Setting Goals: a 4 Step Strategy For Depression

Setting goals is often the first step in forming new habits...and just as often...breaking old ones. Easier said than done; but 'easiest' if broken down into these 4 little nuggets!

Everyone has certain goals they wish to achieve. From weight loss or finances in your personal life, to specific business growth goals in your career. Regardless of the milestone, it's hard to get anywhere, if you don't know where you're going, first. And here, we're going to discuss setting goals to overcome depression.

But setting a goal is just one part of the equation. Knowing how to get there is the piece that's not quite understood, or sped past for lack of patience. Then the goal isn't met after time and half hearted effort invested. Now the person who's tried this cool technique is left discouraged, and views "setting goals" as hogwash, and will likely never try it again!

I won't argue, the more specific or oriented your goal, the more effort required be put in to it. However, I've listed here just four easy steps you can take to ensure your goals are met. It’s a process that allows you to map out where you want to be and without complication.

Step 1: Know Your End Result

In order to know what steps you need to take, you need to know where you're going.  You must be able to concretely define the end result. This applies to all goals, no matter the topic.

The biggest problem with not knowing your end goal is that you won’t realize you’ve reached it...and that's if you even reach it at all. It's a complete waste of time.

Let's take running for exercise as an example. Your end result could be to lose weight or get in better shape. But we're talking about depression. So let's take that running goal, and turn it into "running to increase endorphin's to overcome depression." 

Did you see how the slightest tweak, from a generic goal of losing weight and getting in better shape to the end result of beating depression, made a big difference? Because these end goals command they're own kind of attention, is the reason it's imperative to get specific. Running to lose weight may require 45 minutes / 6 days per week, while running to ease depression may be just 2 or 3 - 20 minute jots.

Don’t just say, “I want to be happier.” Decide what it is that would make you happier...specifically.

Visualize your end goal, I mean really see it. Take the mental picture, and see yourself in it, many times a day. 

Step 2: Brainstorm Action Steps for Setting Goals

Before you can take any action, you want to brainstorm ways to achieve your goals and mini goals or tasks needed. You want options, not a single path that you think will work. It allows you to think outside the box; and makes your list and options - expansive.

Some people refer to brainstorming as creatively solving a problem before it happens or while it’s ongoing. Without brainstorming, most people come up with only two to four ways they can reach their goals. Not a very expansive list.

Brainstorming action steps is easy to do. All you need is a notebook or a writing program on your computer. You start by thinking about the steps you need to take and you just write down whatever thoughts pop into your mind.

As you write them down, you may start to see how some of them are connected and might possibly overlap one another. This will help you see how you may need to prioritize or even group certain action steps.

When you brainstorm, you’re free thinking - and that can often let your mind pinpoint a better way to do something. Some people find it helpful to brainstorm on their own, while others can’t seem to move their mind away from a certain focus in order to come up with action steps.

If this happens, it can be helpful to brainstorm with someone else who understands the end result that you want. Brainstorming with someone else is as simple as having a conversation. But if you have a therapist? I can’t think of a better person to help you with this.

You simply tell them what you want to accomplish and say that you’re trying to come up with action steps that you need to take. Often having someone else to bounce ideas off of can yield new ways to get things done that you may not have thought of on your own.

Brainstorming can also be helpful when it comes to seeking a solution about an action step. Some action steps require more effort than other ones do. You may end up needing to do more or find additional help.

It’s easy to forget all the small steps involved in achieving a larger goal, and you don’t want to forget something important along the way, or feel caught off guard if you realize it in mid-stream and have to reorganize your goals on the fly.

Step 3: Craft Mini Goals

Setting goals are a great option for improving your life. By using them you're able to gage whether you’re on track to achieving what it is you want out of life, or not. They are helpful tools that can keep you headed in the right direction when you need to make a decision that involves changing some or certain specific aspects of your life.

Encouragement is a by-product of having goals. And whenever you have a setback…goals will encourage you to keep going. By seeing how far you’ve already come, you realize that you’ve already made some strides forward. Now that’s…encouraging! And gives you the momentum to keep going!

I want to talk briefly about “long” term goals…

People who do very little “action taking,” will focus on long-term goals, forgetting that they need a specific path to get them there. Often this person is considered by the people around them or even refer to themselves as a “dreamer.” Unfortunately, they stay paralyzed, unable to move forward…because the long-term goal is too far out of reach.

But it’s only unobtainable, IF you’re not using short term goals to get there! Most people who aren’t educated about goal setting, don’t know how to do this. And while there are more ways than one, this page is about goal setting in 4 steps.

A long-term goal is one that you plan to reach within a few months to a year or longer after making it. Long-term goals will be realized over time as each of your shorter milestones are achieved. For instance, your long-term goal might be to find your inner calm and peace.

But for now, let’s continue to focus on the “short term goal,” because success will only be achieved by taking small bites and in this case…being UNDER whelmed!

Most success-minded people will focus on short-term goals over the long-term because they are easier to achieve. And living in a “results-oriented” world causes people to lean towards short-term goals more often.

Having short-term goals means that these are things that you do in the present or in the very near future - such as within a week or a month.

A good example of a short-term goal might be creating a Mental Health Blueprint for yourself.

So your short-term goals might be:

  • Decide to create your mental health plan
  • Find [1] mental health therapy technique to learn and implement
  • Achieve this one chosen form of therapy
  • Add one more form of therapy or lifestyle change

…and so on

Each time you’re able to look at your list and cross off an item that you achieved, it helps you build momentum toward reaching your ultimate goal.

