How to use SMART goals for anxiety related procrastination.
Today's show focuses on creating SMART goals.
Welcome to another episode of the Anxiety Therapist Podcast, I’m your show host, Frank Sasso! I’m a clinical counselor board certified hypnotherapist out of Chicago, IL. Make sure to hit the follow button, on whatever app you’re listening with, this way, you’ll never miss another podcast.
In today’s show, I want to share with you a very powerful method for creating goals and turning the ideas you’ve thought about into reality! Imagine how good it would feel if you could plan and actually see it through until it’s completed!
That’s why in this episode, I’m going to teach you a method for getting things done called the SMART goal, and it can be a very powerful tool that can make a big difference in your life.
Alright just a fast disclaimer: This podcast is not a replacement for mental health counseling or medical care, and I’m not you’re personal therapist. Listen, if you want to follow the show on social media or even contact me-go to anxietytherapistpodcast.com. I’ll leave the link in the episode notes. Finally, please leave me a review on Apple Podcasts or iTunes. They tell me the more reviews the show gets, the better it shows up in the search results for other people to find it.
You know anxiety can have this almost invisible way of creeping into your life and totally destroying your motivation. it’s like this vacuum that drains all your energy until eventually there’s nothing left…not even a vapor!
And sometimes, when anxiety get really bad – when it gets your mind into fight, flight or freeze – it can make you overthink things so much that you just give up and don’t even try. Trust me, I’ve been there, and it can feel demoralizing.
To demonstrate this point, let’s do a thought experiment!
Imagine for a moment that it’s an absolutely gorgeous day and you’re standing in the middle of this large field. You look to your left, you look to your right and see nothing but blue sky and green grass. Off in the far distance you can see very high- majestic looking hill. It’s not too steep or anything, but you can tell by just gazing at it that it will take a good amount of physical exertion to make it to the top.
Curious, you feel compelled to walk across the field until you find yourself standing the bottom of the hill. As you’re taking in the views, you notice something rather strange: A sign that reads: “Walk to the Top of this hill and instantly Collect $10,000 dollars”
You think to yourself, OH Hell Yea! I want that money! You start imagining the bills you can pay off or the vacation you might take. $10,000 is right in front of you. All you have to do is walk to the top and get it!
Now, most people would look at this situation and think, what’s the problem, just walk up the hill and grab the loot! Well, for someone that really struggles with chronic anxiety, making decision to do something and then following through with the idea can be really challenging. That’s because anxiety can cause you to over think a situation and become totally consumed with self-doubt. Once the stress response system becomes activated the hormones of cortisol and epinephrine and adrenaline get released into the body. As a result your muscles tense up and your mind starts to make up these “what if scenarios”
In this scenario, the person standing at the bottom of the hill might think to themselves:
I want that money, but what if I’m wearing the wrong shoes and I hurt my ankle as I’m walking up? Then what good would the money do me? Or they might worry, what if I’m walking up this hill and get stuck somewhere on the way? Oh my goodness, I’ll be stranded there and die alone. No one will ever find me.
Now I know that seems extreme, but when a person has a lot of anxiety, they do something called catastrophe or what we might call awfulize. Basically, they start thinking of worst case scenarios or the negative aspects of following through with their plan. After a while the person exerts so much energy into thinking of the impending task, they just give up because they’ve put so much energy into thinking about the situation that they become physically and emotionally exhausted.
Perhaps in your own life, creating a goal like saving more money or getting into better shape or something as simple as reading more books, can seem so overwhelming that you just throw in the towel and never get started on doing it.
Well that’s where knowing how to create a goal can pay big dividends in your life.
What I’m going to teach you today is called the SMART model for reaching goals. It comes from the business world and is very popular with executives, managers and basically anyone who wants to be more productive. The great thing about smart goals is that it can be tailored for people who struggle with anxiety to help them improve focus.
You know it was Abraham Lincoln who once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it”.
Alright, so let’s get started.
Ok, now the first thing I want you to do is look at your schedule and set aside just one hour so that you can create your first goal. You’re going to want to plan this cycle at an optimum time of the day when ultradian rhythm is at peak performance. Basically, your ultradian rhythm are times of the day when your mind and body can be most productive. The rhythm is different for everyone. For example, I’m most productive between the hours of 8am and 11am. That’s me but you might be different.
The next most important thing I want to recommend is unplugging from the outside world. Let me give you an idea of what I’m talking about. For me, if I have my lap top open or my cell phone nearby, I can easily get distracted because I’ll answer text messages or open emails from work as they come in. After a while I can easily get distracted from whatever it is I’m trying to accomplish. That’s why I recommend putting away your cell phone, laptop and turning off the television so that you can truly focus on the goal you want to create. You want to be in an atmosphere where your brain is putting 100% of it’s power into creating this goal.
Alright, so after you have set aside an hour where you can focus, the next step is to get yourself a notepad and something to write with. You don’t want to use an I pad or a computer – I really think you will have much greater success at reaching your goal by putting it on paper.
