How to Set Goals When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Posted on 12/29/15 by Valorie Burton


Maybe you’re motivated to make some changes in your life in the new year, and you’ve set yourself a long list of goals. But that list of things you’re trying to change can feel overwhelming! We become depleted after exerting the self-regulation it takes to make a change. This is called “goal fatigue.”

Perhaps you can relate. No sooner than you reach one milestone, you get focused on the next. No time to celebrate. No time to get reenergized. Attempting to change everything in your life at once can be overwhelming. It’s not that you shouldn’t have a vision for transformation. Just be sensitive to the overload and discouragement that can creep in when you expect yourself to run at full speed in every area of your life.

You can have multiple goals, but be strategic about how much energy you allocate to each at any given time. Here’s how to set goals:

1. Identify a handful of key goals for the next 12 months. You might choose to position yourself for a new career by pursuing new assignments at work that will expand your skills. Maybe you’ll create a goal of arriving at a healthy weight (as determined by your doctor) by the summer, or to increase your income by a specific amount by this time next year.

2. Ask yourself, “What is the most important habit I need to develop (or eliminate) in order to reach my goal?” When it comes to actually bringing your goal to fruition, it’s about what you do every day. Rather than focusing on the goal, identify the most important habit that would lead to the fulfillment of the goal.

As Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” If you want to lose 30 pounds but you eat greasy takeout most nights at 9:30 p.m., it’s going to be hard. So create a new habit: Eat a light, healthy dinner at 6:30 p.m. every night. Focus on that as your one goal for the next month. 

3. As you conquer each habit, add a new one. Once your new habit becomes an old one, focus on the next habit you want to develop in order to reach one of your goals. Continue this throughout the year.

4. Make yourself accountable. Mark your habit-forming plans on your calendar throughout the year. Decide now which habit you’ll be working on several months from now, and have a system to remind yourself. And tell others about your plans! You are far more likely to accomplish something when you don’t keep it to yourself. Otherwise, without any family, friends, or coworkers available to keep you accountable, you’ll be more likely to drop the goal when the going gets tough.

Put yourself out there. Declare your goals! Tell the world. Then you’ll have some positive pressure to live up to them.


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