You need your list of goals kept around visually. This helps to remind you of what you desire out of life. You need to be able to see whatever it is that your goals are so that you’re reminded to take action.

You can create a vision board with pictures that will help keep you motivated. Or you can write them down in a notebook and list the reasons why you want that goal. Studies have shown that goals that are visualized or written down are reached more often than goals that are not.

[Have you seen the “post it” commercial and the short girl trying out for basketball; “tomorrow I’ll jump higher”?]

It works, she does! And is scientifically proven, not BS.

Reaching any goal will require you understanding what it is that you already possess that can help you meet that goal. But you must also understand and admit to what you lack in reaching that goal so that you can level up your skills to achieve it.

I’m going to use “running” as my example again. It’s a neutral topic and exercise for depression is a great form of therapy.

If you wanted to run a marathon and you were in fairly good shape, you’d know that your physical condition was something you already had. But if you were out of shape, you would realize that you couldn’t run a marathon until you worked on your stamina.

Defining this helps you set the mini goals needed for getting fit. This is the first step to your larger goal…the marathon accomplishment.

You can dig down and flesh through, creating mini goals for as many sub-levels as you want, too. For example, physical conditioning is a mini goal to competing in the marathon. But what are some mini goals for the physical conditioning?

  • The ability to go the distance in a day
  • The ability to run instead of walk the duration of time
  • The ability to achieve more miles each time

Creating mini goals, helps you focus all your energy on the bigger one. Remember, focusing on the bigger goal can make you feel overwhelmed and cause you to talk yourself out of trying. Don’t do that! Or you’ll quit before you’ve had a chance to start.

Most ALL things done successfully are usually done in small bites! Setting goals is no different and you'll find you're most successful when done this way!

Be Specific: Each mini goal that you set needs to be specific. This means that you divide these into tasks.

Use a Calendar: Using a calendar and setting dates for reaching each task that falls under your mini goal heading, simplifies this.

Breakdown the Dates | Begin & End: Determine the time needed for each task. Set both a start and end date. Pushing for the finish line increases your chances of success tenfold.

Goals, even of the “mini” kind with a conclusion date of “whenever” rarely get finished. So, you need to know when you should start that mini goal and when it needs to be done.

Give Each Task Under Your Main Goal a Deadline. For example, a mini goal of walking a 15-minute mile, within 15 weeks might require you (if you’re starting from a 30 minute mile) to shave one minute off your time each week.

That’s a doable mini goal, and the timeline is specific enough for you to have clarity in reaching it. Everything that you do under a mini goal should be something that matters. The more specific it is, the better it will be keeping you on track.

Scan for a Purpose or Trash it: Each step that you take should have a purpose that propels you toward the end result of your goal. If you can remove the mini goal without it impacting the overall goal, then odds are high that the mini goal may not be needed. Remember, we try too to UNcomplicate.

Order of Importance: You need to have an order of importance in place before setting mini goals. After listing the mini goal, write down what you gain from reaching that goal. Write down what you must do to make it happen.

Notes & Tools: List the deadline that it needs to happen by. Make notes under the mini goal that tell you what you must learn to reach that goal. Is there a class you need to take? A book you must read or a seminar you must attend?

All of those should be listed under the mini goal. Make sure that you understand if completing the mini goal can be done alone or if you’re going to need someone else’s help with it.

You should list all the possible roadblocks that could happen during the process of reaching each mini goal. After you list the roadblocks, write down all the ways around them.

This prepares you for setbacks when and if they crop up. It’s always best to have your offensive strategy in place for when you need it.

Step 4: Implement Changes After Goal Setup

Once you’ve finished your goal setting “set up,” it’s time to take action. You’ll be putting into place the ideas that were generated from your brainstorming session. When you begin to implement change, you must understand that it’s normal to feel a sense of unease.

Most people are resistant to change. Just know that it’s normal and don’t let it throw you off course. Keep pushing forward.

Create motivation as you start making changes. You have to be your own biggest fan when it comes to what you’re doing. Celebrate all of your small milestones. It doesn’t have to be expensive or huge – just recognize your efforts and honor your accomplishments.

The fact that you’re working toward a goal and doing things to get you to the finish line is something that should be respected and admired. Sometimes, there’s nobody there but you to toast to your success.

Keep your vision. When you’re implementing change, you don’t want to lose sight of your goal. Understand the value of the changes that you’re making. In other words, realize what will happen if these changes don’t take place.

As you implement change, make sure that you monitor what happens as you make the change. You want to be alert to head off any negative situations or obstacles that arise from implementing your action steps.

There will be some obstacles that you can’t foresee and that you can’t head off. For those, you’ll want to try to get to the root of the problem quickly. Understanding why there’s a difficulty implementing a change can help you know how to get back on track.

You also want to keep in mind that while you’re implementing change now, you’ll see some small benefits right away. However, seeing the end result of some of the other changes may take a little time.

As you implement these changes, make sure that you’re continually revising your goals because as these changes take place, your goals will also change. It’s okay to tweak goals along the way, too.

Many times, when you’re on the path to something greater, and you’re educating yourself, you discover fantastic new ways of doing things! This might mean changing a mini goal, or even altering your large goal completely!

One thing you shouldn’t do though, is allow yourself to get distracted by too many good possibilities to the point that you’re forever chasing a shiny new object or dream and never following through on the action steps you’ve mapped out to reach one milestone in your personal or professional life.

And I know you can do it…I know you can!

I have so much admiration for you…Susan

Convenient Downloadable cheat sheet

Goals Highlights[4] Step Goal Setting Strategy for Depression Cheat Sheet