Jan 31. 2020

Goal setting to support well-being

There’s something about the start of a new year that invites us to take a breath, consider where we are, and take some time to plan what comes next. For many lawyers and other professionals, career aspirations are at this top of this list.

Most of us are familiar with the SMART approach to goal setting, a framework based on the work of Peter Drucker that became popular in the 1980s. We have been taught the effectiveness of following this strategy, where goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

The benefits of using these criteria are well established. But what if we want to look beyond individual targets and look at goal setting in a more holistic way?

How can we use goal setting to support our well-being?

The Wellness Model

Using a wellness model to approach goal setting can help maintain balance. The first model of wellness was developed in 1976 by Dr. Bill Hettler, the co-founder of the National Wellness Institute. Hettler’s model “included six dimensions of health: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, occupational and social.” Environmental wellness is now included in this model, with some experts adding even more categories.

The wellness model is often portrayed as a wheel in which each area affects the others. Decisions about career have an impact on social and emotional wellness. Improvements to physical health do not happen in isolation from environmental and intellectual growth. By placing wellness at the centre, thinking about your goals in a holistic way becomes a process that starts internally and moves outward.  When you determine what is important to you in each area—and how these areas are interconnected— you can use your goals to help achieve “well-rounded wellness.”

Work–Life Balance

Brian Tracy, a motivational speaker who focuses on business success, also uses an interconnected approach to goal setting, with work–life balance as the goal. In Tracy’s model, you start with the tangible “what” goals of career, business, and finance. Then you consider the reason for these targets, the “why” goals of family and health. These goals are then supported by personal and professional growth.

In contrast to the wellness wheel, Tracy’s model starts with the external objectives of career and finances and moves inward to personal growth. This work–life model informs “how you achieve the what and enjoy the why” and allows you to think about getting there as a process. Individual goals are not separate entities to be pursued in isolation. Instead, these categories build on each other to help you achieve work–life balance.

Mindfulness offers tips for success

The practice of mindfulness allows us to create space for ourselves where we can really consider how our goals can help support overall well-being. When we begin to look at goal setting in a holistic way, mindfulness can be a fundamental part of finding balance and success:

  1. Use common wisdom around goal setting as a starting point. People rely on SMART criteria because it is effective in helping us succeed. Adding mindfulness practice can help us discover the way these goals are interconnected. It also allows us to define success in our own terms, so we can recognize and acknowledge small milestones and large achievements.
  2. Do not allow negative thoughts to limit your goals. According to wellness coach Karen Fabian, mindfulness allows you to “resist letting perception shape your goals.” When we become aware of the beliefs that limit what we think we can do—including negative self-talk—we can start to replace those ideas with thoughts that are more positive and encouraging.
  3. Remember that setting goals is only the beginning. Fabian reminds us that “one of the basic tenets of mindfulness is that every day is a chance to begin again.” There is no one way to get from where we are to where we want to go. When we encounter obstacles, mindfulness helps us to acknowledge and accept the challenges, and may even help us realize there may be changes we need to make along the way.

No matter which approach you take to goal setting, keep in mind the value of doing so in a holistic way that leads to overall wellness. Remember that mindfulness can help you to “bring compassion and flexibility to your goal setting process.

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