Emotional Regulation Skills to Help Manage Difficult Emotions

Isn’t it great when life’s highs can trigger a fantastic feeling of dancing hand-in-hand with euphoria?

But it’s not too brilliant when life’s lows cause a spiral into an emotional meltdown.

Getting to grips with our positive and negative emotions can help us to navigate all kinds of situations in a balanced way.

Understanding how our emotions impact us, those around us, and how we interact with our social world requires the skill of Emotional Regulation (ER).

The problem is, our emotional triggers are a complex web of feelings, perspective, contexts, past experiences, and physiological reactions. Managing reactions to situations that rock our emotional status quo is challenging.

For those who struggle to navigate their way around how they emotionally react to their own emotions and those of other people, it can be devastating.

This article discusses evidence-based theory to clarify definitions, suggest practical strategies, and provide links to useful worksheets and exercises to support the development of emotional regulation skills.

Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our 3 Emotional Intelligence Exercises for free. These science-based exercises will not only enhance your ability to understand and work with your emotions but will also give you the tools to foster the emotional intelligence of your clients, students, children, or employees.

You can download the free PDF here.

This article contains:

5 Ways to Express and Identify Emotions

In positive psychology, emotional health is seen as a ratio of positive and negative (Vacca, Bromley, Leyrer, Sprung & Homer, 2014). Emotional Regulation (ER) is the route to keeping closer to the positive side of emotional health where and when possible.

Let’s take a look at how emotions are expressed and identified, and some ideas to increase those skills and help our emotions to become more positive. Basically, that means taking control of the balance between positive and negative (Dvir, Ford, Hill, & Frazier, 2014).

Before we get started, you might want to try this exercise on Expressing emotions wisely.

Dvir et al. explain that ER is shaped within our cultures and anchored in our past experiences. So, what we see as positive emotions can vary within cultures. And, just to add to the complexities, emotional expression is mostly based on brain mapping, with junctures and signs that link to experiences or feelings, memories, other people’s reactions to us. (Immordino-Yang, Yang & Damasio, 2016)

In addition, we need to add gender to the mix. Girls externalized more positive emotions to others but internalized negative emotions such as sadness and anxiety. This research also found that boys showed more emotions to others until they reached adolescence (Chaplin & Aldao, 2013).

So, how we express our emotions isn’t just down to us. Let’s think about using situational, institutional, and dispositional factors to help figure out how to identify our role in how we express emotions, with these questions:

  • What is the situation we find ourselves in, and what is our previous emotional experience of that situation?
  • What role might work/school play in the emotional reaction?
  • And, is there anything within our temperament that influences our emotional reactions?

An excellent skill to develop is to look more closely at an incident, ask yourself these questions, and write down your responses in the second line:

SituationSymptomSolution
What happened, where, and when?How did you physically feel during your anger and afterward?What did you do afterward? What could you have done to have a healthier outcome for everyone?
|||

If writing your responses down isn’t too enticing, have a look at this idea of using coloring-in for gaining emotional recognition, definition, and clarity.

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Past Affirmations

All things happen for a purpose. My past experiences also had purpose.¬? I have learned from my past and am now free from it. I choose to release the past and live in the now. I completely release the past and live in the now.

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Positive affirmation

I love and accept myself. I understand and accept that my imperfection makes me perfect. Therefore, I am perfect exactly as I am and will remain perfect as I learn and grow.

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Positive Psychology

There is power in positive thinking. Positive emotions are linked with better health, longer life, and greater well-being. On the other hand, chronic anger, worry, and hostility increase the risk of developing heart disease.

