Have you ever given up on a goal before you even set it? Maybe you found it so daunting a task that you gave up before even giving yourself a chance? You’re not the only one.
Sometimes we give up on our goals early because they are too large and too broad from the get-go. If you’ve read any articles on wellness or personal development, you’ve probably read that goals are a great way to feel motivated. And while goals can be difficult to reach, they can also be tricky to set.
How do we go about setting a goal and then make it stick? In just a few easy steps, you can set yourself up for success. The key is to be realistic. Not by setting the bar low for yourself, but by breaking up a big goal into smaller, more manageable parts.
The first step is to get out a pen and paper or open your note-taking app. Ask yourself, “what is my goal?” Be as specific as possible. Write the goal down at the top of the page. Next, ask yourself, “when?”– again, be very specific– and write down the day of the week and the time of day that you’d like to have your goal achieved by, also the start date when you’re going to work on it. Consider how long, how often, where you’ll be completing this goal and working towards it. The location is very important. Write it all down!
Here’s an example: “My goal is to practice yoga twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 7:30 am for half an hour in my living room.” See what I mean by specific?
The second step is to ask yourself how likely or confident you feel about carrying out your plan. Use a scale of 0-10, where ”0” means you’re not at all confident and “10” means that you are very confident.
If you find yourself at a 7 or 8, ask yourself, “what could raise my confidence?” and “what obstacles are getting in the way?” I like to call this the crystal ball approach. You take a look at the goal from various angles without judgment. When we have insight and we can identify obstacles, we can work around them and fine tune our initial goal to set ourselves up for greater success.
Go back to the goal at the top of your page and begin to break it down into smaller steps, including the preparatory steps you may have to take to make that goal happen. For example, if your goal is to do yoga twice a week, include specifics like get the yoga mat out of the closet and put it on the living room floor, prepare a glass of water, make sure the room is tidy, put on some music, and don’t forget the aftermath, roll up the mat and put it back in the closet. You may find you need to extend the time required for your goal to 45 minutes to include these steps. Visualize yourself going through all these steps as if you were actually working toward your goal. As you go, go back to your original goal and make any modifications you need to.
The third and critical last step in goal setting is one that will seriously impact your ability to meet goals. It’s the commitment part that helps us feel accountable to ourselves. Research shows that if we share our goals or even check in with someone as we work towards our goal then we are more likely to meet it. This could look like telling a family member, friend or even your therapist about your progress toward your goal. Again, write this down because this is a powerful part. Here’s an example: “Next Wednesday I am going to tell my therapist when we meet at 10 am about how my goal to practice yoga twice a week is going.”
Once you’ve got the goal set and you’re ready to put your plan in motion, try to give yourself some credit for setting your goal. Acknowledging your achievements, i.e. giving yourself a pat on the back, increases the likelihood of a positive result as you move towards your goal.
Several weeks ago now, I can remember going to school and noticing increased safety precautions being implemented as sad news spread of the growing negative effects of COVID-19 on the health of humans around the world.
I had a conversation with my statistics professor about what life might look like if we were not able to come to school in the coming weeks. I wasn’t sure and he wasn’t either. Our conversation was hopeful. We spoke like it was all just hypothetical. He concluded by saying, “we’ll see when the time comes.” Just hours later, Ontario declared public schools would close after March break. Post-secondary institutions soon followed suit and with that, our lives turned upside down. I haven’t seen my professor in person since our conversation.
It’s weird how life works, even though we’d been hearing reports of this virus spreading for weeks and knew it was only a matter of time until it came to Canada, the thought of seeing the country shut down and daily life stalled never settled in until the hammer dropped that Thursday evening. The school closures and the countless government actions that followed brought along fear and panic as anxiety and confusion about the situation escalated rapidly. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind, with ups and downs, moments of hope and feelings of despair.
At first, I tried my best to stay informed with what’s happening in the world by watching CBC’s The National newscast on a daily basis. It felt important to keep up with what was happening to understand how best to protect myself and others, but as the days went on, with my usual schedule disrupted, I felt little motivation to do anything else but watch the news. It stopped serving any positive purpose. Every time I tuned in, I heard the sadness and fear in the stories that grew hour by hour as more Canadians were affected and strict government action increased. The feelings of despair and anxiety increased. Survival instincts had kicked in. It was clear we were at a pivotal moment.
