goals

* An excerpt from the book Free Yourself from Anxiety: A self-help guide to overcoming anxiety disorders by Emma Fletcher and Martha Langley (2009)


Goals need to be realistic

Are you an impatient person? Do you want to rush in and do everything we suggest in the first week? You’ll need to curb your enthusiasm.  Taking on a goal that is too big for you will lead to failure, and you will feel like giving up. Always make goals small enough that you have a good chance of succeeding. Are you inclined to be over-protective of yourself? In that case, you may need to brace yourself and take a little more risk. Goals that are too small don’t provide any challenge and achieving them doesn’t bring any reward.


Choose specific goals

Don’t say ‘my goal is to be happy’. 

Do say ‘my goal is to stop counting my coat hangers’ or ‘my goal is to post a letter’.


Break goals down into small steps

The answer to both the above difficulties is to break goals down into small steps. Start by choosing an overall goal and then see what smaller goals you could set to help you towards it. The smaller goals can also be broken down – there is an example of how to do this below.  Keep a record of goals and progress.  Use your notebook to record the goal and the steps.


Learn from your failures

Counsellors and therapists say that failures are more useful than successes because we learn so much from them. If you fail at one of your goals, don’t let yourself plunge into despair. Instead be your own counsellor and try to analyse why you failed – this is the problem that you need to overcome. Rearrange the goal so you have a better chance of success next time.


Repeat your goals

Try to do each goal more than once. Overall it will get easier each time, although there may be the occasional setback.


Example of goal setting – running the marathon

We will give examples of goal setting for Anxiety recovery later on, but for now let’s look at an example that has nothing to do with Anxiety. A very unfit person decides to run the marathon to raise money for their favourite charity. A trainer helps them break down their goals.


Main goal

Run the marathon.


Secondary goals

1. Run a mile.

2. Run 5 miles.

3. Run 10 miles.

4. Run a half marathon.


And so on to the actual day of the marathon.


Breakdown of first goal

Since this person is very unfit, there is no way they are going to run even

a mile the first time they go training, so they have to work out a series of



1. Walk half a mile on the flat, repeat until comfortable.

2. Walk a mile on the flat, repeat until comfortable.

3. Walk half a mile uphill, repeat until comfortable.

4. Walk a mile uphill, repeat until comfortable.

5. Jog a few yards on the flat, repeat until comfortable.


And so on until they can run a mile.


When setting goals, use the acronym SMART and make your goals:

S = specific (something you can know for sure you’ll manage)

M = measurable (something you can rate for success)

A = achievable (something within your ability)

R = relevant (something you want to achieve at this time)

T = timeable (something you can achieve in a specific and short period of time).

This entry was posted in Achievement & Success, Anxiety & Worry, Depression, Motivational/Inspirational, Self-Help and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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