For some people, being happy comes naturally and easily. Others need to work at it. How does one go about becoming happier? That’s where positive psychology comes in. This relatively new field of research has been exploring how people and institutions can support the quest for increased satisfaction and meaning. It has uncovered several routes to happiness:

  • Feeling good: seeking pleasurable emotions and sensations
  • Engaging fully: pursuing goals and activities that engage you fully
  • Doing good: searching for meaning outside yourself
  • Gratitude: expressing appreciation for what you have in your life
  • Savoring pleasure: placing your attention on pleasure as it occurs and consciously enjoying the experience as it unfolds
  • Being mindful: focusing your attention on what is happening at the moment and accepting it without judgment
  • Self-compassion: consoling yourself as needed, taking the time to nurture yourself, and building the motivation to try again.

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Mind and Mood

Your mood and your mental health affect every aspect of your life, from how you feel about yourself to your relationships with others and your physical health. There’s a strong link between good mental health and good physical health, and vice versa. In the other direction, depression and other mental health issues can contribute to digestive disorders, trouble sleeping, lack of energy, heart disease, and other health issues.

There are many ways to keep your mind and mood in optimal shape. Exercise, healthy eating, and stress reduction techniques like meditation or mindfulness can keep your brain — and your body — in tip-top shape.

When mood and mental health slip, doing something about it as early as possible can keep the change from getting worse or becoming permanent. Treating conditions like depression and anxiety improve quality of life. Learning to manage stress makes for more satisfying and productive days.

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5 Ways Mindfulness Meditation is good for your Health

Research suggests that mindfulness benefits our bodies, not just our minds.

By Jill Suttie | October 24, 2018

According to thousands of years of tradition, Buddhists meditate to understand themselves and their connections to all beings. By doing so, they hope to be released from suffering and ultimately gain enlightenment.

In recent decades, researchers have been gaining insight into the benefits of practicing this ancient tradition. By studying more secular versions of mindfulness meditation, they’ve found that learning to pay attention to our current experiences and accept them without judgment might indeed help us to be happier. Studies to date suggest that mindfulness affects many aspects of our psychological well-being—improving our mood, increasing positive emotions, and decreasing our anxiety, emotional reactivity, and job burnout.

But does mindfulness affect our bodies as well as our minds?

Recently, researchers have been exploring this question—with some surprising results. While much of the early research on mindfulness relied on pilot studies with biased measures or limited groups of participants, more recent studies have been using less-biased physiological markers and randomly controlled experiments to get at the answer. Taken together, the studies suggest that mindfulness may impact our hearts, brains, immune systems, and more.

Though nothing suggests mindfulness is a standalone treatment for disease nor the most important ingredient for a healthy life, here are some of the ways that it appears to benefit us physically.

Mindfulness is good for our hearts

Heart disease is the leading killer in the United States, accounting for about 1 in 4 deaths every year. So, whatever decreases the risks or symptoms of heart disease would significantly impact society’s health. Mindfulness may help with that.

In one study, people with pre-hypertension were randomly assigned to augment their drug treatment with either a course in mindfulness meditation or a program that taught progressive muscle relaxation. Those who learned mindfulness had significantly greater reductions in their systolic and diastolic blood pressure than those who learned progressive muscle relaxation, suggesting that mindfulness could help people at risk for heart disease by bringing blood pressure down.

In another study, people with heart disease were randomly assigned to either an online program to help them practice meditation or to a waitlist for the program while undergoing normal treatment for heart disease. Those who took the mindfulness program showed significant improvements on the six-minute walking test (a measure of cardiovascular capacity) and slower heart rates than those in the waitlist group.

While one review of randomly controlled studies showed that mindfulness may have mixed effects on the physical symptoms of heart disease, a more recent review published by the American Heart Association concluded that, while research remains preliminary, there is enough evidence to suggest mindfulness as an adjunct treatment for coronary disease and its prevention. 

Mindfulness may also be good for hearts that are already relatively healthy. Research suggests that meditating can increase respiratory sinus arrhythmia, the natural variations in heart rate that happen when we breathe that indicate better heart health and an increased chance of surviving a heart attack.