At home, I started a serious cleaning regimen to be extra safe. I wanted to do everything I could to stop the spread. After a quick weekend trip to the grocery store, I was in for a surprise to see how people had forgotten the basic grade school lesson, sharing is caring. I walked into the grocery store prepared for a messy situation, instead it looked like it had been struck by a tornado. My neighbours managed to ravage every aisle of the store as if preparing for years in lockdown. I stood in the middle of the shop and took a deep breath. It seemed like the worst in humanity was coming out. Without the guidance of public health education and calm leadership, I thought, this could lead to disaster.
While I sympathized with these emotional reactions to uncertainty and instability, it became very clear to me that in times of difficulty, we need to learn to do better for ourselves and for each other. The challenges we face dealing with COVID-19 as a collective aren’t going away any time soon. In the weeks and months ahead, some things will improve and some things will get harder. It doesn’t mean we can’t make the most of the situation and try to find the silver lining in a catastrophe.
Here are a few hopeful reflections I’ve had over the past few weeks that I’d like to share:
- People are mostly kind, love to socialize and desire human connection. Though we’re all at home helping to flatten the curve, checking in on each other regularly through technology is what will help spread positivity and joy in our current way of living.
- We are fortunate to live in a country with some of the best doctors in the world doing the best they can to help save us from this difficult dilemma.
- Some of the things that have helped get me through might help you too: read a book (I recommend The Omnivore’s Dilemma), learn a new skill (Cooking? Baking a cake?), catch up on family stories. Try to nurture your spirit.
- Given the loneliness and other difficult feelings that social isolation can cause, sometimes we need something that excites us to draw our focus away and get us motivated and energized. In the past few days, I’ve turned to goal-setting and planning and I’ve taken up passion projects like joining student advocacy groups. Joining these groups with like-minded individuals has helped me develop a creative outlet to brainstorm new ideas and get involved with the greater community. Isolation can take a toll but I firmly believe that by engaging in projects that get your creative juices flowing, mental health and happiness are boosted.
I understand that a call for positivity may not speak to all the struggles and stresses that you may be facing, whether with finances or family separation. I’ve been reminding myself time and time again that, although the anxiety associated with the pandemic will stick around for some time, staying true to my values and listening to public health advice is the way to weather the storm.
I want you to know, we will get through this and this too shall pass! Together as fellow students, Canadians, humans, let’s be sure to have each others’ backs!
Himanshu Luthra is a George Brown College student. This is his second contribution to re:tell.
To study or work from home is challenging. If—like myself—you’re a person living with ADHD, it may feel especially difficult to adjust to the lack of structure that can come with switching to a fully online work/study environment.
Studying (and for some of us, also working) entirely from home means that we are more susceptible to the distractions of our household, and may find ourselves overwhelmed. The habits we’ve developed to adapt to traditional formats for work and study and are not so easy to tune into from the bedroom or living room. So— how is an ADHDer supposed to adjust to remote studies during the current COVID-19 pandemic?
Here are 3 tips to help us cope:
1. Prioritize your own structure and routine
An issue that arises for ADHDers is that at times we may struggle with internal structure. This means that we may be more distracted and feel less tolerant of boredom, which can affect the ability to accomplish tasks in a routine way. In this case, it’s important for ADHDers to set up a structure and routine that is specific to their unique needs. Instead of looking at a routine as boring and infringing on creativity and freedom, we can look at routine setting as a way to get things done efficiently, so that later we can spend time on unique interests without having to face the overwhelm and guilt that can come from pushing aside work tasks.
Routine-setting doesn’t need to be boring! It can actually be helpful, for example, to structure breaks and fun into the work day. This may look like pre-structuring and planning routine breaks, like scheduling 20 minutes after you complete a task to go for a walk or have a quick call with a friend. Planning a consistent and predictable routine may feel challenging at first, but as time goes on, it can become second nature and habit, which can really benefit ADHDers while working from home.
2. Limit household distractions as best you can
Decide early on in your remote-working journey where you will be doing most of your work. Keeping this space consistent is helpful for implementing a routine. Be sure that the area you choose to work in is quiet (if possible) and limited in visual distractions. Making sure things are uncluttered amongst your work space can help the ADHD brain to remember to prioritize and focus on only what is in front of it.
3. Set boundaries with loved ones and housemates
You are allowed to be clear about and set healthy boundaries. Now more than ever, it is important to be upfront about what is needed to allow your remote study journey to be successful. Try your best to make it clear to family and/or housemates that you have set a specific schedule, and that this means you need to be off the clock for house duties, answering texts or calls from friends, having conversations with your housemates, social media, etc. Implementing these boundaries can help take the pressure off of trying to juggle your school and/or work responsibilities while also remaining a supportive housemate, friend and family member.
