Growing up in Ukraine, I used to look forward to winters. Winters were cold and often filled with fun memories. Each day consisted of similar routines, eating breakfast, getting ready for school, getting into snowball fights, and sledding after school. During the weekends, we spent lots of time playing in the snow. We had a large garden and during the winter it was all covered in thick layers of snow. Often, we would play in the garden by creating giant snowmen, houses, and have snowball fights with neighboring children.

One day, I woke up and the garden was covered in snow. No footprints. Unspoiled! I decided to create a straight line of footprints. As I started to walk through the garden, I kept on getting distracted. When I reflected on my journey, it looked like I had zig-zagged all over the place. Moments later, I set my focus on a particular tree in front of me and decided to only look at the tree as I was about to walk 50 yards towards my destination. This time, when I looked back, my footprint trail was significantly better. I still had several deviations, however, the line significantly improved.

So, how is this story relevant?

Oftentimes, I reflect on particular memories and struggles… when I made mistakes, when I felt overwhelmed and lonely, or when I had no idea what to do and how to move forward. Wrestling with existential concerns, doubts, and the pressure to make a difference felt overwhelming. There were moments where I would get distracted for months at a time before I would reflect back on my journey just to realize that I was zig-zagging and running in circles. Distractions are everywhere and they come naturally. Distractions can take a form of doubt, internalized oppression, fear, overwhelm, lack of direction, and so on. These distractions may significantly impact our confidence and life satisfaction. So how do we get back on track?

When I find myself in moments of confusion, I am reminded of my winter experiment. When each step takes a lot of energy, when it is hard to see the next step, when life feels like an endless dessert, how do I keep the main thing, the main thing? Let’s take a moment and look at some small and practical steps that we can all take at any point in our journey. Whether you are struggling to identify your next step, or maybe you have many ideas about what to do next. These practical steps can be helpful in providing structure to our goals.

Have you heard of S.M.A.R.T Goals?

We have a better chance of achieving our destination by keeping focus on our goals. S.M.A.R.T is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time based goals. This helps us to develop clear steps toward our destination.

S-Specific

Specific goals clearly define what you would like to accomplish. It’s important to understand the reason for the goal and if there are other people involved in the process. The questions you may want to reflect to better assist in developing specific goals are:

  • What are you looking to accomplish?

  • What are some of the reasons or benefits to accomplishing this goal?

  • Who is involved in the process?

M-Measurable

M stands for measurable. This helps to identify small milestones along the way that will tell us that we are on the right track. It also helps us to reflect on our progress and possibly readjust if needed. The questions that you may want to consider are:
How will you know that your objective is accomplished?
What are some milestones that you are looking for to measure your progress?

A-Attainable

A stands for attainable. Given current circumstances and resources, is my goal or objective attainable? If the goals are unrealistic it can be difficult to stay focused.

  • What resources do you need to accomplish your objective?

  • Do you have enough time, energy, skills, etc. to accomplish your objective?

R-Relevant

R stands for realistic/relevant. The goals are relevant to what you are working towards in the short term and long term. The goals cannot be achieved if they are unrealistic. We can be ambitious and excited, however, it’s important to set realistic expectations.

  • Why is this goal important?

  • Is it a priority?

  • Is it worthwhile?

T-Timely

T stands for timely. Identifying specific time-lines for your goals can be helpful in identifying where you are in the process.

  • When will you achieve this goal?

  • When will you expect short term outcomes?

  • Do you need daily, weekly, or monthly goals to be achieved?

Everyone experiences periods of increased stress and sometimes it can be overwhelming to identify where you are in the process. It can be hard to know when it’s time to reach out for help.

If you find yourself feeling stressed and experiencing difficulties with identifying next steps, it may be time to reach out for support. We have a wonderful group of clinicians that would be glad to support you through this process. Give us a call and schedule your appointment today.

Written by therapist Viktor Terpay

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