Mindfulness may decrease cognitive decline from aging or Alzheimer’s

People tend to lose some of their cognitive flexibility and short-term memory as they age. But mindfulness may be able to slow cognitive decline, even in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

In a 2016 study, people with Alzheimer’s disease engaged in either mindfulness meditation, cognitive stimulation therapy, relaxation training, or no treatment, and were given cognitive tests over two years. While cognitive stimulation and relaxation training seemed to be somewhat beneficial in comparison to no treatment, the mindfulness training group had much more robust improvements on cognitive scores than any other group.

  • Mindful Breathing Mindful Breathing A way to build resilience to stress, anxiety, and anger

Why might that be true? A 2017 study looking at brain function in healthy, older adults suggests meditation may increase attention. In this study, people 55 to 75 years old spent eight weeks practicing either focused breathing meditation or a control activity. Then, they were given the Stroop test—a test that measures attention and emotional control—while having their brains monitored by electroencephalography. Those undergoing breath training had significantly better attention on the Stroop test and more activation in an area of the brain associated with attention than those in the active control group.

While this research is preliminary, a systematic review of research to date suggests that mindfulness may mitigate cognitive decline, perhaps due to its effects on memory, attention, processing, and executive functioning.

Mindfulness may improve your immune response

When we encounter viruses and other disease-causing organisms, our bodies send out troops of immune cells that circulate in the blood. These cells, including pro- and anti-inflammatory proteins, neutrophils, T-cells, immunoglobulins, and natural killer cells, help us to fight disease and infection in various ways. Mindfulness, it turns out, may affect these disease-fighting cells.

In several studies, mindfulness meditation appeared to increase levels of T-cells or T-cell activity in patients with HIV or breast cancer. This suggests that mindfulness could play a role in fighting cancer and other diseases that call upon immune cells. Indeed, in people suffering from cancer, mindfulness appears to improve a variety of biomarkers that might indicate progression of the disease. 

In another study, elderly participants were randomly assigned to an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course or a moderate-intensity exercise program. At the end, participants who’d practiced mindfulness had higher levels of the protein interleukin-8 in their nasal secretions, suggesting improved immune function.

Another study found increases in interleukin-10 in colitis patients who took a mindfulness meditation course compared to a mind-body educational program, especially among patients whose colitis had flared up. Yet another study found that patients who had greater increases in mindfulness after an MBSR course also showed faster wound healing, a process regulated by the immune system.

Studies have found effects on markers of inflammation, too—like C-reactive protein, which in higher levels can harm physical health. Research shows that people with rheumatoid arthritis have reduced C-reactive protein levels after taking an MBSR course versus being on a waitlist for the course. Overall, these findings suggest that mindfulness meditation can have disease-fighting powers through our immune response.

Mindfulness may reduce cell aging

Cell aging occurs naturally as cells repeatedly divide over the lifespan and can also be increased by disease or stress. Proteins called telomeres, which are found at the end of chromosomes and serve to protect them from aging, seem to be impacted by mindfulness meditation.

Studies suggest that long-time meditators may have greater telomere lengths. In one experimental study, researchers found that breast cancer survivors who went through MBSR preserved the length of their telomeres better than those who were on a waitlist. However, this study also found that general supportive therapies impacted telomere length; so, there may not be something special about MBSR that impacts cell aging.

On the other hand, another study with breast cancer survivors found no differences in telomere length after taking an MBSR course; but they did find differences in telomere activity, which is also related to cell aging. In fact, a 2018 review of research ties mindfulness training to increased telomere activity, suggesting it indirectly affects the integrity of the telomeres in our cells. Perhaps that’s why scientists are at least optimistic about the positive effects of meditation on aging.

Mindfulness may help reduce psychological pain

Of course, while the above physiological benefits of mindfulness are compelling, we needn’t forget that mindfulness also impacts our psychological well-being, which, in turn, affects physical health. In fact, it’s quite likely that these changes have synergistic effects on one another.