As a student, you have a unique privilege you may not have considered. Many schools have art galleries on campus that you can visit for cheap or for free, and many off-campus galleries offer student rates, meaning you can see great art on a budget. Have you considered taking advantage? It could be just what you need. Visits to the art gallery allow for the chance to step away from daily life and engage with the world in a new way.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of viewing art in a gallery is the mental exercise of creating our own interpretation toward the art we are observing. This is a practice that encourages the type of creative thinking needed for problem-solving. By practicing this type of creative thinking, we learn better ways to come up with our own unique solutions to difficult problems, a key skill required for better mental health. When we leave difficult emotional problems unsolved, we may end up feeling even more frustrated and stressed. Understanding how to solve problems in a creative way may at times be what we need in order to improve difficult relationships, our own self-esteem, and circumstances within our lives that are causing us stress and anxiety.
You do not need to be a Renaissance painter or a beret-wearing artISTE spewing art-speak in order to reap the mental health benefits of visiting a gallery. The actual act of observing and appreciating art stimulates the same areas of the brain that are involved in processing feelings of pleasure and reward. When we’re feeling especially anxious, stressed, or emotionally down, a visit to the gallery may help us re-focus our attention in a therapeutic way. This can allow us a moment to take a step away from our overwhelming emotions and provides us with the opportunity to revisit these feelings at a time when we are less emotionally drained or anxious.
A gallery visit may also be a source of inspiration and has the power to boost our own personal creativity. Engaging in creative expression has significant therapeutic effects in decreasing anxiety. For example, acting creatively can get us into the mental state known in Positive Psychology as “flow.” It’s where we are totally and completely immersed in the enjoyment and involvement of what we are doing, and it’s why being creative feels so good.
The next time you’re having a difficult mental health day, consider the therapeutic benefits of visiting a local art gallery. It’s a wonderful way to incorporate creativity into your self-care practice!
The seasons are changing. The days of layered long-sleeves, sweaters and coats are just around the corner and kids have thrown on their backpacks and headed off to school. I’m not even a student anymore but every year it’s still hard to accept that school’s back in session.
For those who are headed back, adjusting from a summer of doing other things like travel, work or socializing can be challenging. Here are a few tips to help get you back into the swing of school:
1. Rebuild your routine slowly
Start with sleep. If the summer has disrupted your sleep routine, start by spending the first few weeks with a set wake-up and/or bedtime. Consistent and quality sleep will have you recharged and ready for everything the school year throws at you.
2. Make lists
Knowing what you need to do for your classes and extracurriculars is important. When you know what’s coming you can plan for it.
3. Set up a support network
If you’re new, know who you can contact for support on and off-campus. There are often great resources available on-campus for those who look (most student centres or student unions can help you with that information). For those returning to campus, it’s time to get back into the swing of connecting with friends, classmates, and/or student groups. Making sure you have a strong support network will help you get through the midterm and exam seasons.
4. Experiment with your study habits
It’s easy to put off studying in college and university because no one’s there to tell you to get down to it. The best antidote is to get to know your study style. Do you have certain productive hours in the day? What kind of space do you need to study in? Are you a snacker? What kind of learner are you? Contact your school’s learning/academic support center, they can help you learn to study effectively and efficiently.
5. Create a self-care plan
What nourishes and recharges you? Get to know what you need: for some, it might mean regular trips to the gym, daily meditation, or 3 square meals a day, for others it may mean cutting back on work hours, or 2 days off each week for rest. Regardless, have a sense of your unique needs and try your best to meet them so you’re recharged for the more stressful periods.
Remember that adjustments take time. Give yourself some time to get used to the hustle and bustle of campus in September.
I wish you all a wonderful school year. Happy studies!
Unlike our family, we can choose our friends. So in a way, friends are our “chosen family”. It’s important that we choose wisely and surround ourselves with supporting and loving people. Happy International Friendship Day!
Are you finding yourself lonely during your summer away from campus? Look no further!
Here are the top 3 places to check out to meet new peeps!
This is a great website to meet people who share similar interests to you. Sign up on the website, choose the categories that interest you, i.e. sports, nature, movies, etc., and then get out there!
Yes, you read that correctly. Bumble—best known for its dating app—also has an app to meet your future bestie. Add a few photos of you in your element, write a brief bio and then start swiping!
You’ve probably bought tickets on Eventbrite before (maybe even for a Shift event!) but did you know it’s also considered the “new” meetup.com. Perfectly Search by date, location, cost and category to find the perfect event to mingle with like-minded folks.