Monday, December 11

Overcoming Depression With Goal Setting

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I want to begin this publication by stating that I am not a licensed counselor, therapist, or psychologist. I cannot make the claim that clinical depression can be cured by the process of goal setting. That being said up front I can say based on over 20 year of working with people as a manager, minister and corporate trainer that setting goals has made a difference for many people by focusing on what can be, by taking action upon a detailed plan. Instead of what was in the past or what might be in the future by lingering on mistreatment or the fear of failure.

I am not going to address the many complex reasons why people may become depressed, but rather suggest that when depression emerges to turn your energy toward a positive ambition or dream. Popular motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said that he had never seen a committed goal setter in a regular state of depression. Whether that is true or not I don’t know, but it is consistent with my experience.

Finding Value

More important than setting goals is to decide where your goals fit into your life. Understanding what your core values or principles are will set the ground work for true purpose as you begin the process of defining, prioritizing, and achieving your goals. A good place to start is to develop a list of values that you will live your life by. This list includes the ideals that you consider most important. Your list may look something like this:

  • Honesty

  • Faith

  • Family

  • Relationships

  • Health

  • Financial independence

  • Giving

  • Community service

There are no rules to making a values list. The purpose is to simply identify your overriding values. After making your list, the next step is to use your list to write a value statement. To write this statement put the singular key words into a statement that summarizes what your values mean to you in terms that communicate what makes life meaningful to you.

Here is an example of a value statement based on the list above:

Life is made meaningful by what my family thinks of me. Nurturing relationships with my wife and children is my top priority. I am a Christ follower and want to communicate my faith by my actions and words. I will always be honest in dealing with others. I will be serious about growing professionally so that I can provide for my family and have the means to be generous to those in need. I will give of my resources and my time to be a part of the community I live in. I will take care of my physical health by eating right and exercising regularly.

Being clear about what you value most will enrich your experience as you define, plan, and begin to act upon your written goals. In addition identifying your values is sort of like counting your blessings. When you are focused on the things that you prize most in life, the result is that the positive crowds out the negative. If the old adage is true, you are what you eat, then why not dine on as much uplifting, positive input as you can?

Goal Setting

Now that you have a clear understanding of your core values you are ready to begin the actual goal setting process. Start by making a Master Task List. This list includes everything that you want to accomplish in your life. Make the list as big or small as you want, but remember don’t leave anything off the list that you want to do or accomplish some day.

This master task list is important because it will serve as a place holder for all of your dreams and goals. It is important to realize that this list is an ongoing activity that you will continue to maintain possibly for the rest of your life. I have dozens of lists contained in notebooks, planners, and now on electronic devices and even in the cloud. I love to look back and see how my lists have progressed and changed over the years. Your master task list will become a terrific source of inspiration when you see all of the things that you have accomplished.

The next step is to review your master task list and prioritize the list based on the most critical items on the list. You may decide to indicate what items are personal versus items that are professional. You can do this by adding a symbol next to the task.

Select a goal to start working on. Break this goal down as follows:

1.      Choose Your Goal and Stay Focused on it – Start with a single goal. As you practice goal setting you will improve your capacity to work on more than one goal at a time.

2.      Set a Deadline to achieve Your Goal – If you don’t set a deadline you won’t view your goal as important. A deadline adds urgency which ads purpose.

3.      Identify the Obstacles – Indentify anything that may interfere with reaching your goal.

4.      Identify the Resources – Identify who and what you will need to accomplish the goal.

5.      Define Milestones – What will signal that you have reached a significant point toward achieving the goal?

6.        Define Task to Achieve Milestones – Break the large goal into small tasks that can be measured

This process can seem overwhelming but really it is very manageable and I have found the process of goal setting keeps me motivated and focused on what I truly care about.  It is a good practice to review and re-new your values and master task list on an annual basis. This will motive you by reminding you of all that you have accomplished. In addition your capacity to dream bigger dreams will increase as your ability to define, plan and accomplish your goals improves.

Think of goal setting like this. How does a man climb Mount Everest? The answer of course is; One step at a time. The same is true of achieving your goals. It doesn’t matter how big the goal. If you can dream it you can do it.

Just see it, plan it, believe it, and do it!

I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment. Get involved and share your thoughts on this subject.

Are you a goal setter?

What is your process to set and achieve your goals?

What motivates you to achieve your goals?

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