First of all, a great deal of research suggests that mindfulness can help healthy people reduce their stress. And thanks to Jon-Kabat Zinn’s pioneering MBSR program, there’s now a large body of research showing that mindfulness can help people cope with the pain, anxiety, depression, and stress that might accompany illness, especially chronic conditions.

For example, drug addictions, at heart, come about because of physiological cravings for a substance that relieves people temporarily from their psychological suffering. Mindfulness can be a useful adjunct to addiction treatment by helping people better understand and tolerate their cravings, potentially helping them to avoid relapse after they’ve been safely weaned off of drugs or alcohol. The same is true for people struggling with overeating.

Fascinating though it is, we shouldn’t overplay meditation’s effects on physical health at the expense of its importance to emotional health. In fact, it may be difficult to separate out the two, as a key impact of mindfulness is stress reduction, and psychological stress has been tied to heart health, immune response, and telomere length. This idea is further supported by the fact that other stress-reducing therapies also seem to impact physical health, as well.

Still, it’s encouraging to know that something that can be taught and practiced can have an impact on our overall health—not just mental but also physical—more than 2,000 years after it was developed. That’s reason enough to give mindfulness meditation a try.

A version of this article was originally published in Lion’s Roar.

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3 quick ways to improve your mood

Emotions are part of our daily lives. The breadth of feelings within the human condition are what makes life interesting, exciting and dynamic. Our experiences influence our moods, and our thinking plays a big part in how we feel.

Unfortunately, life is not always positive. For many of us, it is only a matter of time before we are confronted with relational, social, career-related and familial changes. These adaptations are normal, but create certain emotional states. Depending on our prior experiences and beliefs about ourselves, the world and others, our biased reactions may become distressing. This stress becomes problematic when it does not improve, increases in consistency, and impacts our social, occupational and other important areas of our lives.

Major Depressive Disorder affects over 16 million people in the United States. Typical reactions include issues with sleep, appetite, weight changes, loss of energy, interest in daily activities and pleasure, decreased focus or concentration, thoughts of suicide and more. If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of depression, self-help techniques may not be enough. It can be difficult to find appropriate social supports and tools to reframe many of our negative thoughts.

If you find yourself struggling with your symptoms, I recommend finding a certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapist in your area.

According to the Beck Institute, “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a time-sensitive, structured, present-oriented psychotherapy directed toward solving current problems and teaching clients skills to modify dysfunctional thinking and behavior.” For mild and moderate depression, CBT has been shown to be as effective as psychotropic medication.

Depressed mood is part of our lives, but suffering doesn’t have to be.

Here are 3 ways you can try to improve your mood:

1. Increase your awareness of your thoughts, feelings, behaviors and situations when negativity seems strongest.

I know it’s overly simplistic, but just because you think something doesn’t make it true.

In our culture, we confuse thoughts and feelings, and are likely to believe our thoughts are biologically ingrained and incapable of change. CBT labels these reflexive thoughts as “automatic thoughts.”

To combat the distress created by automatic thoughts, beginning a process of observing our thinking and feelings in a non-judgmental manner and paying attention to situations when we are more sensitive to negative emotions is imperative. This practice deepens our awareness of our thoughts, connects them with specific situations, triggers and themes, and can improve our confidence in managing our own internal pain.

2. Deepen your commitment to yourself and people who make you feel good.

When it comes to depression, the best cures are action and increasing social supports.

But this is the insidious nature of depression. When we do not have the energy, interest, sleep or concentration to engage and connect with activities or supportive loved ones, we don’t do it. If we continue not to do something, we feel worse and become more likely to avoid the task. This sort of self-defeating emotional reasoning — “I feel, therefore I am/think…” — can be a significant impediment in moving forward in our lives.

Empowering ourselves by committing to a goal of activity and supportive connection is a disciplined way of exercising self-care and self-compassion. Both of these concepts are vital in combating depressive episodes.