This is because writing down your goals has been scientifically proven to effective. I
I came across this fascinating article on Forbes Magazine titled WHY YOU NEED TO WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS IF YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO ACHIEVE THEM.
According to neuropsychologists, you get two benefits from putting your goal to paper.
First, there is external storage. In other words, if your goal is on a sheet of paper that is posted on your refrigerator, you will have that visual cue to remember you want to keep working on it.
Second is the encoding process. Once you write it down, the goal you have created is stored in the brain’s hippocampus, which makes it easier for you to retrieve the information you’ve written down.
Finally, there is this phenomenon which neuropsychologists call the generation effect. That’s because when you generate your own goals, it takes on personal meaning. Essentially, when you write something down you are generating a visual image in your mind of what you want the outcome of the goal to be. This image is stored into your memory and it’s that image you’ve created which can serve as your motivation.
Think about it for a moment. if you are reading say a weight loss plan from a magazine- you probably aren’t creating a mental image of yourself in your mind. You might read and totally comprehend the sentences, but chances are you probably aren’t visualizing yourself in the situation.
On the other hand, if you were to write down your own weight loss plan, a plan which you’ve created – you would be more likely to create this image in your mind of what you would look like after losing weight. The main point I’m getting at is you want to create new neuro-synaptic pathways in your brain so that you have the best chance of making your goal a reality.
Okay with your paper and pen, write down the word SMART. The letters in the word smart stand for Specific, Measurable, Agreeable, realistic and Time Bound.
I’ll get into each one in a moment.
Okay for the purposes of today’s episode, I’m going to use weight loss, using the smart goal method. You can replace my example with whatever you like. Maybe you want to save more money, or you’ve been meaning to paint inside of your house. Some people even use this method to plan for having children.
There are many ways you can use the SMART goal to achieve positive results!
So, the S in SMART stands for specific. When writing down the specific goal you want to accomplish it’s really crucial that you come up with something that’s clear and concrete. For example, if I just wrote down-I want to lose weight, well that’s really vague. In fact, it’s so vague and wide open that I could easily become overwhelmed with racing thoughts because there’s really no end goal in sight. Instead, I would write something down like – I want to lose 12lbs. 12lbs is clear, it’s concrete and it’s really specific.
If you have a hard time with being specific, ask yourself this question: how will I know when I’ve reached my goal? In my example, I’ll know I reached the goal when I’ve lost 12lbs. For you it might be, I want to save $5,000 or I want to take a vacation to be able to paint my home. You see what I mean, the more specific the better.
Okay the M in SMART stands for measurable. In my example of weight loss, I’d want to be able to do something actionable that will help me lose 12 lbs. So for example I would write down I will cut 500 calories from my diet and walk on the treadmill 40 mins a day. Again, I’m being very specific on the actions I will take so that I have the best chance of reaching my overall goal of losing 12 lbs.
The A in SMART goal stands for achievable. In other words is the goal you’ve created realistic. If it is realistic, what would I need to do to see this goal through. For example, would I need to join a gym that has a treadmill in order to do 40 mins of cardio every day. If I can’t join a gym, is it realistic that I can go for a 40 min walk outside at least 4x a week or do some other kind of physical activity? If for example you are trying to save money, you might ask yourself, can I realistically afford to put away $50.00 extra a week?
The R in SMART goal stands for relevant. Relevancy is an important question to ask because you really want to know if this goal you want to achieve is worthwhile. For example, you might ask yourself, is now the right time to work towards my weight loss plan or would I have a better chance at success after the holidays? Another question might be: Can I realistically set aside 40 mins a day with my current work and home life schedule? If I can’t set aside 40 mins a day, how much can I set aside?
Finally, the T is SMART stands for time bound. You really want to have a start and finish time to the goal you have created. This is going to make everything much more clear and concise because you will know exactly what you expect from yourself at the end of the process.
So in my goal of losing 12lbs I would write down the goal, I want to start my goal of losing 12 lbs on January 1st and have it done by March 31. I realistically think I can lose 1 lbs a week over a three month period by cutting 500 calories out of my diet and walking on the treadmill 40 mins a day, for a minimum of 4 days a week.
The goal is smart because it includes a specific outcome, measurable objectives, it’s achievable, it’s certainly relevant, and I know it can be completed within a 3-month time span.
Okay just one quick tip on creating a smart goal. Try not to make your goal dependent on someone else. What do I mean by this? You wouldn’t want to create a goal of getting a promotion at work. Now that’s a great goal to have but you wouldn’t want to apply it to SMART goal because the outcome is dependent on someone else’s decision. If you write down the goal of “I will get promoted within 6 months” there is a chance that may not happen because someone else is controlling the outcome of the situation.
Alright, so just to summarize:
Make sure to set out an hour in your week to sit down and think about the goal you want to create. Unplug from the rest of the world so that you can put your entire focus on creating the outcome you want to achieve. Grab a sheet of paper or a notebook and write your goal down. I can’t stress enough how important this step is. Finally, use the acronym S M A R T (SMART) to create your next goal!