3. Practice daily self-care and self-compassion.

I know it sounds simplistic and contrived, but you have to regularly take care of your physical and mental health. But don’t worry, it’s a lot easier than you think. Subscribe to The Morning Email. Wake up to the day’s most important news.

Self-care might include exercise, spending time with supportive others, in nature and by yourself, psychotherapy, nutrition, personal training, massage, intentional nothingness (e.g. being intentional in doing nothing), coping cards, reading and many more activities.

Self-compassion might include treating yourself with love and kindness, decreasing self-blame and self-loathing, increasing emotional tools and coping mechanisms, and more.

Rather than thinking of your depressed mood as being representative of you, try thinking of it as a cue or reminder that it’s time for some self-care and self-compassion.

And with that, I’m off to spend some time with my family outdoors. Here’s hoping you find something to rejuvenate, recharge and refresh yourself today.

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Benefits of mindfulness

It’s a busy world. You fold the laundry while keeping one eye on the kids and another on the television. You plan your day while listening to the radio and commuting to work, and then plan your weekend. But in the rush to accomplish necessary tasks, you may find yourself losing your connection with the present moment—missing out on what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. Did you notice whether you felt well-rested this morning or that forsythia is in bloom along your route to work?

Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment. Mindfulness is now being examined scientifically and has been found to be a key element in stress reduction and overall happiness.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

The cultivation of mindfulness has roots in Buddhism, but most religions include some type of prayer or meditation technique that helps shift your thoughts away from your usual preoccupations toward an appreciation of the moment and a larger perspective on life.

Professor emeritus Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder and former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, helped to bring the practice of mindfulness meditation into mainstream medicine and demonstrated that practicing mindfulness can bring improvements in both physical and psychological symptoms as well as positive changes in health, attitudes, and behaviors.

Mindfulness improves well-being. Increasing your capacity for mindfulness supports many attitudes that contribute to a satisfied life. Being mindful makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur, helps you become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events. By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem, and are better able to form deep connections with others.

Mindfulness improves physical health. If greater well-being isn’t enough of an incentive, scientists have discovered that mindfulness techniques help improve physical health in a number of ways. Mindfulness can: help relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, , improve sleep, and alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties.

Mindfulness improves mental health. In recent years, psychotherapists have turned to mindfulness meditation as an important element in the treatment of a number of problems, including: depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, couples’ conflicts, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

How does mindfulness work?

Some experts believe that mindfulness works, in part, by helping people to accept their experiences—including painful emotions—rather than react to them with aversion and avoidance.

It’s become increasingly common for mindfulness meditation to be combined with psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy. This development makes good sense, since both meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy share the common goal of helping people gain perspective on irrational, maladaptive, and self-defeating thoughts.

Mindfulness techniques

There is more than one way to practice mindfulness, but the goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment. This allows the mind to refocus on the present moment. All mindfulness techniques are a form of meditation.

Basic mindfulness meditation – Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra.

Body sensations – Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass. Notice each part of your body in succession from head to toe.

Sensory – Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Name them “sight,” “sound,” “smell,” “taste,” or “touch” without judgment and let them go.

Emotions – Allow emotions to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions: “joy,” “anger,” “frustration.” Accept the presence of the emotions without judgment and let them go.

Urge surfing – Cope with cravings (for addictive substances or behaviors) and allow them to pass. Notice how your body feels as the craving enters. Replace the wish for the craving to go away with the certain knowledge that it will subside.

Mindfulness meditation and other practices

Mindfulness can be cultivated through mindfulness meditation, a systematic method of focusing your attention. You can learn to meditate on your own, following instructions in books or on tape. However, you may benefit from the support of an instructor or group to answer questions and help you stay motivated. Look for someone using meditation in a way compatible with your beliefs and goals.

If you have a medical condition, you may prefer a medically oriented program that incorporates meditation. Ask your physician or hospital about local groups. Insurance companies increasingly cover the cost of meditation instruction.

Getting started on your own

Some types of meditation primarily involve concentration—repeating a phrase or focusing on the sensation of breathing, allowing the parade of thoughts that inevitably arise to come and go. Concentration meditation techniques, as well as other activities such as tai chi or yoga, can induce the well-known relaxation response, which is very valuable in reducing the body’s response to stress.

Mindfulness meditation builds upon concentration practices. Here’s how it works:

Go with the flow. In mindfulness meditation, once you establish concentration, you observe the flow of inner thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations without judging them as good or bad.

Pay attention. You also notice external sensations such as sounds, sights, and touch that make up your moment-to-moment experience. The challenge is not to latch onto a particular idea, emotion, or sensation, or to get caught in thinking about the past or the future. Instead, you watch what comes and goes in your mind and discover which mental habits produce a feeling of well-being or suffering.

Stay with it. At times, this process may not seem relaxing at all, but over time it provides a key to greater happiness and self-awareness as you become comfortable with a wider and wider range of your experiences.

Practice acceptance

Above all, mindfulness practice involves accepting whatever arises in your awareness at each moment. It involves being kind and forgiving toward yourself.

Some tips to keep in mind:

Gently redirect. If your mind wanders into planning, daydreaming, or criticism, notice where it has gone and gently redirect it to sensations in the present.

Try and try again. If you miss your intended meditation session, simply start again.

By practicing accepting your experience during meditation, it becomes easier to accept whatever comes your way during the rest of your day.

Cultivate mindfulness informally

In addition to formal meditation, you can also cultivate mindfulness informally by focusing your attention on your moment-to-moment sensations during everyday activities. This is done by single-tasking—doing one thing at a time and giving it your full attention. As you floss your teeth, pet the dog, or eat an apple, slow down the process and be fully present as it unfolds and involves all of your senses.

Mindfulness exercises

If mindfulness meditation appeals to you, going to a class or listening to a meditation tape can be a good way to start. In the meantime, here are two mindfulness exercises you can try on your own.

Basic mindfulness meditation

This exercise teaches basic mindfulness meditation.

  • Sit on a straight-backed chair or cross-legged on the floor.
  • Focus on an aspect of your breathing, such as the sensations of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth, or your belly rising and falling as you inhale and exhale.
  • Once you’ve narrowed your concentration in this way, begin to widen your focus. Become aware of sounds, sensations, and your ideas.
  • Embrace and consider each thought or sensation without judging it good or bad. If your mind starts to race, return your focus to your breathing. Then expand your awareness again.

Learning to stay in the present

A less formal approach to mindfulness can also help you to stay in the present and fully participate in your life. You can choose any task or moment to practice informal mindfulness, whether you are eating, showering, walking, touching a partner, or playing with a child or grandchild. Attending to these points will help:

  • Start by bringing your attention to the sensations in your body
  • Breathe in through your nose, allowing the air downward into your lower belly. Let your abdomen expand fully.
  • Now breathe out through your mouth
  • Notice the sensations of each inhalation and exhalation
  • Proceed with the task at hand slowly and with full deliberation
  • Engage your senses fully. Notice each sight, touch, and sound so that you savor every sensation.
  • When you notice that your mind has wandered from the task at hand, gently bring your attention back to the sensations of the moment.

Invest in yourself

The effects of mindfulness meditation tend to be dose-related — the more you do, the more effect it usually has. Most people find that it takes at least 20 minutes for the mind to begin to settle, so this is a reasonable way to start. If you’re ready for a more serious commitment, Jon Kabat-Zinn recommends 45 minutes of meditation at least six days a week. But you can get started by practicing the techniques described here for shorter periods.

Adapted with permission from Positive Psychology: Harnessing the Power of Happiness, Personal Strength, and Mindfulness, a special health report published by Harvard Health Publishing.

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Golden Rules of Goal Setting Five Rules to Set Yourself Up for Success

 

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Golden Rules of Goal Setting

Five Rules to Set Yourself Up for Success

Have you thought about what you want to be doing in five years’ time? Are you clear about what your main objective at work is at the moment? Do you know what you want to have achieved by the end of today?

If you want to succeed, you need to set goals. Without goals you lack focus and direction. Goal setting not only allows you to take control of your life’s direction; it also provides you a benchmark for determining whether you are actually succeeding. Think about it: having a million dollars in the bank is only proof of success if one of your goals is to amass riches. If your goal is to practice acts of charity, then keeping the money for yourself is suddenly contrary to how you would define success.

To accomplish your goals, however, you need to know how to set them. You can’t simply say, “I want” and expect it to happen. Goal setting is a process that starts with careful consideration of what you want to achieve, and ends with a lot of hard work to actually do it. In between, there are some very well-defined steps that transcend the specifics of each goal. Knowing these steps will allow you to formulate goals that you can accomplish.

Here are our five golden rules of goal setting, presented in an article, a video and an

infographic.

The Five Golden Rules

1. Set Goals That Motivate You

When you set goals for yourself, it is important that they motivate you: this means making sure that they are important to you, and that there is value in achieving them. If you have little interest in the outcome, or they are irrelevant given the larger picture, then the chances of you putting in the work to make them happen are slim. Motivation is key to achieving goals.

Set goals that relate to the high priorities in your life. Without this type of focus, you can end up with far too many goals, leaving you too little time to devote to each one. Goal achievement requires commitment, so to maximize the likelihood of success, you need to feel a sense of urgency and have an “I must do this” attitude. When you don’t have this, you risk putting off what you need to do to make the goal a reality. This in turn leaves you feeling disappointed and frustrated with yourself, both of which are de-motivating. And you can end up in a very destructive “I can’t do anything or be successful at anything” frame of mind.

Tip:

To make sure that your goal is motivating, write down why it’s valuable and important to you. Ask yourself, “If I were to share my goal with others, what would I tell them to convince them it was a worthwhile goal?” You can use this motivating value statement to help you if you start to doubt yourself or lose confidence in your ability to actually make the goal happen.

2. Set SMART Goals

You have probably heard of SMART goals  already. But do you always apply the rule? The simple fact is that for goals to be powerful, they should be designed to be SMART. There are many variations of what SMART stands for, but the essence is this – goals should be:

  • Specific.
  • Measurable.
  • Attainable.
  • Relevant.
  • Time Bound.

Set Specific Goals

Your goal must be clear and well defined. Vague or generalized goals are unhelpful because they don’t provide sufficient direction. Remember, you need goals to show you the way. Make it as easy as you can to get where you want to go by defining precisely where you want to end up.

Set Measurable Goals

Include precise amounts, dates, and so on in your goals so you can measure your degree of success. If your goal is simply defined as “To reduce expenses” how will you know when you have been successful? In one month’s time if you have a 1 percent reduction or in two years’ time when you have a 10 percent reduction? Without a way to measure your success you miss out on the celebration that comes with knowing you have actually achieved something.

Set Attainable Goals

Make sure that it’s possible to achieve the goals you set. If you set a goal that you have no hope of achieving, you will only demoralize yourself and erode your confidence.

However, resist the urge to set goals that are too easy. Accomplishing a goal that you didn’t have to work hard for can be anticlimactic at best, and can also make you fear setting future goals that carry a risk of non-achievement. By setting realistic yet challenging goals, you hit the balance you need. These are the types of goals that require you to “raise the bar” and they bring the greatest personal satisfaction.

Set Relevant Goals

Goals should be relevant to the direction you want your life and career to take. By keeping goals aligned with this, you’ll develop the focus you need to get ahead and do what you want. Set widely scattered and inconsistent goals, and you’ll fritter your time – and your life – away.

Set Time-Bound Goals

Your goals must have a deadline. Again, this means that you know when you can celebrate success. When you are working on a deadline, your sense of urgency increases and achievement will come that much quicker.

 

 

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